By Jenny Peters
Having the chance to visit one of California’s beautiful wine regions may not be in the picture. Hopefully, that trip will happen, but until then, here are some of our favorite California wines to sip in the comfort of your home.
From north to south, coast to inland, California makes wonderful wines in 139 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), those regions designated by the U.S. government as distinctive places to grow grapes and make wine. We’re focusing on Rosé, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, three varietals.
The Napa Valley is the obvious go-to place for California wines, with over 400 wineries in that famed region just north of San Francisco. With so many options, it’s easy to get lost in the myriad choices found there, so we’ve narrowed it down to three favorites.
Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap District AVA is one of the valley’s premier wineries, famous for their Cabernet Sauvignon—and for the sheep that they let loose to graze in their vineyards every spring. They even have a “sheep cam” going for all to zone out and watch while sipping on their 2018 Red Shoulder Ranch 25th Anniversary Chardonnay. That’s a gorgeous wine, bursting with citrus flavors, bright acidity, and just a hint of the oak barrels that it spent 14 months nestled inside.
At Silver Trident Winery in Yountville, the go-to wine for late-summer is their 2017 Benevolent Dictator Pinot Noir. This smooth, silky Pinot is amazingly structured, with tastes of cherries and other dark fruits winding through hints of vanilla and toast. It’s perfect for a special night paired with a charcuterie platter, a pile of soft-shell crabs, or a big pan of paella.
Bouchaine’s vineyards in Carneros have been producing grapes since the 19th century; now run by the Copeland family, it’s a place producing world-class Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. For an easy-drinking white, choose their 2016 Estate Chardonnay with rounded tastes of nectarine and an undercurrent of citrus. Splurge on the 2015 Bouchaine Swan Clone Estate Pinot Noir and drown in its juicy strawberry and cherry melding of flavor with a super smooth tannic finish.
SAN LUIS OBISPO
Better known as SLO, it’s one of the state’s lesser-known wine areas. It’s a coastal region characterized by two AVAs, the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande. Here cool sea breezes and warm days are the setting for creating outstanding Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Rosés, especially at Tolosa Winery. Their 2018 Edna Valley Primera Pinot Noir is the jewel in their crown, with estate-grown grapes that result in a breathtaking mélange of slightly spicy red fruit flavors in the finished wine.
At Baileyana Winery, also in SLO’s Edna Valley, they produce a Rosé that you really can drink all day. Their 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir is light, bright, and full of fruit-forward flavors (think peach, strawberry, and raspberry), with just enough of an acidic structure to make it a neat pairing with everything from popcorn to salad to seafood.