Cal­i­for­nia vin­tages not just from Napa

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - LORRI HAMBUCHEN Lorri Hambuchen is a mem­ber of London’s In­sti­tute of Wines and Spir­its. Con­tact her at the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Lit­tle Rock, Ark. 72203, or email: uncorked@thewine­cen­ter.com

Most of us are fa­mil­iar with, if not ded­i­cated fans of, Cal­i­for­nia’s Sonoma and Napa Val­ley re­gions. But is there Cal­i­for­nia wine out­side of these fa­mous re­gions? You bet there is and many go un­no­ticed or con­sumers sim­ply for­get the Golden State is known as the quin­tes­sen­tial arena for some of the world’s most re­spected agri­cul­ture, in­clud­ing grapes.

MENDOCINO

Mendocino County is a foggy and cool re­gion that is home to some of the world’s tallest liv­ing trees (370 feet). Though much of the county is cov­ered in red­wood for­est, there are pock­ets of vine­yards pro­duc­ing ex­cel­lent wines. Vines make up about 17,000 acres, with chardon­nay be­ing the lead grape fol­lowed by pinot noir and caber­net sauvignon with most of the vine­yards in the in­land val­leys of this moun­tain­ous re­gion. Vine­yards grow­ing white wine grapes are gen­er­ally lo­cated on flood plains along the Navarro and Rus­sian rivers while most of the reds are grown on the bench lands above.

THE VALUE

2016 Par­ducci Pinot Noir (about $13 re­tail)

THE SPLURGE

NV Scharf­fen­berger Brut Sparkling (about $21 re­tail)

SANTA BAR­BARA

Santa Bar­bara’s ge­og­ra­phy al­lows for ocean breezes to blow east­ward, chan­neled by the moun­tains and hills that sur­round the re­gion. This cre­ates a val­ley fun­nel­ing cool air and fog di­rectly in from the Pa­cific Ocean. Be­cause it has a more mar­itime cli­mate it of­fers dra­matic changes in cli­mate from the cool, wet and windy coast to the warm, dry in­lands. The unique cli­mate cou­pled with di­verse soils rang­ing from an­cient beach to lime­stone makes for a near per­fect place for grapes to grow. This range of mi­cro­cli­mates al­lows for a gamut of fine wine grapes from chardon­nay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and even some Rhone va­ri­eties (gre­nache, syrah) and Bordeaux va­ri­eties (caber­net sauvignon, mer­lot) to ex­cel.

THE VALUE

2016 Santa Maria Vine­yard and Win­ery Sauvignon Blanc (about $13 re­tail)

THE SPLURGE

2015 Presqu’ile Santa Maria Val­ley Pinot Noir (about $42 re­tail)

LAKE COUNTY

North of Napa Val­ley, Lake County is a fast-grow­ing wine re­gion with some ar­eas ex­pected to dou­ble in the next few years as many new vine­yards are be­ing planted. Caber­net sauvignon is the most planted grape fol­lowed by sauvignon blanc. The Lake County re­gion sur­rounds Clear Lake, the largest nat­u­ral lake in Cal­i­for­nia. Grapes are planted in many places from the rich soils of the val­ley (lake level) to the rocky vol­canic soils at more than 2,000 feet el­e­va­tion around Mt. Kon­acti, a dor­mant vol­cano. The higher el­e­va­tion, cooler win­ter con­di­tions and later start to the grow­ing sea­son mean few grape pests so sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices can oc­cur al­most year-round.

THE VALUE

2016 Shan­non Ridge Win­ery Caber­net Sauvignon (about $15 re­tail)

THE SPLURGE

2016 High Val­ley Zin­fan­del, Cal­i­for­nia (about $20 re­tail)

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