The mental image one conjures of California is no longer simply Malibu waves, San Francisco trams, and Hollywood’s cinema. California has also created a strong identity through its unmistakable wine.

Who’s even responsible for bringing grapevines to California?

Near the end of the 1700’s, the Franciscan friars planted the first grapevines in California. The first couple types were called “mission” and “vina madre,” which are no longer used today.

Fun Fact

According to legend, this friars also scattered seeds for mustard plants. Because of this, when wandering around vineyards in the hot Californian summers, one can often find mustard flower as well.

In 1820, Zinfandel made its way from Europe. It’s one of the main vines used in California, and it reached the apex of its popularity through the White Zinfandel, a wine created by mistake.

Viticulture and enology are highly-developed fields in California. This is thanks especially to UC Davis and UC Fresno, which are both schools that offer in-depth and detailed wine courses.

Where is wine produced in California? 

Northern California is one of the most famous viticulture areas in the world. The influence of the nearby sea and the warm sun are irreplaceable elements in the production of great wine. Here, around the 90’s, is where their first rosés were made.

Mendocino County

It is the northernmost wine region in California. Most crops grown here follow organic guidelines, which is popular with the consumers. Another popular crop is the marijuana plant, which is often grown alongside grapevines. Rosés produced here are delicate and soft.

Sonoma County

It includes 17 AVAs within it. It’s a pretty touristic region, with diverse terrain and microclimates. This is part of what drives the region to have such a variety of wines (rosé included). It’s even difficult to bracket them all into a genre because of how many types there are. Try to taste a Pinot Noir rosé produced near the coastline and then one made in Russian Valley. You’ll immediately taste the difference! The former are generally more delicate, while the latter are more robust. Sonoma Valley is where some of California’s best wines are produced, and it’s often easy to find better deals in comparison to the famous Napa Valley’s pricier wines.

Fun Fact

At the beginning of the 1800s, some Russian explorers, with a base in Alaska, founded a colony in this area. This is why one of the rivers in Sonoma is called Russian River. They were actually the ones to bring some of the first vines to this valley.

In Sonoma County, you can find Francis Ford Coppola’s winery. Not only can you taste the wines and relax by the pool, but you can check out the actual desk from the film “The Godfather” and see the Oscars on display.

Coppola Wines

Napa Valley

“Welcome to this world famous wine growing region” (Stevenson)

That’s the famous saying that you find at the beginning of the Napa Valley vineyards. Every year, this region attracts visitors from all over the world in search of their luxurious wineries and famous award-winning restaurants. Among the most well-known varieties, we can note the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chardonnay, but that’s really just the beginning. There are plenty of AVA within Napa Valley, each with a different microclimate and its own unique characteristics. Rosé isn’t just a byproduct of red wine around here, it’s playing a part in a new vision that aims to bring a particular identity to this region. Typical Napa Valley rosés present very fragrant and intense in color.

Sierra Foothills

We’re in the Eastern part of California, at the feet of Sierra Nevada. Sierra Foothills is famous for its part in the Gold Rush of the later 1800’s. From Lake Tahoe to Yosemite Park, there are numerous areas that are well-adapted to wine cultivation. The fresh air and altitude are great conditions for producing fresh and light rosé wines.

El Dorado County is one of the sub-appellations, a very dry zone. The grapevines are grown on high ground. The first vines brought here were Zinfandel and the wines thus produced are very full-bodied.

Amador County is situated just below El Dorado. The vines here enjoy higher temperatures. They have a high concentration of old vines, dating back to the 1800s, from which you can make very full-bodied and concentrated wines.

Central Coast

The Central Coast is the region that stretches all the way from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. It takes 4-5 hours to cover the whole stretch by driving. Such a big region obviously has quite a variety of wines to offer. The rosés are definitely seeing a lot of success. Obtained predominantly from Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Mourvedrè, the wines are fragrant with herbaceous notes- an easy drink.

In San Luis Obispo, the landscapes may remind you of Provence. The presence of lavender, olive trees, and aromatic herbs might do the trick. The wines have herbaceous notes as well, they’re very fragrant, and they have a lighter color. The perfect pairing will be local fruits and vegetables, alongside some local olive oil.

Fun Fact

In 1989, the Perrin family, famous for their collaboration with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the production of Miraval in Provence, also bought a ranch in this area. Today, they produce wine under the biodynamic regiment.

Santa Barbara, the lower boundary of the region, has a hot and dry climate. Varieties like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedrè, either in red or pink, express fruity and mineral notes.

There aren’t many Californian wines that get exported to Europe; we’re mainly able to find wines from larger commercial companies like Gallo or Francis Coppola; but there’s a large number of small wineries producing interesting little gems. A tour around Napa and Sonoma will help you discover some truly unique wines.

Have you ever tasted Californian wines?

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