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  /    /  The Carneros Appellation

The Carneros Appellation


By the early 1970s, “Rincon de los Carneros” wasn’t much more than obscure words scrawled across outdated maps. That was when San Francisco native Francis Mahoney came to wine country looking for the ideal place to grow wines to rival those he’d tasted in France’s Burgundy region, and decided to settle in this “Corner of the Rams” (named for the herds Spanish missions raised there). It was located in the southern reaches of Napa Valley, below the warmer confines of the central valley floor.  Many wine industry experts said the weather was too cool there to produce great wines.

Francis thought otherwise.  He understood the greatness of the renowned wines of Burgundy were due in no small part to that area’s terroir – the climactic conditions in which the grapes are grown. Francis saw similarities in those windy, foggy areas at the lower ends of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and noticed there were in fact many things this region had in common with the vineyards in Burgundy.

It turned out he was right.  The swath of territory straddling these cooler regions of rolling land, situated not far from the north coast of San Pablo Bay, is now known the world over as the wine-growing region of Los Carneros. Its climate is heavily influenced by the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean and a combination of summer fogs in the mornings, temperate days, and a long growing season, making it particularly superb for growing pinot and chardonnay. The Carneros wine region is an independent American Viticultural Area, having received its AVA designation in 1983.

It is common for fog to slip over Carneros in the early evening and continue to blanket the area until well into the morning. The fogs and cool sea breezes help to moderate the vineyard temperatures, providing ideal conditions for growing cool-climate varietals and allowing them to mature more evenly on the vines. This extended hang time allows the grapes to reach their peak acidity and sugar levels much later in the growing season than would be possible in warmer climates. The end result is fruit with a higher level of intensity and structure, characteristics that are quite evident in wines labeled Carneros.