Arguably one of the most important regions on the north coast of California, producing some of the highest quality wines in the region.
Carneros is one of the oldest and most established wine areas in California, and one with a consistently high and very premium, quality image. It covers an area of about 90 square kilometres, and is nestled in the shadows of the Mayacamas mountain range. The name ‘Carneros’ means ram in Spanish, and whilst this is not substantiated, many believe the name harks back to the days when the area was a land of farms, orchards and hayfields.
Vineyards were first established here in the 1830s, and Carneros maintains a strong position as a producer of premium quality wines, most famed for its Pinot Noir. The region lies at the southern end of the Sonoma mountains and straddles both Sonoma County to the west, and Napa Valley to the east – the wines or estates, are therefore labelled according to the location, but do also have their own AVA Carneros.
The region has a distinct microclimate which varies considerably from its neighbours. With little shelter or protection from mountain ranges, Carneros is hit directly from the south by the rolling fog of San Pablo Bay (which has rolled up from the San Francisco Bay), and from the west by the Pacific Ocean breezes. This provides the ideal cool climate for the production of seriously top quality Pinot Noirs and also Chardonnay wines.
Carneros is also a superb region for the production of quality sparkling wine, both due to the location, and the grape varieties planted (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Champagne Taittinger set up Domaines Carneros here in the 1980s, and other international sparkling wine producers have since developed in this region also.
Carneros Wine Grapes And Styles
The star grapes here mirror the grapes of Burgundy, and benefit from the cooler climate of the area.
Pinot Noir – some of the very best and sublime Californian Pinot Noirs are produced from Carneros – silky, elegant, complex, and full of ripe, exuberant, perfumed fruit.
Chardonnay – a vast amount of Chardonnay is grown in California, but many are hot, sun-baked and hot, with lashings of oak chips. Carneros, with its cool climate, produces some of the highest quality and freshest Chardonnays, bringing out the elegance, minerality, and sheer poise of top quality Chardonnay.