California’s North Coast Wine Region
The North Coast region is a wine and food lover’s paradise - a tranquil scene of picturesque landscapes with rolling hills, sprawling vineyards and enchanting towns. The region is known for its distinctive vineyards and wineries, where visitors may enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting, stroll through local art galleries, take in the redwood forests or explore the rugged Pacific Coastline. Cozy bed and breakfasts, tranquil spas and gourmet restaurants dot the region making it the perfect weekend getaway. The premium wines made from the world-class winegrapes grown here are enjoyed around the globe. Here, wine and locally-grown foods are ways of life!
Regional Description: A Wine Mecca
The North Coast grape growing region is comprised of the counties north of San Francisco including Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma and Solano, and is also home to more than 40 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The region – which consists of coastal mountain ranges, rolling hills, deep valleys and vast plains – produces some of the best winegrapes in the country. The North Coast forms a slightly crooked rectangle approximately 100 miles long and more than 50 miles wide from the Pacific Coast Ranges in the northwest to the Blue Ridge Mountain Range in the east to the San Pablo Bay in the South, encompassing more than three million acres of land.
History: A Vintage History
The North Coast region has been a wine-making Mecca since the mid 19th century. Agoston Harazthy, a Hungarian soldier considered the founder of the California wine industry, promoted vine planting over much of Northern California during the 1850s and 60s. He was an advocate of hillside planting and fostered the idea of non-irrigated vineyards. The wine industry here had a slow revival after Prohibition. It fully recovered during the nationwide wine boom of the 1960s thanks to a few families who bet that the area's winegrapes would flourish to produce fine wine. A number of wineries emerged and range from large corporations to small boutiques to cult classics. Today the region features approximately 800 wineries, nearly half of the total wineries in California.
Climate: Perfectly Mild
The North Coast climate is diverse and ideal for grape growing. Influenced by the cool coastal air and fog from the Pacific Ocean, the region enjoys a temperate climate with a long growing season of sunny, warm days followed by cool evenings. The mild warm weather and seasonal rain encourages vine growth, while the hot, sunny summers help to develop the fruit.
Geography: Composition Breeds
The soil and topography of the North Coast is as varied as the winegrapes grown in the region. The coastal ridges and interior valleys are composed predominately of sedimentary rocks and deposits of sand and clay, which produces wines that are less overtly fruity with more refined tannins and focused intensity. Porous, well-drained soils with low water-holding capacity found in this region generally yield ripe, tannic wines. Additionally, the flavor of wines produced from grapes grown at higher elevations with rockier soils tends to be more concentrated.
Varietals: The Best of the Best
Almost every variety of winegrape can be found in this sprawling region –that’s the surprise and adventure of discovering California wine. The ecological conditions here favor production of premium grapes. The region is known for its full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, rich Merlot, crisp Chardonnay, spicy Zinfandel and smooth Pinot Noir. Other regional favorites include Cabernet Franc, Syrah/Shiraz, Petite Sirah, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc – and Sparkling Wine!
American Viticultural Areas
American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, are delimited grape growing areas distinguishable by geographic climatic and historic features - which are sometimes noted on bottles of California wine. AVA boundaries have been delineated in a petition field and accepted by the U.S. Government.