California is without a doubt one of the most well-known states in the USA. Located on the Pacific Coast, the “Golden State” is one of the most populated and for good reason, the golden Californian sunshine. California is home to a number of famous and incredible cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego. Besides cities, the region is famous for its magnificent beaches, a paradise for surfers from across the globe. In terms of wine, California is the quintessential American state, boasting over 85% of all American wine production. The first vineyards were planted as early as the 1700s, by Spanish missionaries creating wine for religious use. During the 1960s, California was mostly known for the production of sweet wines. However, a new wave of winemaking began an era, which propelled California onto the global wine stage placing emphasis on quality instead of quantity.
California – The Most Well-known Wine State in the USA
California can be divided into four wine-producing regions: the North Coast, the Central Coast, the Central Valley and the South Coast. The region has very diverse geology and geography, meaning that there is a range of climates and terrain across the state. The Pacific Ocean on one side as well as the San Francisco Bay influence the climate immensely. Mountainous areas combined with hot, dry desert regions also create many individual microclimates throughout the state for excellent and diverse grape growing.
The North Coast is the widest vineyard area and includes the most famous AVAs or American Viticulture Areas of Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and Mendocino.
Napa Valley – Bedrock of the Californian Wine Industry
When mentioning wines from the US, the production area on everybody’s mind is instantly Napa Valley. The bedrock of the Californian wine industry, home to over 400 wineries, Napa delivers exquisite wines of premium quality due to the fertile soil and ideal microclimate. The region is world-famous mainly for its prized Cabernet Sauvignon. Visitors to the Napa Valley are transported to a magical world of vineyards and natural beauty where they can stroll through endless vines, learn about the winemaking process from experienced winemakers, taste local wines, and bask in the breath-taking views of the valley. Wineries in the Napa Valley offer far more than just a regular tasting experience as visitors can sip their wine while reclining at the pools of local resorts, eat at internationally recognised restaurants or even explore the valley in a hot air balloon. The mild climate of California allows visitors to travel here year-round as every season offers something magical to discover.
In California, more than 100 different varieties of grapes are planted for winemaking. The most widely planted grape variety in California is Chardonnay with approximately 37 800 hectares (94,000 acres). Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa’s signature wine, is not far behind, with approximately 36 700 hectares (90688 acres) planted. You can also find Merlot, and Pinot Noir and white are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc. The warm weather throughout the state allows for the grapes to fully ripen increasing the bold fruit flavours of the wines.
Red Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir
White Varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc
California is often associated with fruit-forward, medium to full-bodied red wines that have firm tannins and are capable of ageing for several years. New generations of winemakers are constantly changing the norms, experimenting, and creating wines in a large array of wine styles.
Californian white wines are usually toasty with smoky aromas and flavours thanks to the oak barrels used in the winemaking process. They also have fruity aromas and flavours of apple, citrus (especially lemon), and tropical fruits like mango or pineapple. Sometimes the aromas and flavours of the white wines suggest butter, butterscotch, vanilla or caramel – aromas which also arise from ageing in oak barrels. Again, white wine styles capture a diverse range of flavours and aromas. Often the more subtle and subdued have come into fashion as wine drinker preferences are constantly changing.
Surprisingly, considerable amounts of sparkling wine are produced in California as many of the most famous French Champagne brands, such as Moët & Chandon, Taittinger, Roederer, have now set up premises in the Golden State.
Wineries to Visit in California
There is an abundance of possibilities to make your trip to California an unforgettable experience. Our local partner wineries will make sure that you will leave California with great memories.
Established in 1966, the Arcadian Winery is located in the Central Coast region of California. Joseph David, the owner of the winery, has always been interested in winemaking and after having worked for another winery, he studied traditional French methods and opened his own production. Grapes are hand-picked and crushed by foot in order to have aroma and color extraction. The main grapes that grow in the Arcadian Winery’s vineyards are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estate, established in 1837 by Tomas Olivera, is located on the coast between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara. The winery was first a ranch, then Tomas decided to plant grapes to produce wine. The fifth generation of the Miller Family is currently running the estate, utilizing vines planted in the 1970s. The rocky soil and mild climate create the perfect environment for grapes to grow a unique structure and aroma. The main wines produced at the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estate are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
The Darcie Kent Winery is a family-owned estate located east of San Francisco. Darcie Kent, the chief of the winery, is an artist and enthusiast winemaker that prioritises high-quality over quantity. The production features a large number of grape varieties, dominated by the Chardonnay, with limited portions of vineyard dedicated to each variety. This gives winemakers the possibility to focus on producing the most enjoyable small batch wines.
Located in Sonoma County, the Emeritus Vineyards Winery was founded by the vintner Brice Cutrer Jones with the goal of making the world’s finest Pinot Noir. The estate features 140 acres of Pinot Noir, mainly based on the Pinot Hill. The vineyards are dry-farmed with minimal intervention allowing the grapes to fully ripen with an excellent balance of sugar concentration.
Sacramento might not be the most famous and touristic city in California, but it possesses the status of capital city of the Golden State. Indeed, in downtown Sacramento you will find the California State Capitol, a white building with a huge dome very similar to the actual one in Washington D.C.
The main attraction of the Californian capital is Old Town Sacramento. This neighbourhood occupies what was the central business district in the early 19th century. As a matter of fact, the first impression is that of having travelled on a time machine back to the Far-West era, as all the buildings are made of wood and folks in the dress from a bygone era are walking around. Some restaurants are still furbished like old saloons and the Salt Water Taffy candies are displayed in old barrels.
Don’t miss the waterfront of Old Sacramento and a walk along the Sacramento River, where classic old boats are docked.
Bodega Bay – Find Yourself on a Film Set
California is known all around the world as a paradise for films and Hollywood stars. Indeed, travelling around the whole state will make you feel as if you were about to enter a film location. Experience this sensation in the quaint town of Bodega Bay.
This super small town on the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco was chosen as the set of the film “The Birds” (1963) by the famous director Alfred Hitchcock. All the buildings you see in the film are still the same. There is also a shop that sells a costume of the protagonist of “The Birds” with ravens incorporated.
San Francisco – Home to a World of Experiences
San Francisco, or Frisco as it is called by the locals, is the “hippiest” city in the world; its colourful buildings, hippy shops, and green soul fully represent its character. This bustling city is famous for a number of great attractions and for having a real-life collection of world trams that constantly run up and down the city’s undulating hill district.
The biggest challenge when visiting San Francisco is deciding where to go first. You won’t want to miss a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, a visit to Alcatraz Island, stroll at the crossroads of 1960’s famed Height and Ashbury, or taking an instagrammable picture in front of the Painted Ladies. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the sealions that live at Pier 39.
When crossing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, you will arrive in the town of Sausalito. The serenity of Marine County will also provide incredible views of the skyline of Frisco, dominated by the Transamerica Tower.
Nature, the Real Heart of California
California is home to some of the world’s most beautiful views and natural wonders. The dramatic, winding coastline, sun-kissed valleys of vineyards, and spectacular national parks all make California a state worth visiting. This state is known for extremely diverse landscapes including snow-capped mountains, long stretches of golden beaches and the world’s tallest sequoias, which cater to all kinds of nature lovers.
Yosemite National Park – Prepare to be Stunned
There are no exclamations that capture the views at Yosemite National Park other than “Wow!” The two major summits of the Park are the El Capitan and the Half Dome, of which the best picture can be taken from Glacier Point.
Yosemite is so immense that from north to south, from east to west, the landscape continuously changes. If you drive on the Tioga Road (open only during the summer months because of the snow), you will encounter aa stunning, placid lake, a lunar-like landscape, luscious forests, and steep slopes perfect for climbing.
Artists Palette – Walk through a Painting in Death Valley
The Artists Palette is a hiking trail, part of the Artists Drive, that is located on the Californian side of the Death Valley. The trail is moderately trafficked and offers hikers and walkers of all skill levels the opportunity to experience the exquisite surrounding views.
The incredible colour of the rock is created by the oxidation of the metals, and it really gives the impression of being in the middle of a painting.
General Sherman – Stand at the Feet of the World’s Tallest Tree
General Sherman is a giant sequoia tree, located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park. Named after the American Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman, this sequoia is currently the largest living tree in the world.
At 83.3 meters (273.29 feet) high with a width of 7.7 meters (25.26 feet) General Sherman is roughly 2700 years old. There are two trails that visitors can walk to arrive at the base of the tree; on both trails, there are signs along the way explaining the natural history of the other secular sequoias.
Food and Drink to Try in California
The cuisine of California reflects the extremely diverse culture of the population. Local specialities are influenced by Mexican, Latin American, Asian and even European cuisines. The mild climate and the health fanatic ideology of California promote the production and use of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables, most of which are organic. Popular food like Avo Toast, Matcha Latte, Açai Bowls, are all not specialities born in the USA but became popular throughout the world because famous people in LA went crazy for them.
Mission Burrito – The Official Burrito of San Francisco
The Mission Burrito is also known as “San Francisco Burrito”, is a specific type of burrito that became popular in the city during the 1960s. It is different from other types of burritos because of its extra-large size and holds additional ingredients like rice. In preparing the burrito, the wheat flour tortilla is first steamed to make it more flexible.
Most places selling mission burritos do not serve them with a knife and a fork, but encourage customers to eat it with their hand, tearing the foil and eating from above. It is also popular among locals to add salsa to the burrito before each bite.
Apple Martini – Cheers, You’re on TV!
You might recognise the bright green colour of this cocktail from various films and you watch repeatedly on Netflix.
This sweet and colourful cocktail was created first in Los Angeles in 1966 and remains extremely popular in American TV and film productions.
Ingredients include vodka, apple cider or any apple liqueur and sometimes triple sec, to add a bit of dryness. The Apple Martini is widely known as “Appletini” and it comes served in a cup cocktail glass garnished with a slice of apple or a cherry.
Ranch Dressing – Born in Santa Barbara
The most popular American dipping sauce got its name because it was first created by Gayle and Steve Henson in their ranch in Santa Barbara in 1954. The dressing became popular nationwide by 1983, when it was bottled and sold in supermarkets. Today it can be found all over the world.
Ranch Dressing is made up of a buttermilk base, seasoned with onions, garlic, salt, and herbs.
Insider Tips about California
Where to eat in California?
Plan B Restaurant
Address: 555 La Sierra Dr, Sacramento, CA 95864, United States
Address: 1230 J St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
Facilities and services: Fitness center, Pool, Pet friendly, Meeting event space
4 of 5 stars
The Citizen Hotel
Address: 926 J St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
Facilities and services: Restaurant, Bar, Laudry service, Concierge service, Fitness cente,
5 of 5 stars
Address: 7871 River Rd, Forestville, CA 95436, United States
Facilities and services: Restaurant, Spa, Events area
4 of 5 stars
The best wine bars in California
Corks & Taps
Address: 1001-1007 McClelland Dr, Windsor, CA 95492, United States
Wine menu: Regional, national and international wines
Ella’s Restaurant & Bar
Address: 1131 K St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
Wine menu: Regional, national and international wines
Mirabelle Wine Bar
Address: 12518 Burbank Blvd, Valley Village, CA 91607, United States
Wine menu: Italian wines
What to do in California?
Visit Yosemite National Park
Address: 7403 Yosemite Park Way Yosemite National Park, CA
Go to Sacramento Zoo
Address: 3930 W Land Park Dr, Sacramento, CA 95822, United States
Address: Armstrong Woods Rd, California 95446, USA
Most Frequently Asked Questions about California Wine Region
1. Where is the Californiawine region located?
California wine region is in the Western United States, in the Pacific Region. The Wine Country of California is in the northern Bay Area, where are produced high-quality wines.
2. What are the most famous sub-regions and appellations in California?
The main wine sub-regions of California are North Coast (where is Napa Valley and Sonoma County), Central Coast (home to San Francisco Bay and Monterey County), Sierra Foothills, Inland Valleys, Southern California, and Far North California.
There are 139 appellations of California, so-called American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The most famous appellations in California are Napa Valley, Mendocino Ridge, and Sonoma Valley.
3. What are the main grape varieties in California?
The main grape varieites grown in California wine region are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, SauvignonBlanc, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
4. What is the best wine to try in California?
Maybe the best wine to try in California is the Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Generally bold and structured, wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon in this particular terroir are a perfect pair to red meat dishes.
5. What is the best wine region in California?
Among the best regions for winemaking in California are Napa and Sonoma Counties. The warm climate from the Pacific Coast makes the sunny days perfect for vineyard tours and wine tasting in California.
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Soil: Gravel, alluvial, volcanic, red and white clay, sandstone