California: Napa & Sonoma

Only 2% of the world enjoys a dry Mediterranean climate and this is the dominant one in Napa Valley, helping to provide vintage-to-vintage consistency and exceptional quality that few other winegrowing regions can boast. Because of its unique geologic history, Napa Valley has a remarkable diversity of microclimates, weather and geography, as well as some of the most diverse soils found on earth.

In spite of its international renown, Napa Valley is one of the smallest winegrowing regions in the world, with only one-eighth the planted acreage of Bordeaux. The region’s established viticultural practices result in low yields of high-quality grapes, from which skilled winemakers craft Napa Valley’s renowned wines, being particularly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other red Bordeaux varietals.

For years Sonoma could not compete with the publicity attracted by Napa Valley, its neighbor just over the Mayacamas Mountains to the east, but the stunning quality of so many of its wines has given Sonoma new pride and status. Alexander Valley in the north seems to be able to produce a well-balanced example of virtually every varietal. Chalk Hill to the immediate south makes fine Chardonnay while Dry Creek Valley to the west enjoys a well-deserved reputation for Zinfandel from ancient vines planted a century ago and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc.