A Deep Look into California Wine Country
If you’re looking for the perfect wine-tasting state, did you know that more than 80% of wine from the United States is crafted in California?
Not far behind Italy, France, and Spain, the Golden State is one of the world’s top wine producers.
While you might know about the famous Napa and Sonoma Counties, there are actually so many more regions to explore.
Buckle up as we take you through everything you need to know about wine country in California.
California Wine Regions
California is currently home to 139 American Viticultural Areas or AVAs for short.
The first vines were planted in California in the late 18th century by Franciscan Friars as part of over twenty missions planted throughout the state.
The wine industry took a dive until around the 1960s due to the effects of prohibition. Sadly, in the 1990s, many Northern California vineyards were lost and had to be replanted after the global Phylloxera epidemic.
After more trial and error, the perfect terroir and varietal combinations were found, and the wine industry began to thrive once again.
Now that we have a little bit of background on California winemaking let’s explore the extensive map of California’s wine country.
At glorious elevations with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, the Mendocino Ridge remains mostly wild and untamed. After driving through the majestic redwoods just a few hours away from San Francisco, you’ll find yourself in the artistic community of Mendocino County.
With some of the first vineyards having been imported by an English actress in the 1880s, Lake County is just as beautiful as Napa Valley and Sonoma without the price tag. The area is named for Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California.
Famous AVAs include High Valley and Red Hills, with famous wineries like Hawk and Horse Vineyards and Steele Wines.
The three wines that reign king when you think of Napa Valley wine remain to be Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Famous AVAs in Napa County include St. Helena and Yountville.
With a mix of soils ranging from volcanic to the cool valley floor, Napa is home to an extraordinary variety of grapes and diverse terrain.
Not far from Napa is the foggy, cool climate of Sonoma County, with famous vineyards scattered across the Russian River Valley and Green Valley.
Visit wineries like Blanchard Family Wines as you explore the artistic scenery and sip to your heart’s content.
With famous cities like San Francisco and the York Mountains, this area is surprisingly an often overlooked area for wine lovers.
Here’s what you can find at the lovely Central Coast:
San Francisco Bay Area
Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains are renowned vineyards like Eden Estate Wines, where the most prolific wines remain Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. With beautiful cliffs, hillsides, and a feeling of quaint remoteness, the Bay Area is an incredibly relaxing destination for wine tasting.
Home to famous actors and directors like Clint Eastwood, the fresh fruit from this AVA is highly prized. With beautiful hilly and green landscapes like Carmel Valley, the Santa Lucia Highlands, and Arroyo Seco, prime sippers include lush Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
San Luis Obispo
Wines to sip here include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rhone Style varietals.
Home to the gorgeous Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara boasts both cool climate and warm climate varietals.
Famous wines to sip here include Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
Home to Eldorado County’s Placerville and Apple Hill for winetasting, the mountainous areas of the Sierra Foothills make for a peaceful sipping experience.
Traveling south to the Central Valley viticulture area, which encompasses Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley, is the town of Lodi. This area has been home to flourishing vineyards since the 19th century. With warm, jammy Zinfandel and bold Cabernet Sauvignon, the valley's heat allows these varietals to thrive.
For wineries, be sure to visit Rescue Dog Wines and Le Czar Vineyard.
Taste Your Way Through Highway 101
We hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure through our California Wine Country map.
You’re now ready to embark on a wonderful tasting journey through the historic Golden Coast.
For more deep dives into your favorite wine regions, visit The Wine Blog. It’s your guide to drinking and enjoying wine!