When we imagine California wines, we immediately think of the sweeping landscape of Northern California’s Napa Valley. There are now close to two thousand wineries and vineyards in the region, spread throughout several valleys, including the famous Napa, Sonoma, and Central Valleys, and the North Coast.
Grape growing in California began in 1769 with the Mission San Diego de Alcala for practicing communion. While the bulk of winemaking occurred in the south, the Gold Rush was the catalyst that led to the start of a booming Northern California industry.
Prohibition halted the prospering wine industry. It wasn’t until the Judgement of Paris event in 1976, in which California wines were ranked and judged against French vintages, winning all categories, that the state saw a resurgence of the industry.
Starting Your Search
Traditionally, the smaller regions produce higher quality vintages and larger appellations create less complex wines, labeled as California AVA (American Viticultural Area). A few tricks help you make good choices, and several wines are a must-try within a price-friendly bracket.
First Know Your Grape Growers
Most California AVA wines are produced with grapes purchased from growers across the state. A valuable trick is to educate yourself on who the vineyards are and where the winemakers buy their grapes. State vineyards that grow some of the best grapes are used by a group of high-end wine producers and are usually identified on the label.
Among the top vineyards is Bien Nacido, considered the benchmark of all Santa Maria Valley vineyards, with a client list of over eighty producers using their grapes to create award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Looking at Pricing
If you are looking for a better wine within a specific price range, choose wines from smaller, county-wide appellations. The North Coast AVA, which includes parts of Napa, Mendocino, and Sonoma, among others, may produce better wine than California AVA wines at the same price point. Here are a few varieties well worth trying that fall into the more budget-conscious category without compromising taste.
- If you seek a Petite Sirah, check out the Michael David Earthquake Petite Sirah. Described as full-bodied and mouth-filling, with firm tannins, dense blackberry, and blueberry flavor.
- A Cabernet Sauvignon must-try, Paul Dolan Cabernet Sauvignon out of Mendocino County contains hints of mint, spice, and leather, and its complexity is comparable to far more expensive wines.
- Rose lovers will enjoy the Banshee 2019 Rose, also from Mendocino County, for its beautiful mix of sour cherry and rich grapefruit notes combined into a snappy texture and creating a refreshing medium-bodied wine.
- It’s hard to beat the beauty of a California zinfandel, and Bogle 2017 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel is robust, broad, and very smooth, with hints of plum, blackberry, vanilla, and black pepper.
- For dry white lovers, Shooting Star 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is considered a ‘best buy’ and will please with its balanced blending, full-body, and lovely crisp texture.
- Many Chardonnay wines from Northern California are world-class, and an excellent example is the Barra of Mendocino 2019 Estate Grown Chardonnay. Exceptionally smooth, full-bodied, and made from organic grapes that hint at buttery popcorn with poached pears.
Today, California wines are recognized as among the best in the world, and demand stretches across all continents. For information on touring the top vineyards with your clients or a short getaway from the office, consult with the team at Business Workspaces, as they are familiar with the North California wine country region.