Napa Valley, the best known of
California’s 117 distinct American
Viticulural Areas, produces great
Merlots and Cabernets.
The Golden State
is rich in wine
By Annette Alvarez-Peters
SEP TEMBER IS California Wine Month. Let’s
toast the state with a glass of Chardonnay,
Let’s take a brief tour through the state to
discover what these diverse areas have to offer.
Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah From south to north
or whichever varietal you may have on hand. Starting in the south, the Temecula AVA is
The beauty of California wines is that near San Diego and is considered a hot area by
they’re limited only by what Mother Nature viticultural standards. Temecula is greatly
offers. Unlike winegrowers in some European influenced by cooling breezes off the Pacific
countries, California winegrowers can plant and has success with white grape varieties
any grape variety anywhere. The result is suchas Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
some fascinating and charming Moving north, we pass through the his-
wines, and a lot of the m: torically citrus-growing counties of
California is America’s Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura, on
largest wine-producing our way to Santa Barbara County,
state, by far. featuring the Santa Ynez and Santa
California offers Maria Valley AVAs. This region hugs
perfect grape-growing the Pacific coastline, moderating
conditions: abundant the temperatures to favor luscious
sunshine, warm tem- Chardonnays with tropical fruit fla-
peratures, low rainfall, ANNETTE
ALVAREZ-PETERS vors and Pinot Noirs that are ripe
fertile hillsides and valley and fruit forward.
floors, and climatic diver- San Luis Obispo County
sity influenced by barrier Wine Guide includes the Paso Robles and
mountain ranges and the cool- For information on Edna Valley AVAs. The Paso
ing effects of the long, beautiful Costco’s Kirkland Signature™ Robles region, which has a
Pacific Ocean coastline. wines, including vintage notes very warm climate, is
Interestingly, a near disas- and food-pairing tips, go to known for its medium- to
ter propelled the state’s quest costco.com, click on “Costco full-bodied Cabernets, big,
to produce high-quality wines. intensely fruity Zinfandels
A devastating outbreak of phyl- Connection Magazine,” and wonderfully spicy Syrahs.
loxera (a root louse that attacks then “Kirkland Signature The much cooler, east-west-
and eventually kills grapevines) Wine Connection.” facing Edna Valley produces deli-
forced a massive replanting of vines in cious, fruity Chardonnays.
the 1980s throughout premium viticultural Continuingnorth,veryold-vine Zinfandel
areas. As a result, wineries were able to employ is grown in the Sierra Foothills AVA, while the
modern analysis to match grape varieties to fog plays a role in shaping the character of
the appropriate microclimates, soils and other Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in the
optimum growing conditions to create more Livermore Valley AVA.
vibrant and healthier vineyards.
and softly textured Cabernets from the
Alexander Valley AVA are among California’s
finest, while the Russian River Valley AVA
produces elegant Chardonnays and intense
Pinot Noirs. Zinfandels from the Dry Creek
Valley AVA are ripe, rich and lush.
The Carneros AVA is shared by the
Sonoma and Napa valleys. Bright apple and
pear flavors are common in this area’s
Chardonnays, and Pinot Noirs with spicy
berry and cherry fruit excel there. Some of
California’s finest sparkling wine is produced
from Carneros fruit as well.
JUPITER IMAGES/RACHEL WEILL
Arguably the most famous California
wine region, the Napa Valley lies between two
mountain ranges and produces some of the
richest, most concentrated Cabernets found
anywhere. Big Cabernets are found in several
AVAs, including Oakville, Rutherford, Stags
Leap District, Spring Mountain District and
Merlot also thrives in the Napa Valley.
Many wineries produce Meritage®, which is a
blend of mostly Cabernet and Merlot and
often includes other Bordeaux varietals
(Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot).
Farthest north, in Mendocino County,
the Anderson Valley AVA is a cool area known
for exceptional sparkling wines, as well as
crisp Chardonnays and juicy Pinot Noirs with
hints of earth.
With so many regions, climates and grape
varieties, a common question is “Which wine
do I choose and will I like it?” The only reliable way to train your palate is to taste, taste
and taste some more!
For your next dinner party, organize a
California wine tasting. Assign an AVA to each
guest and ask him or her to bring a representative bottle. Taste through the “tour” and let
everyone pick a favorite varietal and AVA. It’s
both educational and fun. C
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s
national wine, spirits and beer program.
California now has 117 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs)—designated grape-growing
regions recognized for specific characteristics—
and 2,275 wineries (compared to 807 in 1990).
Napa Valley and beyond
Climatically, Sonoma County is California’s
most diverse region, with some of the warm-est and coolest grape-growing areas. The rich
COSTCO WINE LIST
California wine sampler*
Cambria Chardonnay, Santa Barbara
Edna Valley Pinot Noir, Edna Valley
J Lohr Chardonnay, Paso Robles
Wente Chardonnay, Livermore
Treana White Meritage, Monterey
Acacia Pinot Noir, Carneros
Chateau Ste. Jean
Robert Young Chardonnay, Sonoma
Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
*Not all wines available at all locations.
See costco.com for more wine choices.