best california wines
California is one of the leading wine producers in the United States. It produces approximately 81 % of America’s wines and rates as the world’s fourth wine producer. The Golden State is known to have the most number of wineries in the country. At last count in 2021, there are 4 700 wineries spread across California.
California has 147 Avas or active wine-producing regions. The four regions where California wine originates are the North Coast, Central Valley, Central Coast, and the South Coast. The climate and terrain of these regions affect the grapes’ growth and inadvertently influence the wine’s flavour.
Read the article below if you need more clarity on your favourite California wine. It will not only shed more light on California wine but also provide information on what foods pair well with your wine.
The AVA And California Wines
Much like horses, many wine consumers want to know the pedigree of wine. They believe the geographic origins of the wine lend its characteristics to the wine.
There are 147 AVAs or active wine-producing regions in California. Wine connoisseurs classify wines under AVA when 85 % of the grapes utilised to produce the wines need to be from that AVA.
To bear the label “California wine,” all the grapes must be from the State of California. Wine lovers do not need to identify the region where the wine originates; instead, only 100% of the grapes be from California.
Generally, “California wine” refers to grapes from Central Valley.
A fact many wine fundi may find interesting is that sustainable wineries produce 80% of California wines. This means that the wineries use sustainable farming methods, workers receive fair remuneration, etc.
Where To Find The Best California Wines
The wineries across California are classed under four regions
- North Coast
- South Coast
- Central Valley
- Central Coast
The climate in the California wine regions also impacts the growth of the grapes and, ultimately, the wine’s richness or full-bodied flavour.
Each region of California produces a selection of wines native to that region. So if you are looking for your favourite California wine, whether Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Merlot, here is a brief guide to where you should go.
1. Californian North Coast Region
The North Coast region consists of approximately 54 AVAs. Napa Valley and Sonoma known as the front runners in wine production is in this region.
The Pacific Ocean affects the climate of this region. The average temperatures in Napa are around 32 Deg. Celsius compared to 34,5 Deg. Celsius in the inland regions. The summers on the North Coast are not as harsh as those in the inner regions of California.
The winters are, therefore, also milder, which is great for grapes. The lower temperatures during winter do not impact the grapes’ growth that much. No frost or ice can destroy the vines or the grapes.
The climate in the northern regions is suitable for the region’s famous Cabernets and Pinot Noirs. This region also has an excellent selection of Chardonnay, Merlots, and Sauvignon Blancs.
2. Californian Central Coast Region
The Central Coast region stretches from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The milder temperatures and the rolling fogs impact the grapes’ growth and the wines’ taste.
Paso Robles, one of California’s oldest wine regions, is part of the Central Coast. They are known for their wine-making traditions, which they have followed since the 18th Century. Paso Robles is a hill country where the hills and valleys protect the vineyards from harsher climates.
The vineyards in the Central Coast regions produce more than 80% of the country’s red wines. For example, Central Coast is known for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
The red wines from this region are paired excellently with any animal protein but are primarily suitable for a slow-cooked, smoked brisket or a medium to rare steak.
3. California Central Valley Region
The Central Valley region comprises Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Fresno. Although the region’s wines are not as famous as those from Napa or Sonoma, the grapes from the Central Valley regions account for approximately 75% of those used in wine production.
Most wines referred to as “California wines” are typically from the Central Valley region. The temperatures of the Central Valley region are also not harsh. The rivers and lakes act as temperature controls. The cooler temperatures are great for grapes and wine production.
The Central Valley region produces excellent Bordeaux varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Chardonnay.
4. Californian South Coast Region
The South Coast region extends from Los Angeles to Mexico. You can describe the climate of this region as Mediterranean. The proximity to the coast means that the summers are hot and dry while the winters are rainy. It could be better for the grapes, but you can still find excellent varieties of California wines from this region.
The South Coast region produces Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Grenache varieties.
The Syrah from the South Coast region is a rich, full-bodied red wine. It pairs well with grilled foods, like burgers, vegetables, roast duck, or beef casserole.
The Grenache from this region is lighter because it does not contain as many tannins as the red wines. Therefore you can enjoy a glass of Grenache with some cheese and fruit, pasta dishes, or baked vegetables.
The term California wines refer to the AVA the wine originates from. It does not have to specify the specific region, only the area where the grapes are grown. The grapes must be 100 % from the state to be considered California wine.
California has excellent wine varieties you can enjoy with friends and on special occasions.