California Wine For Dummies
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Wine grapes flourish throughout much of California — in wine regions as far north as Mendocino County in the upper third of California, as far west as the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and as far east as the city of Fresno.

Napa Valley and Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, are of course world-famous wine destinations. But the last 30 years have also witnessed the emergence of Santa Barbara and Monterey along the state’s central coast and Anderson Valley in Mendocino County — to mention just a few of the new hot spots for California wine.

Centuries of experience have proven that the place where grapes grow influences their nature and therefore the nature of the wine made from them. California’s climate, soil, and topography vary from one part of the state to the next. Like the differences in growing conditions, the differences in wines from region to region can be subtle or dramatic.

California’s wine producers didn’t always take the issue of regional differences, or terroir, as seriously as they do today. However, those who make fine wine all over California now have real respect for the individual distinctions that make one vineyard different from the next and that make every wine region unique. Grape growers and wineries in specific regions have banded together, funded research, and shared their experiences to better define and understand the intricate nature of their own region’s terroir.

The most important California wine regions include the following:

  • North Coast:

    • Napa Valley

    • Sonoma County

    • Mendocino County

    • Lake County

  • Sierra Foothills

  • Central Coast:

    • Monterey County

    • San Luis Obispo County

    • Santa Barbara County

Although plenty of California wines come from the grapes of multiple regions rather than from the grapes of a specific region (the labels of these wines simply state the wines’ origin as California), a wine’s region of production is an increasingly important consideration in buying fine wine from California. The following figure depicts California’s main wine regions.

The wine regions of California.
The wine regions of California.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Ed McCarthy is a Certified Wine Educator, a regular contributor to Wine Enthusiast and The Wine Journal, and the coauthor of four previous For Dummies?? wine books.

Ed McCarthy is a wine writer, Certified Wine Educator, and wine consultant. McCarthy is considered a leading Champagne authority in the U.S. He is the Contributing Editor of Beverage Media. Mary Ewing-Mulligan is the first woman in America to become a Master of Wine, and is currently one of 50 MWs in the U.S. and 380 in the world.

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