California is renowned for its wine for good reasons — California is the production site for almost 90% of American wines. The Golden State is the fourth-largest district for winemaking across the globe. More than 200 million wine cases are sealed each year, and the industry generates $32 billion for the state. You can discover why California wine is in such high demand from the comfort of your own home by ordering wine online sourced from California’s top wine regions.
In this guide to California wine regions, you can learn more about today’s top wine varietals and wine areas in California. To start, we’ll cover what makes wine country in California special, what an American Viticultural Area (AVA) is and the best California wine regions.
What Makes California Wine Country Special?
Different environmental factors that influence the ability of vineyards to grow in California and the types of wines available are what make California wine country so unique and special.
The climate and terrain in California lead to an abundant growing season for California wine grapes. Additionally, harvesting practices, soil and weather all contribute to what makes California wine country special.
- Soil: Soil in California is a mix of traces of sandstone and red and white clay infused with volcanic minerals. The soil becomes more clay-like the farther south the region. Many grape varietals flourish in dryer types of soil, so the California soil is ideal for vineyards.
- Terrain: The topography in California includes mountainside slopes, rolling golden hills and deep valleys. As you travel south, the terrain starts to flatten.
- Weather: California is known for its pleasant, temperate weather. Summers in California are often warm and dry with little humidity, and winter is typically cooler but comfortable with modest rainfall. Even in the more mountainous regions, freezing temperatures are rare in California, which makes it ideal for growing wine grapes.
- Growing season: Growing season varies depending on the region. The cooler temperatures in Northern California tend to produce smaller yields overall compared to the vineyards in the warmer, southern regions. Cool-climate grapes remain on the vine longer, and as a result, these grapes result in sweet and less acidic wines.
- Farming practices: Farming practices for a large portion of California vineyards include organic and biodynamic practices. Several California vineyards also use dry farming as a growing technique.
California Red and White Wines
Several types of white and red wines from California are produced every year. Riesling and Semillon are two types of popular white wines, while Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc are red wines produced in California.
- Riesling: This California white wine is light and tart. Riesling grapes are rarer among vineyards, so be sure to take the opportunity to sample this wine when you can. The milder temperatures among regions from the Central Coast allow these grapes to thrive, giving the naturally high acidity more complex floral and citrus notes. Tasting notes also include ginger, honeydew, fennel, tangerine and smoke.
- Semillon: Semillons come in various tastes, colors and textures, and you can typically identify a Semillon by the sensations produced in your mouth. Semillons from California are generally medium-acidity, medium-bodied and creamier in texture and taste. If you want something between a California Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, choose a Semillon. Tasting notes include mango, papaya, apricots and chamomile.
- Petite Sirah: Beyond its French homeland, California is one of the only areas that plant Petite Sirah vines in a significant acreage. Petite Sirah is known for its intensity, full body, high tannins, high acidity and a lingering feeling in the mouth. The resulting puckering sensation means this wine pairs well with high-umami or creamy dishes. Tasting notes include black cherry, raspberry, lavender, licorice and lingonberry.
- Cabernet Franc: The Cabernet Franc is another featured red wine from California with modest plantings in the North and Central regions. Expect a lush, fruity wine that still maintains peppery and pleasant spice notes. With a sweet and savory balance, a California Cabernet Franc can meet both taste preferences. Tasting notes include mint, stewed plums, strawberries and black and white peppercorn.
These white and red wines are just the tip of the iceberg. California boasts a wide selection of wine varietals, though the ideal region for growing each varies.
What Is an American Viticultural Area (AVA)?
Each bottle of California wine includes the appellation, or geographical origin, where the grapes were grown. An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a federally recognized growing region or political boundary that defines an appellation. An AVA is a region that is defined by its specific climatic or geographic features that impact how the grapes are grown and distinguish it from surrounding regions.
An AVA more accurately describes the wine’s origin so consumers can identify the wines they want to purchase. A wine can be labeled with an AVA if at least 85% of the grapes were grown in that region.
Best California Wine Regions
In this guide, we will discuss the top wine countries in California, including:
- Northern Coast
- Central Coast
- Sierra Foothills
- Central Valley
- Napa Valley
For each region, we will cover where this region is located and the AVAs in these regions, how many wineries these regions include and which wines these regions are known for.
What You’ll Learn in This Guide
Along with a deep dive into each California wine region, we also cover different types of California wine from these regions that you can try at home. You’ll learn how to plan a wine-tasting party, everything you need for an at-home wine tasting and the best California wines to try.
In the North Coast wine region, you’ll find multiple AVAs, Northern California wineries and delicious North Coast wines to sample from the comfort of your home. In this chapter, we cover everything you need to know about this wine country, including where it’s located, AVAs to know, popular wineries and the top wines this region is known for.
Where Is North Coast Wine Country?
North Coast wine country has many renowned wine regions, many of which popularized California wine. Vineyards in Northern California can be found in the following areas:
- Lake County: Named after the state’s largest inland body of water, Lake County is east of Mendocino and home to several AVAs. Popular wines from this area include Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot.
- Los Carneros: Often referred to simply as Carneros, this AVA straddles the county lines of Sonoma and Napa. This growing region is ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay due to its proximity to the San Pablo Bay.
- Mendocino County: In North Coast wine country, Mendocino County is the northernmost region for growing wine grapes. This area is covered in redwood forests, cool and foggy, and grows Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. This area’s diverse climate and geography can also accommodate other varietals, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Charbono and Colombard.
- Napa Valley: Napa Valley is the most famous California wine region, though it produces a small portion of the state’s wine. Here, you’ll find numerous AVAs and wineries, along with some of the most popular vineyards. AVAs in Napa Valley include Oakville, Carneros, Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Rutherford, Yountville and Stags Leap District. Napa Valley wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Riesling and Chenin Blanc.
- Solano County: Solano County can be found across the bay from San Francisco and is home to several wineries. The growing conditions in this area are similar to those of Napa Valley. Fog and ocean breezes cool the vineyards, extending the growing season and producing balanced wines.
- Sonoma County: Sonoma Valley wine is grown and produced in several AVAs and wineries. Sonoma County grows an abundance of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. AVAs include Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek, Knights Valley and Chalk Hill.
How Many Wineries Are in North California Wine Country?
With one of California’s coolest climates, North Coast wine country contains many of the state’s most celebrated wineries. Some of the most popular wineries include:
- Testa Ranch: This winery in Mendocino County has been in the Testa family for generations. During harvest season, visitors can crush grapes and take part in the cellar’s barrel sampling.
- Chateau de Vie: This winery in Napa Valley includes a bed-and-breakfast where guests can stay and enjoy the heated lap pool within the vineyard and plates of complimentary cheese.
- deLorimier Winery: The vineyards in Sonoma Count include this winery that specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Swanson Vineyards: Swanson Vineyards offer an experience taken right out of a Parisian salon in the 19th century. Visitors can enjoy Swanson wines accompanied by bonbons, artisan cheeses and caviar.
Which Wine Is Northern California Known For?
Northern California wineries are known for producing a wide selection of popular wines. The types of wines that are the most popular in this region include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the most renowned red wines is Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on more than 90,000 acres, with the greatest concentration of vines in Northern California. Serve this wine at room temperature and decant well before serving. Expect a strong, savory finish and bold flavors. Tasting notes include blueberries, black raspberry, cinnamon, wood smoke, clove and raisins.
- Chardonnay: In California, the most-planted varietal is Chardonnay, claiming more than 95,000 acres. Chardonnay is grown in the North Coast, Central Coast and South Central Coast regions, though it thrives in regions like Northern California, where grapes can stay on the vine longer. Chardonnay is on the sweeter side and can be found as either oaked or unoaked. Tasting notes include pear, apple, dandelion, honeycomb, celery, coconut, almond and praline.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir is a silky wine and the best-selling red wine varietal across the world. This medium-bodied, polished red wine comes with jam-like flavors and a subtle aftertaste. Tasting notes include blueberry, cranberry, vanilla, jam, white chocolate and coriander.
- Merlot: A popular California red wine varietal is Merlot, grown on 44,000 acres. This bold red wine is medium-bodied, deep, dry and pleasantly acidic. The juicy fruit accents offset the dryness and brighten the Merlot. Tasting notes include dark chocolate, mocha, rosemary, cherry and bay leaf.
- Zinfandel: Zinfandels come in several shades of pink, and these grapes enjoy drier climates and hot temperatures. Higher temperatures lead grapes to produce and hold more sugar, leading to sweeter Zinfandels. Tasting notes include strawberry, fig, cherry, sorbet and marmalade.
- Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry, mellow wine that comprises about 15,000 acres of vineyards in California. The profile of this wine is zippy, light and herbaceous, so it’s perfect for an evening nightcap or to accompany a meal. If you want a dry white wine, grab a bottle from the Northern Coast of California. Tasting notes include pomegranate, juniper berries, fig, lemon verbena and green olive.
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In the Central Coast wine region of California, you’ll find several popular wine areas, Central Coast wineries and delicious types of wine that this region is known for. In this chapter, we’ll do a deep dive into this region and suggest some wines you may want to sample.
Where Is Central Coast Wine Country?
In Central Coast wine country, the weather becomes milder, which enables a great diversity of wine varietals. Here are some of the most popular wine regions within Central Coast wine country, including AVAs to know in these areas.
- Livermore Valley: Winemakers have long been growing wine grapes in Livermore Valley vineyards due to the area’s excellent wine-growing potential. Varietals like Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc thrive in this region.
- Monterey County: This area includes many extensive vineyards that produce a large portion of the Merlot and Chardonnay labeled “Central Coast.” Sub-regions include Chalone, Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands.
- Paso Robles: On the West coast, Paso Robles is known for growing and producing Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- San Benito County: This intermediate climate area contains a vein of limestone soils known for Pinot Noir and the potential for elegant Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese and Zinfandel.
- San Francisco Bay: The San Francisco Bay wine region contains fertile farmland, valleys and mountains. This area is cooled by San Francisco Bay’s famous fog and is home to several wineries.
- San Luis Obispo County: This wine region produces outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the AVAs of Arroyo Grande Valley and Edna Valley.
- Santa Barbara County: Along with being a destination for several famous stars, Santa Barbara County is also a popular wine destination. With multiple AVAs, this region is perhaps best known for its Pinot Noir.
- Santa Clara Valley: As the Bay Area’s most populous county, Santa Clara boasts a Mediterranean climate and rich soils. These factors have led to the development of several wineries in this region.
- Santa Cruz Mountains: The west side of Silicon Valley contains mountains known for growing Pinot Noir. The more inland areas are known for producing Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet and Zinfandel.
How Many Wineries Are in Central Coast California?
If you’re planning a trip to California, you may want to consider visiting some Central Coast wineries. The wineries in this region offer the perfect weekend getaway. The following are some of the most popular wineries in Central Coast California:
- Bianchi Winery: This winery offers exclusive wines and accommodations in the vineyard house, all on a spacious plot of land in Paso Robles. Visitors can take part in wine tasting, tour the facility and learn about the winemaking process. Bianchi Winery is known for its advanced production and farming technologies in the winemaking process.
- Demetria Estate: Visit Demetria Estate for a welcoming, home-away-from-home feeling. You can get artistically crafted wines at this family-owned winery located on biodynamically enhanced land.
- Ancient Peaks Winery: Near the Santa Lucia Mountains, you can find the Ancient Peaks Winery. The soil here includes a fossilized seabed, and different varieties of soil are the secret to this winery’s array of grape flavors.
Which Wine Is Central Coast Known For?
Popular California Central Coast wines include:
- Chardonnay: One of the best Central Coast wines is Chardonnay. A Chardonnay varietal also tends to thrive on the Central Coast, and grapes can stay on the vine longer.
- Pinot Noir: Whether you want Pinot Noir with juniper and bay leaf flavors or baked berry and lavish black cherry notes, a bottle from California’s Central Coast can offer a delicious option.
- Syrah: Syrah is a red wine with a near-black, opaque pour and a notably heavy body. Anticipate tart fruit notes followed by softer, earthier flavors. This wine varietal does well in South Central California’s warmer climate. Syrah should be served at room temperature and decanted well before serving. Tasting notes include blueberry, blackberry, tree moss and cedar.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine grows well in higher-altitude areas, such as the Santa Cruz Mountains. Choose a Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy a delicious combination of fresh acidity, black fruit aromas and structural tannins.
- Zinfandel: Zinfandel does well in the Central Coast’s hotter, inland areas, such as Paso Robles and San Benito County.
- Sauvignon Blanc: This white wine produces an aromatic, dry drink with fresh acidity and a light color. Sauvignon Blanc makes up a large portion of the wine produced in California’s Central Coast.
Order Central Coast Wine to Your Door
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The Sierra Foothills region is known for numerous wines, wineries and AVAs. This chapter covers where this wine country is located, popular wine regions and wineries worth visiting. We’ll also suggest Sierra Foothills wines you have to experience.
The Sierra Foothills is a beautiful area of California that includes famous attractions like Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. In this location, vineyards serve various wines with abundant flavors. Some of the smaller AVAs within this wine country include:
- Amador County: Within the heart of Gold Country, Amador County has acres of decades-old vines. This area is known for producing several wine varietals, such as Barbera, Zinfandel, Syrah, Sangiovese and Viognier.
- Calaveras County: This county, famed as the setting in a Mark Twain story, is nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This area is known for its rich red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
- El Dorado County: You can find El Dorado County at the north end of Mother Lode, a famed gold vein that was the site of the Gold Rush. Today, the area is known for its Zinfandel vineyards.
- Nevada County: Named after the neighboring state, Nevada County offers a reemerging wine culture.
- Placer County: Placer County is home to several wineries, as the climate, soil and topography are perfect for growing wine grapes. These grapes culminate in wine that is deep in flavor and color.
- Yuba County: Due to the granite-rich soil, grapes have been flourishing in Yuba County for decades. Yuba County is located in the north part of the Sierra Foothills.
There are many wineries in the Sierra Foothills, producing some of the most popular wines from this region. The following are some of the best wineries in the Sierra Foothills:
- Andis Wines: Andis Wines is a sleek, modern winery with a futuristic design, including a parking area with charging stations for electric vehicles. This winery stands apart due to its state-of-the-art facility designed to take a sustainable approach.
- Prospect Cellars: Taste history with your wine when you visit Prospect Cellars and its tasting room, housed in a restored post office that functions as a tasting room, an eatery and a visitor’s center. Well-known wines here include Barbera and Zinfandel.
- Iron Hub Winery: Taste award-winning wines at Iron Hub Winery and take in the awe-inspiring sights of the Sierra Nevadas. Some of the most popular wines from Iron Hub are Syrah and Sangiovese.
- Jeff Runquist Wines: This winery focuses on producing balanced wines filled with vibrant flavor. Experience these robust flavors in their wines, including Barbera, Zinfandel and Sangiovese.
- Helwig Vineyards and Winery: Participate in wine tasting and enjoy the views of the sprawling vineyards at Helwig Vineyards and Winery.
California’s Sierra Foothills wineries are known for producing a few popular wine varietals. The types of wines that are the most popular in this region include:
- Zinfandel: The warmth and high altitude of the Sierra Foothills are well-suited to the production of Zinfandel.
- Syrah: Produced from a dark-skinned red grape, Syrah is a full-bodied wine that offers strong fruit flavors.
- Barbera: Barbera wine grapes produce highly attractive, distinctive versatile and aromatic red wines.
- Sangiovese: For a wine with an aroma of red plums and cherries accompanied by earthy qualities, sample a bottle of Sangiovese.
- Viognier: Viognier is a fast-growing white wine varietal. The skin on these grapes grows thinner, which is why it is typically grown on the hillier vineyards within the North Coast region. Viogniers work well with aging techniques, and those that are less ripe will taste less sugary and greener. Tasting notes include almond, rose, hibiscus, peach and poached apple.
Even if you can’t experience the beautiful scenery of the Sierra Foothills, you can still try a glass of wine from this region. Order a sampling online from us at Marketview Liquor.
In this chapter, you’ll learn where Central Valley wine country is located, what the popular wine regions are and why tourists and residents love to visit the wineries in this region. If you want to experience wines from this region at home, look for wines from our list of recommendations.
Where Is Central Valley Wine Country?
The sunny Central Valley wine country is excellent for growing grapes. Our wine wouldn’t be the same without the California farmers in this region. The AVAs in this region include:
- Lodi and the Delta: You’ll find this area where the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys meet. Through Prohibition, the wine industry in Lodi continued flourishing thanks to the farmers who maintained legally sanctioned winemaking at home. Today’s wine is made from those same vines to produce some of the finest Zinfandel. The Lodi region is also well-known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache and Viognier.
- Madera County: In Spanish, “madera” means “lumber,” which was the first industry in this county. Though it was gold mining that put this county on the map, the fertile farmlands here are its most precious resource today, producing tomatoes, cotton, almonds and wine grapes. This county is known for its port-style and dessert wines.
- Sacramento Valley: Nested between the Coastal Range and Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sacramento Valley is home to California’s capital and a thriving agricultural sector. Wine has played an important part in this area’s history, and with so many vineyards here, this wine valley in California still plays an important role today.
- San Joaquin Valley: Another well-known California wine valley is San Joaquin. Crops grow in abundance in San Joaquin Valley, including asparagus, cotton, almonds, oranges, pistachios, garlic, peaches, tomatoes, tangerines and wine grapes. This is the largest wine region in California. The soil of both San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley is highly fertile.
How Many Wineries Are in Central Valley, California?
The soil in this wine country is some of the most fertile in the world, producing asparagus, almonds, tomatoes and, of course, Central Valley wine grapes. You can visit many wineries in the Central Valley region. Some specialize in a certain grape, and others offer a scenic view of clear, blue skies and towering trees. Here are some of the best Central Valley wineries:
- D’Art Wines
- Spenker Winery
- Heringer Estates
- Ficklin Vineyards
- The Lucas Winery
- Acquiesce Winery
- Engelmann Cellars
- Cedar View Winery
- Grey Fox Vineyards
- Long Creek Winery
- Klinker Brick Winery
- Woodbridge Winery
- Sumner Peck Ranch
- Michael David Winery
- Westbrook Wine Farm
- Dancing Coyote Wines
- Berryessa Gap Vineyards
- McManis Family Vineyards
- Peltier Winery and Vineyards
- Ripken Vineyards and Winery
Which Wine Is Central Valley Known For?
The wineries in this region produce several popular wines. Some wines you may want to sample from the Central Valley region include:
- Merlot: Merlot is a medium-bodied wine with soft tannins and berry and plum flavors, which is why it’s so popular.
- Chenin Blanc: Made from a wine grape with naturally high acidity, Chenin Blanc is a popular wine produced in this region.
- Colombard: One of the best performers from the Central Valley region is Colombard, which is renowned for its neutrality.
- Barbera: The climate in this region produces a balanced Barbera wine with cherry flavors that complement the acidity.
- Chardonnay: Another one of the top wines produced in this region is Chardonnay. The grapes typically take on the characteristics of ripe tropical fruit, resulting in Chardonnay with shades of butter and toast.
- Zinfandel: Full-bodied Zinfandels are produced from this region’s warm climate. The grapes are fat, juicy and soft on the finish, offering a blackberry flavor.
- Moscato: Moscato is a light, juicy wine often made in sparkling, pink or sweet styles with peach and pineapple flavors.
- Pinot Grigio: Pinot Grigio is light, refreshing and crisp. It often has apple and melon flavors with low acidity.
Enjoy Central Valley Wine From the Comfort of Home
Enjoy a sampling of Central Valley wine by ordering a bottle of Lodi wine or a bottle of Central Valley wine online from us at Marketview Liquor.
Napa Valley wineries produce some of the most delicious, popular wines available today. Many winemakers produce Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. This California wine region yields variations that can complement numerous dishes and satisfy any palate, whether you’re looking for a fruity white or a rich red. Learn more about the wine areas in Napa Valley and the best wines to try from this region.
Where Is Napa Valley Wine Country?
Napa Valley is most known for its rich, fertile soil. Napa Valley was California’s first AVA, and it includes several smaller AVAs. Here are some of the most popular wine areas in Napa Valley wine country.
- Calistoga: Depending on the time of year, the climate in the Calistoga AVA ranges from warm to hot. Summer temperatures can get quite hot during the day, but the afternoons and evenings are often cool. Soil in this region ranges from stony loam to gravelly loam to heavier clay and silt. The primary varieties from this AVA include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.
- Atlas Peak: The Atlas Peak AVA has a cool climate influenced by the mountains. The soil in this region is volcanic in origin and has limited water retention, which means irrigation is usually necessary. The primary varieties from this AVA include Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Coombsville: The weather in the Coombsville AVA is more temperate due to the nearness of the San Pablo Bay. Heat spikes are less severe, and the region tends to be quite a bit cooler than other AVAs during the summer. This AVA is dominated by Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
- Los Carneros: Due to its proximity to the Petaluma Gap and the San Pablo Bay, the Los Carneros AVA remains cool from the marine winds. Even the higher temperatures in the summer are cooler than other AVAs. This AVA produces Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
- Howell Mountain: The Howell Mountain AVA is located on the valley’s eastern side above the fog line, which means it’s drier and warmer than other AVAs. This AVA also has more hours of sunshine and minimal marine influence. Varieties produced here include Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Viognier.
How Many Wineries Are in Napa Valley?
The Napa Valley region’s first pioneers planted vines in the 1840s. These vines have led to over 400 wineries that now produce multiple wine types. If you’re planning a trip to Napa Valley, you may want to visit a few of the region’s most popular, interesting wineries. Some of these wineries include:
- Acumen Wine
- Baldacci Family Vineyards
- Black Stallion Winery
- Cakebread Cellars
- Diamond Creek Vineyards
- Ehlers Estate
- Far Niente Winery
- Gamble Family Vineyards
- Hartwell Vineyards
- Jones Family Vineyards
- Kapcsandy Family Winery
- Long Meadow Ranch Winery
- Merryvale Vineyards
- Napa Cellars
- Oakville Ranch
- Paradigm Winery
- Robert Foley Vineyards
- Silver Oak Cellars
- Tedeschi Family Winery
- Venge Vineyards
- White Rock Vineyards
- ZD Wines
Which Wine Is Napa Valley Known For?
As mentioned earlier, Napa Valley wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Riesling and Chenin Blanc.
- Sauvignon Blanc: One of the most popular white grape plantings in the Napa Valley region is Sauvignon Blanc. Typically, this grape offers light-bodied to medium-bodied wines with vibrant acidity.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Another one of the key varietals in this region is Cabernet Sauvignon. As a wildly popular red wine, it’s no surprise this wine is a favorite from this region.
- Merlot: This Rhône varietal is grown across the Napa Valley region. For a soft, elegant body and a fruit-forward flavor, try a bottle of Merlot.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir also flourishes in the Napa Valley area. This light red wine can be sipped on its own or with all types of food.
- Chardonnay: Like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay is popular in Napa Valley. This white wine is fruity and acidic, so it’s no wonder this crowd-pleaser is grown in the Napa Valley region.
- Zinfandel: Napa Valley’s old vines produce rich, heady wines with black pepper and spice notes. Zinfandel offers a bold, spicy flavor that makes it perfect for pairing with barbeque.
- Riesling and Chenin Blanc: These white varietals are also commonly produced in the Napa Valley region.
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Now that you know more about the wines from each of the top California wine regions, you can experience these regions without leaving your home. While you can learn plenty about different wines from the internet, books and classes, one of the most effective — and fun — ways to learn more about wine is by tasting it.
Whether you want to host a wine-tasting party with friends or sample the best wine from California during a romantic, at-home date night, we have the tips you need for successful wine-tasting. In this chapter, we cover how you can plan a wine-tasting party, how to do a wine tasting at home, the best California wines to try and how you can tour the California wine region from your home.
How to Plan a Home Wine-Tasting Party
An at-home wine-tasting party is the perfect way to elevate a Friday night. Whether you want to spend a fun evening with friends, try wines to find a new favorite or develop your palate, we have the tips you need to make your wine tasting a success, including:
- Pick a theme: One of the first tasks to check off your list is picking a theme for your wine-tasting party. Your theme will influence and guide the evening, emphasizing the flavors you and your friends will be exploring. If you want to focus on French white wines, for example, you can choose a French theme and light French cheeses. If you want to serve Californian red wines, on the other hand, you can offer complementary meats and music.
- Select a date: Suggest a few dates that work for you to your friends. Select a date that works for most of the people you want to invite.
- Keep the group small: Though you may want to invite all your friends, colleagues and acquaintances, it might be better to keep your guest list small. An intimate gathering is perfect for an at-home wine-tasting party, as it facilitates better conversations and a more engaging evening for you and your guests.
- Decide whether your party will be in-person or remote: Early in the planning process, you should determine what format you want to use for your party. Decide whether you want the party to take place in person or virtually. If many of your friends are long-distance, a virtual wine-tasting party may be the best option. On the other hand, if you prefer to meet with your friends face-to-face, an in-person party is the right option. You can also combine both formats to accommodate as many guests as possible.
- Learn how to serve wine: A serving for a tasting is 2 ounces, so a 25-ounce bottle will have 12 servings. An at-home wine-tasting party with 12 people means you’ll need a bottle for every wine you want to taste. You should know how to measure a serving properly to ensure each guest has a chance to taste a particular wine. If you want the party to keep going after the wine tasting is finished, you may also want to include some additional bottles.
- Make a checklist: Keep organized with a checklist of items to include at your wine-tasting party. You want to be prepared with everything you need to taste your wine and enjoy your evening. We include more about the items to include in this checklist below.
- Set the table: Set the table to ensure you have all the tools and necessities to make hosting your at-home wine tasting go as smoothly as possible. Use a white tablecloth to ensure your guests can clearly see the color of the wine. Ideally, every guest should have a few glasses in front of them so they can compare aromas, colors and flavors against another wine.
- Include palate cleansers: Palate cleansers are essential during a wine tasting, which you can also include when setting the table. Offer these palate cleansers between each tasting to keep your guests’ palates fresh. Water is a common, simple palate cleanser, but you can also choose snacks like plain crackers and vegetables. The key is to avoid any foods or drinks with strong flavors since this can alter the wine’s flavor.
- Ask each guest to bring a bottle: Request that your guests bring a bottle of wine to your wine-tasting party. Let them know what your theme is ahead of time so they can make an appropriate selection. You can also set a price cap so everyone is on the same page.
- Include a brief refresher on the best way to taste wine: Give guests some pointers on how to taste wine. First, note the wine’s visual qualities and then swirl the glass gently and sniff to get the aroma. Lastly, take a sip of the wine and record the flavors.
- Make notes: A key part of the wine-tasting process is assessing each wine. Make it easy for your guests to take notes on their experience with each sampling by giving each one a small pad and pen. Once the tasting is finished, guests can share their notes to determine which wines are the most and least popular and why.
- Do a blind tasting: A blind taste test is the best way to understand the similarities and differences between the wines and learn more about your palates. When your guests arrive, collect the bottles and place them in individual paper bags or wrap them in tinfoil. Each guest should receive a tasting serving of every wine in the same order.
- End with a meal: After wine tasting, your guests might be hungry. Let everyone enjoy any leftover wine and serve a small meal or appetizers to conclude your at-home wine-tasting party.
We hope these tips inspire you and help you put together an enjoyable at-home wine-tasting party. Keep in mind while brainstorming that the focus of a wine-tasting party is great wine and great friends, and as long as you have those two ingredients, the evening is sure to be fun and memorable.
Everything You Need for an At-Home Wine Tasting
As mentioned above, you should have a checklist of items to include at your wine-tasting party. For your at-home wine tasting, the following are some of the items you may want to include on your list:
- Wine: Even if your guests are bringing a bottle of wine each, you’ll want to ensure you have your own bottles to contribute, and you may want extra bottles to enjoy after the tasting is finished.
- Decanters: A decanter is used to serve the wine into an individual glass.
- Wine glasses: Wine glasses should be clear, have a stem for holding the glass and a bowl that is deep enough to allow guests to swirl the wine. You need at least one wine glass per guest. To ensure wine flavors don’t mix and impact the next sample, dump any leftover wine and rinse with water before moving on to the next wine. If you prefer that guests have a new glass for each wine and you have extra storage space, you can invest in more stemware.
- Corkscrews: Have your favorite corkscrew handy, along with a backup if you have several bottles to open or your first corkscrew breaks.
- Meat and cheese board: Small bites of meat and cheese can pair well with wine or help clear the palate. Additionally, alcohol enters your bloodstream more quickly when you drink on an empty stomach, so it can be helpful to provide your guests with food to consume during the tasting.
- Chilling buckets and ice: To keep white and sparkling wines at the perfect temperature throughout your wine-tasting party, you should also include chilling buckets and ice. Red wines can be kept in the refrigerator before the tasting and are generally best sampled at a slightly warmer temperature than white or sparkling wine.
- Tablecloth: Cover the table you’ll be using for the wine tasting with a white tablecloth. This color provides the best background for assessing the color of every wine.
- Napkins and small plates: If your guests won’t be sitting at a table, you can instead give everyone a white napkin to serve the same purpose. You should also supply small plates that guests can use to eat appetizers.
- Palate cleansers: Palate cleansers such as plain crackers and water are useful between wine samples to ensure your guests can detect the unique flavors of each wine without the influence of the previous sample.
Contact us at Marketview Liquor to get ideas for wine and food pairings or party planning.
12 Best California Wines to Try
To prepare for your at-home wine-tasting party, we have a list of the best wines to try from various regions of California. Each of these wines is available through Marketview Liquor. In addition to the region and varietal, we’ve also included the alcohol by volume (ABV) and some food pairing suggestions.
Pink Moscato is a must-have during your at-home wine-tasting party. Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato offers an aroma of cherries and red apples. These aromas are complemented by a lingering, luscious sweet finish.
- Region: Modesto
- Varietal: Muscat
- ABV: 9.5%
- Food pairing: Fruit, cheese and desserts
2. Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon comes with aromas of blackberry, deep black cherry and cassis. Round, well-defined tannins offer a strong backbone through the middle. The lingering finish is rounded out with notes of vanilla and cedar and a hint of mocha.
- Region: North Coast, Sonoma County
- Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
- ABV: 13.5%
- Food pairing: Hard cheese, red meats and lamb
3. Four Vines Biker Zinfandel
Four Vines Biker Zinfandel is a bold, daring California wine with a touch of roughness. Pick this wine if you want an option with layers of spice and wild berries.
- Region: Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles
- Varietal: Zinfandel
- ABV: 15%
- Food pairing: Hard cheese, burgers, pizza and barbeque
4. J Vineyards Pinot Gris
With the fragrance of fresh pineapple and jasmine, the medium-bodied J Vineyards Pinot Gris brings a fresh, crisp taste to your palate. Select this wine for a pleasantly straightforward option.
- Region: North Coast, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
- Varietal: Pinot Gris
- ABV: 13.6%
- Food pairing: Mushrooms, spicy food, pork and cured meat
Barefoot Cellars Moscato offers delicious flavors of juicy apricot and peach, along with hints of orange and lemon citrus to complement the refreshing, crisp finish.
- Region: Modesto
- Varietal: Muscat
- ABV: 9%
- Food pairing: Fruit, spicy food, cheese and desserts
6. 1924 Limited Edition Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon
Made from grapes from select vineyards in Northern California, the 1924 Limited Edition Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon is layered with suggestions of vanilla, blackberry and warm spice that offers notes similar to bourbon, such as charred oak, butterscotch and caramel.
- Region: Central Valley, Lodi
- Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
- ABV: 15%
- Food pairing: Hard cheese, lamb, red meats and red sauce pasta
7. Bonterra Zinfandel
Bonterra Zinfandel is a saturated, dark-colored wine with ripe fruit flavors. This dry, full-bodied wine contains notes of black cherry and chocolate braced by fine-grained tannins.
- Region: North Coast, Mendocino County
- Varietal: Zinfandel
- ABV: 14.9%
- Food pairing: Hard cheese, barbeque, pizza and burgers
8. CK Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon
CK Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon comes with a classic, deep red hue, along with rich flavors of blackberry and cherry. You’ll also get hints of oak and a silky finish to make this wine perfectly balanced. Grapes are harvested at their peak ripeness to create this delicious wine.
- Region: Central Valley, Yolo County
- Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
- ABV: 13.6%
- Food pairing: Hard cheese, lamb and red meats
9. Oak Ridge OZV Old Vine Zinfandel
Oak Ridge OZV Old Vine Zinfandel comes with aromas of mocha latte and blueberry pie. Ultra-ripe blackberry notes are enhanced with plum liquor and white pepper flavors.
- Region: Central Valley, Lodi
- Varietal: Zinfandel
- ABV: 14%
- Food pairing: Pizza, burgers, barbeque and hard cheese
Barefoot Bubbly Moscato is deliciously sweet with tangerine and Mandarin orange flavors. This drink pairs well with sweet desserts, spicy cuisine and fresh fruit, making it the perfect addition to your wine-tasting party.
- Region: Modesto
- Varietal: Muscat
- ABV: 10.5%
- Food pairing: Desserts, fruit, cheese and spicy food
11. J. Lohr Arroyo Riverstone Chardonnay
A bottle of J. Lohr Arroyo Riverstone Chardonnay comes from Monterey. This option is zesty and dry and comes with grapefruit, white peach and apricot juice flavors. Pick this bottle to add some elegance to your wine-tasting party.
- Region: Central Coast, Monterey County, Arroyo Seco
- Varietal: Chardonnay
- ABV: 14%
- Food pairing: Poultry, shellfish and white sauce pasta
12. Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon
Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon is a red that comes with a juicy finish and notes of anise, sassafras and loganberry. Pick this option for nice character and balance.
- Region: North Coast, Napa County, Napa Valley
- Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
- ABV: 13.9%
- Food pairing: Lamb, red meats, hard cheese and red sauce pasta
Tour the California Wine Region From Home With Marketview Liquor
In this guide, we’ve covered the California wine regions, all of which you can sample during a wine-tasting party at home. We recommend incorporating wines from every top region, from northern California to southern California. You can get wines from each of these regions through Marketview Liquor. When you order from Marketview Liquor, you can enjoy several benefits, such as:
- Large selection: We offer an extensive selection of your favorite wines, so you can discover bottles you’ll love every time.
- Free shipping for select wines: You may qualify for free shipping when you buy 12 or more bottles of select wines.
- Discount on eligible wine by the case: If you want to stock up before your wine-tasting party, you can claim a 10% discount by ordering our eligible spirits or wine by the case.
- National delivery to most states: For most states, we offer national delivery if you place an online wine order. If you live within five miles of our store in Rochester, New York, you can also get wine delivered to your door.
Whether you want to stock up or try something new, you’ll find what you’re looking for from Marketview Liquor. Order California wines from us today.