Looking for high-quality Sparkling wine, poised Pinot, and captivating Chardonnay? Only 30 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, Los Carneros is one of the coolest regions in Napa, and not just because of the climate.
Wines to know in Los Carneros
Los Carneros is one of the coolest spots around due to its proximity to cool waters in San Pablo Bay. Straddling both Napa and Sonoma counties, this AVA is one of the few that doesn’t focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, mainly because it’s too cool to ripen properly.
What we have instead is the perfect climate for early ripening varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These Burgundian varieties are perfectly at home here, with some vineyards just one mile from the Bay.
The cool afternoon breezes and morning fog means it rarely gets above 80 °F here (26 °C) - paving the way for elegant styles of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both with refreshing acidity and potential for cellaring.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also the perfect pair for producing sparkling wines. If you’re looking for something to rival Champagne then look into Los Carneros. These wines, made using the same method and grape varieties as found in Champagne, have a fine mousse, mixture of red and green apple, lemon curd, baking spices, and brioche notes with a fresh linear finish.
Notable Vineyards (and Wineries) in Los Carneros
Carneros Wine Company - Pinot Clones research done here helped lay the groundwork for the variety in California. They even have some Vermentino here!
Saintsbury - Check out for single-vineyard expressions of Pinot and Chardonnay.
Domaine Carneros - Founded by Taittinger, this winery focuses on high-quality, traditional-method sparkling wines.
Artesa - founded by Cordoníu, a Cava house in Spain, they have some high-quality sparkling wines, but also Albariño.
Bouchaine Vineyards – On the very southern border next to the bay – you can see San Francisco from the winery! This is the oldest continuously operating winery in Carneros that now farms sustainably.
Los Carneros AVA Terroir
With its proximity to the cool San Pablo Bay bringing morning fog and cooling afternoon sea breezes blowing through the Petaluma Gap, Los Carneros is one of the coolest spots in Napa Valley.
Most vineyards are between one and four miles from the bay, meaning that with an average temperature during the growing season is only 72° F (22° C), it’s quite well suited to varieties that like more moderate climates, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, but also Albariño, and Pinot Gris.
Though there may be cooling influences there’s not a lot of rain, with only 25 inches of rain (640 mm), most of which falls during the winter months.
Thankfully, the clay topsoils found here hold moisture, which means vineyards don’t need to irrigate as much as you think. The loamy soils, particularly near Carneros Creek, are perfect for acid retention, which is a key component to producing high-quality sparkling wines.
Los Carneros AVA Facts
- 50% of all grapes here are Chardonnay and 43% are Pinot Noir.
- The soil of Los Carneros is predominantly thin, shallow clay topsoil, with a hardened layer of clay underneath.
- Los Carneros is made up of areas in both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
- Los Carneros AVA was established in 1983.
- Los Carneros is 37,000 acres with over 10,000 acres planted, 3,416 of which are in Napa Valley.
- Los Carneros is one of the coolest appellations in Napa Valley. The other one is Wild Horse Valley.