California Wine Regions
California Wine Country is home to some of the finest producers in the world. Each of the twelve major regions is unique and produces a wide array of truly distinctive wines. Learn more about the wineries you know and love, discover the hidden gems, and enjoy all that the golden state has to offer.
California is coming to terms with its place in the world of wine. Each of the thirteen major regions is developing their own identity and a track record for producing certain wines. This is the main reason for the establishment of the American AVA system; to acknowledge established differences between wine producing regions. Understanding these distinctions will help you find what you like and don’t like from California Wine Country.
Napa Valley is California’s most famous and glamorous wine region, largely because its warm, sunny days have made it a world leader in Cabernet Sauvignon production. It is also one of the top destinations for wine tours and fine dining in California. Local vintners take an unrelenting approach to winemaking, and cost is often no object.
Sonoma County is another top destination in California Wine Country. Practically every grape grown in California can be found here: Alexander Valley excels at Cabernet Sauvignon production, Dry Creek Valley is home to some of California’s oldest Zinfandel vines, and the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley produce top-notch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
California also contains several wine regions that are known for their great values. There has recently been a lot of investment in Mendocino County and Lake County, and both regions are increasingly becoming destinations for wine tours and tastings. Central Valley and San Benito County are also known for making some of California’s most value-driven wines; but don’t associate lower prices with inferior quality. In the Sierra Foothills, Zinfandel has historically been the varietal of choice, but recently, many other grapes have been changing this trend.
The San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey County are home to some of California Wine Country’s most beautiful scenery. The Bay Area is a cosmopolitan, urban center that still has some nooks and crannies dedicated to grape growing. Monterey County is best known for its breathtaking coastal views and famous golf courses. Over the past few decades, the local wine industry has been turning heads as well.
Although California is mostly known for its northern wine regions, Southern California is starting to break that characterization. San Louis Obispo County is one of the most difficult regions to generalize in California Wine Country. The climatic and geologic variations in this large county give rise to many different styles of wine.
The cool, wind-swept climate of Santa Barbara County is perfect for Pinot Noir production. Unlike most of California Wine Country, valleys in the region run east-west rather than north-south. This causes fog to extend further inland throughout the county. California’s southernmost region is Temecula Valley, located just northeast of San Diego. There are about 20 wineries in this arid region.