The state of California was first introduced to grape vines in the 18th century by the Spanish, who planted vineyards with each mission they established. The wine was used for religious sacraments as well as for daily life. The vine cuttings used came from Mexico and were the descendant of the “common black grape” (as it was known) brought to the New World by Herna¡n Cortas in 1520.
California has over 427,000 acres (1,730 km2) planted under vines and ships close to 500 million gallons of wine per year accounting for almost 90% of the total wine produced in the United States. There are over 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), including the well known Napa, Russian River Valley, Rutherford and Sonoma Valley AVAs. The Central Valley is California’s largest wine region stretching for 300 miles (480 km) from the Sacramento Valley south to the San Joaquin Valley. This one region produces nearly 75% of all California wine grapes and includes many of California’s bulk, box and jug wine producers like Gallo, Franzia and Bronco Wine Company.
Over a hundred grape varieties are grown in California including French, Italian and Spanish wine varietals as well as hybrid grapes and new vitis vinifera varieties developed at the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. The seven leading grape varieties are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah, Zinfandel. North Coast
The North Coast includes most of the northern coast of California, north of San Francisco Bay. The large North Coast AVA covers most of the region. Notable wine regions include Napa Valley and Sonoma County and the smaller sub AVAs within them. Mendocino and Lake County are also part of this region.
Napa Valley is California’s 3rd highest tourist destination behind the Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland and worthy of its own discussion. Some of the worlds biggest names can be found within this small section of the North Coast region. North Coast’s Napa Valley
North Coast’s Napa Valley
Joseph Phelps: Most notable for Bordeaux style red, vineyards in Stags Leap, Rutherford, St. Helena and Oakville.
Cakebread Cellars: Reputation built on big, rich Chardonnays, first vintage bottled in 1973, primary vineyard is Rutherford A.V.A.
Opus One: Founded in 1979 as collaboration of Mondavi and Rothschild, Bordeaux style blend of Cab, Cab franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot Silver Oak WineryPrimary focus on Cabernet Sauvignon with vineyards in Alexander Valley A.V.A. and Oakville A.V.A.
Although it is not required to memorize the history or location of every California A.V.A., it is wise to pay very close attention to Napa and its sub-appellations.
Includes most of the Central Coast of California and the area south and west of San Francisco Bay down to Santa Barbara County. The large Central Coast AVA. Notable wine regions in this area include Santa Clara Valley AVA, Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, San Lucas AVA, Paso Robles AVA, Santa Maria Valley AVA and Santa Ynez Valley. Most Notable:
Paso Robles: Centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles along California’s Central Coast and is the fastest growing A.V.A. in California. Varietal’s produced primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zin, Chardonnay, home to Vina Robles Winery.
Santa Lucia Highlands Located in Monterey County, at 1200sqft above sea level, primary grape produced is Chardonnay; most notable wines produced are sourced from winery located in another region of California.
Includes portion of Southern California, namely the coastal regions south of Los Angeles down to the border with Mexico. Notable wine regions in this area include Temecula Valley AVA, Antelope Valley/Leona Valley AVA, San Pasqual Valley AVA and Ramona Valley AVA.
Traditionally, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes dominated the acreage here. However, in recent times the climate of the South Coast has fostered a new age of growing hearty Rhone, Italian and Spanish grapes, perfect for red varietals such as bold Syrah, spicy Tempranillo and white varietals such as crisp Pinot Grigio.
There are almost twenty-five wineries in this area. Callaway Vineyard & Winery is the largest producer; others include Maurice Car’rie Vineyards & Winery, Culbertson Winery, and Mount Palomar.
– Includes California’s Central Valley and the Sierra Foothills AVA. Notable wine regions in this area include the Lodi AVA and Clarksburg AVA. Central Valley Wineries produces the majority of the state’s wine, yet few producers use the name on their label. This is because many people associate the region with mass produced, cheap wines. Some notable areas:
Lodi: Primarily small family farms, Zinfandel do very well in the area. Abundance Winery is located here and we carry many wines sourced from this A.V.A.
Clarksburg: Clarksburg Wineries are located in the Sacramento Delta. Much of the fruit is purchased by non-resident wine producers, but a handful of Clarksburg wineries are turning heads with Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah.