California Travel Articles
Carneros Wineries And Wine Country
Although Carneros Wineries are located in both Southern Napa and Sonoma Counties, the region has always had its own unique identity. Being a huge Pinot Noir fan, I really enjoy exploring new, interesting wines from this region.
Carneros is an example of an AVA that has a more uniform terroir than most. Whereas the borders of some AVAs have been extended beyond their natural climactic boundaries because of politics and influence, Carneros resisted this all too common tendency.
During the Spanish era of California, the region was a natural place for settlement in the North Bay due to its proximity to San Francisco, and accessibility by water routes. When General Vallejo secularized the Spanish Missions in 1834, he divided the region amongst several of his cronies. The area was initially developed to produce subsistence crops and livestock.
The first vineyards were planted in the 1830s, and Carneros Wineries flourished for many decades until phylloxera devastated the region's grapes along with most vineyards throughout California.
Prohibition appeared to be the last nail in the coffin for Carneros Wineries. After this unfortunate law's repeal, Andre Tchelistcheff and Louis M. Martini took an interest in the region's unique climate. Investment in Carneros Wineries was slow until the 1970s when it began to surge with the rest of the Napa Valley.
Regular fog derived from the San Pablo Bay and Napa River has a cooling effect on the region. Wind is a constant factor, and it blows relatively unobstructed throughout most of the AVA.
Additionally, rainfall is relatively scarce, causing most Carneros Wineries and growers to irrigate their crops. The lack of abundant fresh water as well as the encroachment of sea water into some parts of the ground inhibit rampant vineyard expansion.
As one moves north from the San Pablo Bay, rolling hills begin to replace the extremely flat terrain in the south. There are a few hills that rise to 1000 feet, but they do little to shield the wind and fog. Because of Carneros' consistant climate, certain varietals grow in a very methodical manner.
A multitude of fossilized sea life exists in the soil, and is reminiscent of when the San Pablo Bay covered much of the region. The soil has relatively low fertility, giving grape vines only enough nourishment to focus on scarce, concentrated fruit. The soils of Carneros are generally made of relatively compact clay and are quite shallow.
Varietals, Wines, and Wineries
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are quite compatible with the terroir of Carneros, and the AVA produces some great examples of these two varietals. About 80% of the grapes produced here are either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Carneros Wineries also produce some excellent sparkling wines. Some parts of the region have also had a degree of success producing Merlot and Syrah in the northern, slightly warmer parts of the AVA.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Bicais lives in the Napa Valley and is the webmaster of http://www.california-wine-tours-and-accessories.com
by Benjamin Bicais