Wines of California have been on the world stage since 1976, due to the famous Judgement of Paris, where Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from California were voted better than the best Bordeaux Chateau. Since then, the boom has been crazy, with world class wines being made all up and down California. From Napa & Sonoma, down to the Santa Lucia Highlands, California can offer the best wines in the world of any kind from a broader range than about anywhere in the world. Our goal with California? Find those hidden gems, those “flying under the radar” estates that, if you don’t know, you need to.
California American Viticulture Areas (AVA)
| Napa Valley | Sonoma County |
The Napa Valley AVA
Location: The North Coast of California, in between the Mayacama Mountains and the Vaca Mountains
History: America’s Preeminent fine wine region, the Napa Valley has been producing wines since 1861, when Charles Krug started the first commercial winery of Napa Valley. It took until 1976 for the world to recognize the wines of Napa as tops in the world, and they have been as sought after as any wines made ever since.
AVAs Include: Oak Knoll, Yountville, St. Helena, Stag’s Leap District, Rutherford, Calistoga, Coombsville, Atlas Peak, Diamond Mountain, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Mount Veeder, Los Carneros, Wild Horse Valley and Chiles Valley District
Grape(s) Specialization: Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah White – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Notes: There are over 500 wineries in the small Napa Valley, and many fly under the radar. Although Cabernet Sauvignon is king, the Napa Valley makes world class wines from many varieties. As well, there has been a resurgence of balance in all wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, that seems here to stay.
The Sonoma County AVA
Location: The North Coast of California, due North of the San Pablo Bay
History: Agoston Haraszthy, the Father of the California Wine Industry, purchased what is now known as the Buena Vista Winery in 1855, started what is the oldest functioning winery in California. Sonoma County is home to 66 grape varieties, 44 red and 22 white and has been producing high quality, world class wines for as long as any American county.
AVAs Include: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile, Bennett Valley, Knights Valley, Chalk Hill, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley, Moon Mountain District, Green Valley, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma Coast, Northern Sonoma, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak, Fort Ross-Seaview, Fountaingrove District, Petaluma Gap, and most of the Carneros AVA.
Grape(s) Specialization: Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir White – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Notes: Sonoma County’s diversity at the top of quality is nearly unmatched. From all of the grapes listed above to sparkling wine as well, Sonoma County is making some of the best wine in the world in as more or more categories than most regions.