Napa and Sonoma County in California long ago established themselves as the premier wine-making regions in the United States. The winemaking history goes back to the early 1700s when missionaries from Spain planted vines in the region which they had brought with them to create vineyards so they could make wine. They needed a source of wine to make sure they had enough wine for communions.
The majority of California wine originally came from the southern portion of the state. When the Gold Rush started in 1848 people headed toward northern California. That was the beginning of the now-famous Napa and Sonoma wine regions.
California is divided into four primary wine regions: North Coast, Central Coast, Central Valley and South Coast. Each of these regions is broken down two more times. Today we will look at the North Coast which is home to Napa Valley and Sonoma. These are the top two California wine regions.
Each of the sub-regions is broken down into what is known as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). There are 13 AVAs in Sonoma and 16 AVAs in Napa.
There are two other sub-regions in the North Coast: Mendocino County and Lake County. There is also one AVA named Los Carneros (referred to as “Carneros”) that is split between Napa and Sonoma and is thought to be part of both.
Carneros grows some top Pinot Noir grapes. I like to purchase my Pinot Noir bulk wine from that area. My last two Glenwood Cellars Pinot Noirs have been produced from Carneros grapes.
There are over 100 different grapes grown in California. Chardonnay is the most popular with Cabernet Sauvignon a close second. It is not unusual to find grapes from other countries such as Albariño from Spain and Barbera from Italy. Zinfandel is considered to be America’s heritage grape. These types of grapes are found throughout California vineyards and are some of the oldest vines grown. Many are over 100 years old in the county.
While there are many, many grapes grown in California, below is a list of some of the more popular:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Cabernet Franc
- Petite Sirah
California wines are so popular that close to 90% of all wine in the U.S. comes from California. California folks consume close to 20% of the state’s total production. California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world. Yet according to The Napa Valley Vinters, a nonprofit trade association, Napa Valley vineyards produce only about 4% of California’s total wine grape harvest.
According to the Alcoholic Beverage Control of California (ABC) there are 1,700 registered wineries in Napa Valley. Some of those 1,700 are what is referred to as type 02 wineries which lease space in an existing winery. Our Glenwood Cellars Wines company holds a type 02 license. Of the 1,700 a little over 500 of them actually have on-site tasting rooms.
In addition to the wineries there are approximately 700 growers in Napa County. The local wine industry and related businesses provide an annual economic impact in the county of $9.4 billion and approximately $34 billion nationally. The wine industry creates 44,000 jobs in Napa County and nearly 190,000 jobs nationwide. Nearly 95% of Napa Valley wineries are family owned. (Source: Napa Valley Vinters).
Some more interesting facts about the area:
- Credit for planting the first vines in Napa goes to George Calvert Yount who began planting in 1836. The town of Yountville is named after him. Yountville is the home of one of the most famous 3-star restaurants in the United State: the French Laundry. Yountville is considered the “Culinary Capital” of Napa Valley.
- The Napa and Sonoma areas attract between 2.5 million and 5 million visitors per year. It is reported that in all of California only Disneyland has more visitors.
- The floor of Napa Valley is 30 miles long and 5 miles wide at its widest point.
- There are 46,000 acres of grapes grown in Napa.
- The state of California has some of the most luxurious tasting rooms in the U.S.
- The dominant grape in Napa is Cabernet Sauvignon. The wineries also produce great award-winning Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The most known AVAs are Napa, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Stags Leap and Yountville.
- Sonoma County is a very close second to Napa Valley. The most notable wine in Sonoma is Pinot Noir. Of the 13 different AVAs in Sonoma the most famous are Russian River Valley, Dry Creek, Chalk Hill, Nights Valley and Alexander Valley.
If you are a wine lover and have not been to Napa and Sonoma, this trip needs to go on your “Bucket List” ASAP. While each wine region in California is unique, I have found Napa and Sonoma to be infectious. It is a premier place for eating great food and tasting world-class wines.
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Look Forward To These Happy Things:
Upcoming LEX 530 Events!
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Wednesday, August 26, 2020 – Partnering with Artisian at LEX 530
Oktoberfest Dinner – Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – with Elkhart’s Iechyd Da Brewing Company
Artisian Wine Dinner in Partnership with LEX 530 – Wednesday, October 7, 2020 – held at Artisan
Special Guest Winemaker Wine Dinner – Friday, October 23, 2020
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, November 20, 2020
Important Wine Holidays
August 1-5 – International Albariño Days
August 4 – National White Wine Day
August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
September 3 – International Cabernet Day
September 18 – International Grenache Day
November 7 – International Merlot Day
November 12 – International Tempranillo Day
November 18 – International Zinfandel Day
December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
December 20 – National Sangria Day
December 31 – National Champagne Day