Looking for a guide to California wines? Keep reading to learn about the different wine varieties produced in California, California wine regions and wineries, some of the best vintages, and recommendations on selecting California wine.
California is the largest wine growing state in the United States, with literally thousands of wineries. Due to the large variety of microclimates in the state, many different types of wine are produced in California, from ordinary table wines to fine wines that have gained world recognition.
View from Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley, CA
The wine grape growing regions in California are also referred to as appellations or AVAs (American Vitacultural Areas).
The main regions that grow the grapes that produce California wines are:
Because of the wide variety of microclimates in California, you will find many types of wine grapes are grown somewhere in the state. In fact, over one hundred different wine grape varieties are grown in California.
Most wines from California are labeled according to the variety of grape used to produce the wine. In some cases, the wine is a blend of grapes (for example, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) in which case the wine may be labeled with the winery brand name for that blend, but you can often look at the label description to see the varieties of grapes included in the blend.
The three most well-known white wine varieties from California are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio).
Red wine grapes that are grown widely in California are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel.
California also produces many excellent dessert wines, mostly made from late-harvest varietals (this means wine made from overripe, very sweet, grapes). The grape varieties used are Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.
Due again to the large number of microclimates, it is hard to give generalizations about good/bad California vintages for all wine varieties and all wine regions. However, it's possible to draw a few conclusions based on wine ratings:
California wines and gift baskets can make excellent presents. I’ve personally had great experience with Wine Country Gift Baskets, although note that because of state laws, they can only ship to 38 states. If they don’t ship to your area, you could look for another online merchant that does. Some, like wine.com (check out these California gift baskets), have local distributors that allow them to ship wine in-state.
If you are interested in learning and exploring more about California wine, then consider trying the California Wine Club, where you have the opportunity to sample a variety of wines from California delivered right to your door.