Amador County is primarily known for its Zinfandel and Barbera, but several of its wineries produce world-class Rhone, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese varieties. This gorgeous region is home to vineyards ranging from an elevation of 250 feet to 2900 feet, with summer temperatures often exceeding 100° and nighttime temperatures cooling off into the 50s when the winds come down from the Sierras.
The Anderson Valley is located in the rolling hills of the coastal region of Mendocino County, about two hours north of San Francisco. Only fifteen miles long, this beautiful valley is home to a unique group of vineyards and wineries producing a broad range of excellent wines. Whether you are an experienced wine aficionado, or are just discovering the pleasure of drinking good wine, the Anderson Valley deserves exploration. Known for Pinot Noir and Alsace Varietals, as well as great sparkling wine.
Arroyo Seco, or “dry creek,” is part of Monterey County’s Salinas Valley. The region begins with a steep, narrow gorge at the foot of the Santa Lucia mountain range. Moving east, the canyon widens and eventually opens to the Salinas Valley. Pacific Ocean breezes cool the region and slow grape development, which makes for intensely complex, fruit-driven wines. Adding to the character and minerality of the wines are “Greenfield Potatoes”—palm-sized riverbed stones that provide drainage for the vines’ root system, and keep soils warm during colder nights.
The Arroyo Seco provides ideal geography and conditions for a variety of grapes but Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah thrive here.
For a winemaker, the opportunity to produce a blend from numerous varietals and regions across California can be both challenging and extremely rewarding. Far from being a melange of second-rate fruit, an expertly crafted California blend can bring the best of each varietal and region into harmony with the rest. Our hand-selected California blends show the same dedication to terroir (sense of place) and great winemaking as our single vineyard offerings.
The Central Coast AVA is massive and diverse, stretching roughly 250 miles along the coastline of California, from San Francisco County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. It is responsible for almost 15 percent of the state’s total winegrape production and is home to about 360 wineries. You can find so many great wines here, from the warmer northern climes of Paso Robles, where you’ll get Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and numerous Rhone varietals, to the maritime soils in the east where complex and elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive, to the rolling hills around Santa Maria where thousands of acres of vineyards are growing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rousanne, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Established in 1983, The El Dorado AVA includes is unique due to its high elevation (1200+ ft.) and complex topography. El Dorado’s mountain vineyards are perched at elevations high above the valley, where cooling breezes off the Sierra Nevada and the mountainous topography create a diversity of microclimates and growing conditions. This makes El Dorado an ideal spot for growing a wide variety of grapes, each with the characteristic elegance, complexity and concentrated intensity associated with the region. El Dorado grows approximately 50 different varieties of grapes in three basic soil types: fine-grained volcanic rock, decomposed granite and fine-grained shale. Varying in elevation and topography, each soil offers good drainage and the nutrients needed to encourage vines producing rich, deeply flavored grapes.
Long held as the best kept secret in winemaking, Lodi has been responsible for growing the grapes for California’s top winemakers for decades. Zinfandel and Flame Tokay were the primary varietals grown on the region’s 100,000-plus acres of vineyards up until the late 1960s. In 1986, Lodi became an AVA in it’s own right, however; and since then, many of the vineyards have been converted to produce premium varietals, and have been winning countless awards for “Lodi” labeled wines in the process. Today the region is a testament to the quality of grower-produced, limited production wines, showing it’s history of expertise in farming with a fantastically diverse offering of single varietals and blends that honor the Lodi’s terroir.
The Mendocino County appellation is currently home to ten American Viticulutral Areas (AVAs), including Medocino, Mendocino Ridge and Anderson Valley. While the coastal areas and Mendocino Ridge are known primarily for cooler climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, sparkling wines and Alsace/Rhone varietals, northern Mendocino near Ukiah with its warm, Mediterranean climate is home to some of California’s oldest Charbono and Carignane, along with a huge variety of French and Italian varietals. Mendocino’s pristine and unspoiled vineyards have deep roots in California wine history, including first plantings of Nero d’Avola, Negroamaro, Zinfandel and more, with vines dating back to the Gold Rush. And the region’s commitment to organic and GMO-free grape production has made it an industry leader in sustainable agriculture.
It’s incredible to think that the Napa Valley really only began to produce premium varietal wines beginning in the 1960s. Today Napa Valley features more than 450 wineries that grow some of California’s most celebrated wines, including top Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Bordeaux blends.
Flanked by mountains on three sides, the floor of the main valley gradually rises from sea level at the southern end to 362 feet above sea level at the northern end in Calistoga at the foot of Mount Saint Helena. The Oakville and Rutherford AVAs lie within a geographical area known as the Rutherford Bench in the center of the valley floor. And while Cabernet Sauvignon is still king in Napa Valley, the diversity of soil types in this relatively small region allows a wealth of grape varieties to flourish here. Napa is well-suited for growing not only cooler weather varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also warmer weather Bordeaux-style varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc.
The Russian River is arguably California’s most diverse wine appellation. Part of Sonoma County, the region has thirteen AVAs in all. While the Russian River is predominately associated with Chardonnay and Pinot noir, hillside vineyard locations have had great success with a number of other varietials such as Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot. In warmer areas of Chalk Hill there are fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietal wines to be enjoyed. Even for these non-Burgundian varietals, the nature of the Russian River Valley’s cool climate can be seen in the wine, producing wines with excellent balance and acidity.
Recognized as its own AVA in 1981, some of the oldest wineries in California are in this region. Two participated in the 1976 Judgment of Paris wine tasting with the 1973 David Bruce Winery Chardonnay placing 10th in the white wine tasting and the 1971 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon placing 5th in the red wine tasting.
With its diverse geography, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do exceptionally well, several of which are winning awards here and abroad. Likewise, Santa Cruz vintners are producing excellent Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. Sustainable winegrowing practices can be found throughout the appellation, and several vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains have received organic certification.
Santa Maria Valley
Bordered by the San Rafael Mountains to the north and the Solomon Hills to the south, Santa Maria Valley is one of the most unique appellations in the world. The cooling maritime winds from the Pacific Ocean breeze up into the valley like a funnel. This truly cool climate viticultural region has one of the longest wine-growing seasons in California (125 days on average), often starting at the end of August and carrying through the end of October. The long period of ripening due to the cool climate produces complex wines with low pHs, exceptionally balanced natural acidity, intense flavors and is always intensified by the area’s low yields. Santa Maria is dominated by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production, with the eastern portion of the AVA also producing excellent Rhone and Bordeaux varieties.
Santa Rita Hills
The Santa Rita Hills is actually a relatively tiny appellation (~100 sq. mi.) within the Santa Ynez Valley appellation; though, its unique soils and climate distingush the grapes grown there from the ones in the warmer vineyards to the east. A typical day in the Hills begins with marine layer clouds and fog, which burn off by 10am. Then, two or three hours of calm sunshine follow, until the on-shore winds begin cooling things down. This maritime influence, combined with the sedimentary soils with patches of limestone is the perfect place to grow the appellation’s famed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The region continues to innovate with progressive farming techniques, supplying fruit used to produce highly-stylized and structured Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and other varietals.
Like much of Northern California, the area has a classic Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and rainy winters that often include snow in higher elevations. Nevada County’s four distinct seasons, and its range of elevations and landscapes, makes it a fertile home for more than forty varieties of wine grapes, ranging from Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon to Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Sangiovese and Tempranillo. Grape growers and winemakers here have learned to use that variety that nature gives them, and to combine it with premiere winemaking techniques and styles to create some of California’s most surprising award-winning wines.
Sonoma County is home to 15 distinct AVAs, each with its own history and unique terroir. A diverse landscape for grape growing that is strongly influenced by maritime variations, cool nights and temperate days are moderated by layers of oceanic fog that creep into Sonoma’s interior valleys. For grape growers and winemakers, Sonoma County is a veritable Garden of Eden. From the lush wines of the valley floor to the crisp Burgundian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the coast to the complex and elegant wines the high mountain vineyards, Sonoma is a showcase for California winemaking.
Suisun (pronounced SOO-SOON) Valley is a stone’s throw from Napa and the Green Valley AVA of the Russian River, near the city of Fairfield. Sunny and warm nearly year round, growers focus primarily on Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here. Yet winemakers like Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope are breaking the mold, by producing an incredibly diverse range of single varietal wines and blends, grown all over California.