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California Sherry

California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.

Sherry is made in a unique way using the solera system, which blends fractional shares of young wine from oak barrels with older, more mature wines. Sherry has no vintage date because it is blended from a variety of years. Rare, old sherries can contain wine that dates back 25 to 50 years or more, the date the solera was begun. If a bottle has a date on it, it probably refers to the date the company was founded.

Most sherries begin with the Palomino grape, which enjoys a generally mild climate in and around the triad of towns known as the "Sherry Triangle" and grows in white, limestone and clay soils that look like beach sand. The Pedro Ximenez type of sweet sherry comes from the Pedro Ximenez grape.

Sherry is a "fortified" wine, which means that distilled, neutral spirits are used to fortify the sherry. The added liquor means that the final sherry will be 16 to 20 percent alcohol (higher than table wines) and that it will have a longer shelf life than table wines.