On 5th November, a few days after the 27th Wine Festival of Gandesa, three of us, Jaume Martí of Agricola Sant Josepfrom Bot, Josep Vicens of Celler Josep Vicens and Jordi Navarro of ViOrigen, made a trip to various wine regions in the US state of California to discover the wonders of some of the most important AVA (American Viticultural Area).
First, we made several visits to the wine country of Sonoma Valley AVA. This area, known as the birthplace of the California wine industry, is located in the northern California coast forming a valley where vineyards are protected from the direct influence of the Pacific Ocean.
The first winery we visited was Preston, a winery located in the subregion of Dry Creek AVA. We were attended personally by Matt, the winemaker. He explained to us various aspects of their wines, which we later tasted and commented on. Varietals wines of White Grenache, Marsanne, Cisault, Zinfandel (logo variety of Sonoma) and coupages of Zinfandel with Syrah and Petit Syrah.
The second visit was Ridge Vineyards, also in Dry Creek AVA. We were taken on a personal tour where we tasted 10 wines from several coupages with Zinfandel, Syrah, Petit Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. All were of high quality and some of them extraordinary.
The third winery in Sonoma Valley was Thomas George Estates, located in Russian River AVA. In this winery we tasted their Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
After Sonoma, we travelled to Napa Valley. This valley, nearly parallel to Sonoma but further inland, is one of the most famous in the world for the quality of its wines and for being a pioneer in enotourism.
In Napa Valley AVA, we want to emphasize a visit to Robert Mondavi Winery located in Oakville. Inger, Senior Wine Educator, introduced us to the wine region with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (Fumé Blanc). She showed us the entire cellar and prepared a special taste of some of their best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wine, finished with an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon from 1993.
The wine experience ended in Central Coast, in the wine area of Santa Ynez Valley AVA of Santa Barbara County. This area lies between two mountain ranges that run perpendicular to the coast and so has its own microclimate with a difference of 1°C per mile, decreasing from west to east. In this area, known by the movie Sideways (2004), we visited several wineries and Tasting Rooms as Taste of Sta. Rita Hills (Lompoc), Consumable Art (Los Olivos) and Dierberg Star Line (Lompoc). In this area Pinot Noir is the protagonist wine variety.
We also would like to emphasize the visit to the winery Dragonette Cellars where Brandon, one of the winemakers, explained to us how they produce the different wines, which we then tasted. Two white wines, Sauvignon Blanc and White Grenache and five reds, Grenache, two Pinot Noir and two Syrah.
It has been a very fruitful trip where we could enjoy California wines of very high quality with great professional people. In addition, we have seen different types of wineries in different regions and we discovered how the successful Californian enotourism industry works. It certainly has a powerful infrastructure, dedicated to the professional care of visitors and a specialized network of Tasting Rooms.