More than 17 million gallons of wine are made in California each year. California’s wine production accounts for nearly 90% of the entire American wine production, and to put this in perspective, if California were its own country, it would be the fourth largest producer in the world.
The California viticultural history dates all the way back to the 1700s, when Spanish missionaries introduced the initial grape vineyards in order to create wine for religious ceremonies. Now, California has over 1,200 wineries that range from little boutique wineries to big establishments that produce wines that are well-known and distributed all over the world.
The Gold Rush for Wine
The Gold Rush brought waves of new settlers to the region increasing the population and in turn the local demand for wine. The development and growth of the California wine industry was largely due to the significant role of the Chinese immigrants. They helped construct wineries, plant grape vines, dig and construct underground cellars, and last but not least harvest the grapes. Sadly, the Chinese Exclusion Act forced most of the Chinese laborers out of the vineyards and wine industry as a whole by around 1890.
On the rise, the wine industry took particularly well to the Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California. In 1857, Agoston Haraszthy established the first commercial California winery in Sonoma, called Buena Vista Winery. Soon after, in 1859, John Patchett opened the first Napa County commercial winery.
The California Wine Regions
Since California has over 427,000 acres planted under vines and over 107 American AVAs, the California wine regions have been divided into four regions: the North Coast, the Central Coast, the South Coast, and the Central Valley.
The North Coast
The North Coast wine region contains most of North San Francisco Bay.The notable wine regions in this area are Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and all the sub-AVAs within them, as well as Mendocino county and Lake county.
The Central Coast
The Central Coast location extends from the south and west of the San Francisco Bay and covers all the way down to Santa Barbara County. The significant wine regions of this range consists of: the Santa Clara Valley, the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Lucas, Paso Robles, the Santa Maria Valley, the Santa Ynez Valley, the Edna Valley, the Arroyo Grande Valley, the Livermore Valley, the Cienega Valley, and San Benito.
The South Coast
The South Coast includes the coastal region of Southern California starting at Los Angeles and continuing all the way down to where San Diego meets the border of Mexico. Noteworthy wine regions on the South Coast are: the Temecula Valley, the Antelope Valley, the Leona Valley, the San Pasqual, and the Ramona Valley.
The Central Valley
Finally, we have the Central Valley, which is California largest wine region stretching for 300 miles from Sacramento to San Joaquin Valley. This individual region yields about 75% of all California wine grapes on its own, including most of California’s bulk, boxed, and jug wine makers such as Gallo and Franzia. Notable wine regions in this area include Sierra Foothills and Lodi.
Grapes Grown in California
In California over 100 grape varieties are grown including French, Italian, Spanish, and hybrid grapes. The most prominent and foremost grape varieties consumed and produced in California today are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
We are happy to say that we've featured spectacular wines from nearly all of the regions listed here! Make sure to join one of our 6 Wine of the Month Clubs to experience wines from all reaches!