Learn the geography, grape varieties, climate, soil, wine styles, and producers of Napa, Sonoma, and the major coastal areas of California.
What is the main climatic influence on California’s wine growing regions?
The California Ocean Current
- it’s an extremely cold Pacific Ocean current which moves down from British Columbia and directly affects the coast of California.
Despite California’s latitude and northern California’s mountainous terrain, it is this ocean current that plays the largest role in moderating California’s grape growing regions.
Most California vineyards are protected from cold ocean currents by what geological feature?
Mountains - which run up most of the state’s coastline.
Without the mountains, California’s northern coast would be dramatically cooler due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The mountains help insulate California.
What are the beneficial effects of fog created by California’s cold ocean currents?
The cold evening air and morning fogs that are drawn in from the ocean help to lower evening temperatures and retain acidity in the grapes.
Additionally, it takes longer for the sun to burn off the fog in the morning which extends the cooling effect well into late morning or afternoon.
What is the major detrimental effect of fog caused by California’s cold ocean currents?
The cooling influence of fog can be so intense that in some parts of California grapes can have difficulty ripening.
What climatic factor links nearly all of California’s grape growing regions?
Low rainfall during the ripening season.
What is the beneficial impact of California’s low rainfall during the ripening season?
Lack of rain means growers can leave their grapes on the vine late into the season, resulting in super-ripe grapes with intense flavors and elevated sugar levels.
How do many California grape growers deal with the lack of rain during the ripening season?
Due to the shortage of rain in California, many grape growers use drip irrigation to make sure their vines have water during the growing season.
What is the most planted red/black grape in California?
What is the most widely planted grape variety of either color in California?
Despite its European origin, what grape is widely considered to be a uniquely Californian grape?
What unique characteristic of Zinfandel allows it to be produced in several kinds of styles throughout California?
Zinfandel has the propensity of ripening unevenly, meaning that harvested bunches almost always include both unripe and raisinated grapes (which produces both underripe and overripe flavors in the wine).
What is White Zinfandel made from?
What is its general profile?
Early-harvested Zinfandel grapes
- Pale pink
- Low alcohol
Which areas in California have reputations for making distinctive Merlot with character?
The cooler regions of California, such as Monterey County and parts of California’s North Coast, and the warmer regions of Napa and Sonoma.
Merlot from these regions will be soft, lush, and velvety.
Which area in California has the largest plantings of Merlot?
Are these Merlots generally seen as higher quality or lesser quality than those from Napa, Sonoma or Monterey?
San Joaquin Valley in the Central Valley.
Merlots from San Joaquin Valley are generally seen as simple wines of lesser quality than those from Napa, Sonoma, or Monterey.
Merlots from San Joaquin are generally more affordable and meant for everyday consumption.
Which regions of California are known for producing premium Pinot Noir?
- Russian River Valley AVA;
- Los Carneros AVA;
- Santa Maria Valley AVA.
What does Fumé Blanc usually refer to?
Fumé Blanc usually refers to Sauvignon Blanc made in the United States that more than likely saw some new oak.
Be careful though, some producers will use Fumé Blanc on unoaked wines as a marketing term.
Where do some choice examples of California Sauvignon Blanc come from?
California’s coastal areas – which promote brisk acidity and bursting citrus notes.
Of the five winegrowing regions in California, which three do you have to know for the exam?
- North Coast
- Central Coast
- Central Valley
Where is the majority of California’s wine produced?
The hot + dry Central Valley has very fertile soil and irrigation is widely used to increase grape yields.
What California AVA has been a leader in forming California’s reputation for quality wines, and has been shown to possess some of the most desirable vineyards in the United States?
Napa Valley AVA