Following are a few articles I’ve written about wine regions :

Dry Creek Valley

Hey! There’s Water in that Creek!
Contrary to its name, Dry Creek is hardly ever dry. Even in the height of summer’s heat, it burbles and splashes its way southeast from its headwaters in Mendocino County, through the Warm Springs Dam, and finally merges with the Russian River in the small, wine-drenched city of Healdsburg.

The Dry Creek Valley is an agricultural heaven. In 1870, French and Italian immigrants first planted grapes in Dry Creek Valley, but over the last century and a half, the valley’s crops have included wheat, hay, beans, apricots, prunes, peaches, strawberries, apples, pears, Asian pears, olives, herbs, and vegetables, in addition to countless varieties of wine grapes.

The Wines of the Dry Creek Valley
There are now over 60 wineries and 150 growers in the Dry Creek Valley, many of which grow and produce Zinfandel, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and several Rhône varietals.

A Zinful History…
Zinfandel is king here (Dry Creek Valley is famous for its old vine zinfandel, most of which was planted in the early 1900s).

All other significant wine varieties have their reference points in Europe, but Zinfandel established its own tradition in California and has become known as America’s Heritage Wine. Zinfandel is thought to be one of the oldest grape varietals from which wine is still being made. UC Davis viticulturists have researched the history of this grapemad found that the Primitivo grape in Puglia, Italy, was genetically identical to Zinfandel; however, Italians were sure it was not one of their traditional varietals. Historically, Croatia has had several indigenous varieties related to Zinfandel, but most were lost in the late 19th century. It wasn’t until 2001 that researchers discovered just nine remaining vines “Crljenak Kaštelanski” on Croatia’s Dalmation coast. DNA fingerprinting confirms that the ancient Croatian variety has the same DNA structure as California Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is usually described as having aromas and flavors of blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry and cherry, often times laced with black pepper, cloves, anise, and herbs.

Wine Growing in Dry Creek Valley
The well-drained and fertile soils of the valley floor rise to meet the large concentration of bench land vineyards on the east and coastal mountain vineyards on the west. The entire Dry Creek Valley AVA encompasses 80,000 acres, or 125 square miles (including the valley’s 23 square miles). Of that, there are over 9,000 vineyard acres planted. Lake Sonoma borders the valley to the north and the confluence of Dry Creek and the Russian River to the south. Fog from the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean coastal influences lead to a cool climate similar to that of the Bordeaux region of France.



“California’s Organic Wine Mecca”
“Mendocino, Mendocino, where life is such a groove, you blow your mind in the morning. We used to walk through the park, make love along the way in Mendocino.” This song from Sir Douglas Quintet sums up the easy-going vibe of this highly organic wine grape growing region (nearly 25% of this area is farmed organically, causing journalists to call it “California’s organic wine mecca.”), which is located north of San Francisco. It is a diverse and beautiful place, with redwood groves, crashing surf and whale watching along the coast and all kinds of agriculture (cattle and sheep ranches, apple orchards, vegetables and of course, vineyards) scattered throughout its inner valleys.

Mendocino is the northernmost county in the North Coast AVA. At 3878 square miles, the county is one of California’s largest and oldest wine making regions. Mendocino reaches between Sonoma, Humboldt, and Lake Counties.

The name “Mendocino” comes from the family name of Mendoza – in honor of the 16th century Spanish explorer Lorenzo Suàrez de Mendoza, 4th conde de la Coruña, who explored the Mendocino coast line and his cousin, Antonio de Mendoza, the first Viceroy of New Spain. Frustrated gold miners turned to agriculture in the mid-1800s, planting crops in the bottomlands and grapevines along the rocky, less fertile hillsides.

In the 1960’s, a “wine boom,” began in California, which inspired wine grape growers in Mendocino to step it up a notch by refining their techniques and increasing production. By the 1970’s and 1980’s Mendocino wineries, led by Fetzer and Parducci, started gaining acclaim and worldwide distribution.

The Wines of Mendocino
Chardonnay is the most widely planted variety in this area, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and a wide variety of Rhône varieties. Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and some fantastic sparkling wines are grown and produced here as well.

Grape Growing in Mendocino
The county contains eight approved AVAs – Anderson Valley, Cole Ranch, McDowell Valley, Mendocino Ridge, Potter Valley, Redwood Valley and Yorkville Highlands. The Mendocino AVA is situated in the county’s southern portion and encompasses all the other AVAs, as well as the Sanal and Ukiah Valleys (currently under review as proposed AVAs).

The vineyard soils of the region are mostly deep alluvial soils, with some gravelly loam near the Russian and Navarro Rivers. Although diverse, the climate in Mendocino generally has a shorter growing season of around 268 days, as compared to the 308 days that is an average growing season in neighboring Sonoma.


Napa Valley 

“The World’s Best Wine and Food Destination.”
Almost 4.5 million people visit the Napa Valley in Northern California each year making it a very popular tourist destination (Disneyland ranks #1, with over 14 million annual visitors), and “The World’s Best Wine and Food Destination” as awarded by TripAdvisor’s 2010 Travelers’ Choice Awards. It is considered one of the top wine regions in the United States (and in the world, for that matter).

A Little California Wine History Lesson
Charles Krug was one of the valley’s first commercial wine producing pioneers, establishing his winery in 1861, and by 1889 there were more than 140 wineries in operation, including Schramsberg (founded in 1862), Beringer (1876) and Inglenook (1879). Things weren’t always wine and roses in the Napa Valley, though – it overcame some serious challenges, such as a crippling outbreak of phylloxera (a root louse that destroyed many vineyards), Prohibition and the Great Depression. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Napa Valley recovered from these daunting challenges and it continues to thrive and grow. Today, there are more than 450 wineries in the Napa Valley.

Going, Going…Gone!
The first Napa Valley Wine Auction was held in 1981 at the Meadowood Resort, and since its inception, this Napa Valley Vintner’s Association-sponsored event has become the “world’s most successful” charity wine event, donating over $97 million to local health care, youth programs and affordable housing.

The Wines of the Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon is still king in the Napa Valley, but Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel are grown and crafted into world-class wines there as well. This world-class status became evident in 1976, when a Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon kicked some proverbial French wine butt in the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 – a blind tasting format that featured some top French labels vs. the Napa Valley wines.

Grape Growing in the Napa Valley
Napa Valley has lots of microclimates because of its location, north-south orientation, size and geology. In general, the climate is considered to be Mediterranean. The southern end of the valley floor is cooler because of the coastal influence from San Pablo Bay, while northern end of the valley is often much warmer. The eastern side of the valley tends to be drier, because winter storms tend to drop much more rain in the western mountains and hills. The average annual rainfall for the entire year is less than 24 inches, with over half of that occurring in December, January and February.

The Mayacamas Mountain Range makes up the western and northern borders of the valley, the Vaca Mountains make up the eastern border, and the valley ends in the San Pablo Bay to the south. The floor of the main valley gradually rises from sea level at the southern end to 362 feet above sea level at the northern end in Calistoga at the foot of Mount Saint Helena. The Napa Valley AVA has an amazing variety of 33 soil types, ranging from marine sediment to volcanic ash.