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Wine region in a nutshell: California

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

In this blog series we quickly introduce you to the most beautiful regions in the wine world. This time California, also called The Golden State. San Francisco, beautiful beaches. And America's largest wine region. What makes California such a hugely popular wine region? You will find out in this blog!
Opus One Winery in Napa Valley

California dreamin'

When we think of California, we immediately go back to our road trip we took a few years ago. Route 66, Las Vegas, Yosemite, and so on! Little did we know that we were also driving right past the largest wine region in America... Instant regrets that we didn't visit a vineyard!


The warmth, many hours of sunshine, cool ocean and mountains make California a perfect wine region. Most vineyards are located north of Los Angeles and around San Francisco. The mountains offer protection against the (sometimes too) strong ocean wind. The grapes can ripen slowly here, ideal for Pinot noir, for example. The further away you get from the ocean, the hotter (and drier) it gets. Winegrowers then often have to work with irrigation and other grapes. This is also why you come across so many wine styles in California!


King Cab & the Chard

Many grape varieties grow in California, but two really stand out. For red wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon. It grows especially well in warmer places. The Cab's are often firm and fruity; intense aromas of blackberries, cherries and dark fruit. Provides a full flavor with structure. In terms of white, Chardonnay is what counts. Usually they have had (a lot of) wood aging. In addition to aromas of pear, peach and melon, this often gives them notes of caramel, vanilla and butterscotch. A style to love. They can taste a bit thick and unwieldy. Many Americans therefore often want 'Anything But Chardonnay' (ABC).

California's wine map, created by Wine Folly

The most famous regions

In California, wine grows almost throughout the state, but there are three areas that you should definitely know. First of all, Napa Valley. An elongated area of about 50 kilometers with the most prestigious wine in California. Think of Opus One (€400 the bottle) and Screaming Eagle (€5000 the bottle). You will find many different styles of wine, from light to strong.


Sonoma County is second, just a bit larger than Napa and has different microclimates. From cold airflow in the coastal mountains with a cool climate for Pinot noir and Chardonnay, to vineyards on slopes, with more hours of sunshine. On the flat parts you will mainly find Sauvignon blanc.


Finally, the Central Coast with a temperate climate. The soil is poor, so the vines have to work extra hard. Provides beautiful Cabernet sauvignons, Chardonnays and Pinot noirs.


What you must have ever tasted...

Zinfandel in full bloom

...is Zinfandel! The origin was a mystery for a long time, but after a long search, the 'mother' of this grape was discovered in Croatia. It turns out that Zinfandel, Primitivo, and the Croatian Crljenak are all clones of the same species. But that doesn't matter to the Americans, because Zinfandel is still 'their' pride!


Zinfandel has aromas of black currants, strawberries and cherries, with a spicy character and a hint of cocoa. In the Netherlands often red wine, but in America they also have rosé and white wine.


In short...

Americans are a proud people, also on their wine! It's a pity that most of the wine stays in America, and we can only enjoy it in dribs and drabs. They are often also expensive due to high costs for labor, excise duties and transport. In any case, we have found a few beautiful specimens that fall within the Wijnvaders budget, and therefore do not immediately make a hole in your wallet. Cheers to that!


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