Celebrate California Wine Month this September by getting to know the wines of California.

With over 5,900 wine grape growers and over 4,200 bonded wineries, it’s no surprise that California produces the most wine in the US and is the fourth largest wine producer in the world. To celebrate California Wine Month, we’re sharing a few of our favorite facts to help bartenders get a quick guide to the wine from the region.

California Wine Month

California Wine Month

The Grapes

Thanks to the climate and terroir of California, wine makers are able to grow an incredibly diverse range of grapes. Over one hundred different varietals are grown in the state, including Spanish, French, and Italian fruit as well as the numerous hybrids created by the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis.

Tasting Notes

While bartenders may not have the time to memorize all of the grapes grown in the region, here’s a quick guide to the seven most common varieties and their most common tasting notes.

Chardonnay

Expect a creamy, rich profile with notes of apple, vanilla, citrus and fig.

Merlot

California Merlots tend to be approachable and soft with flavors of black cherry, blueberry, bell pepper, clove, and chocolate.

Pinot Noir

Expect a complex, lush, and fruity expression with cherry, strawberry, raspberry, herbs, and baking spices.

Cabernet Sauvignon

These full bodied wines feature dark fruit notes like black cherry, plum, chocolate, tobacco, and black pepper.

Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio

These refreshing wines have a bright acidity with strong citrus notes of lime. Meyer lemon, honeysuckle and white peach.

Sauvignon Blanc

Light, crisp and dry Sauvignon Blancs feature notes of green apple, grapefruit, lime and green pepper.

Zinfandel

With notes of raspberry, blackberry, licorice, black pepper, earth and plum, California Zinfandels are bold and juicy.

Syrah

Another big and bold varietal, regional Syrah’s feature notes of black currant, blackberry, cassis, black pepper, clove and licorice.

California Wine Country

California Wine Country

The Regions

Wine is grown all over California but many will note that there are six main regions. The North Coast region covers the area north of San Francisco and includes several American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) including Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino and Lake County. The Central Coast covers a huge section of the state and includes San Francisco Bay AVA, Paso Robles AVA, Santa Clara Valley AVA, the Santa Cruz Mountains and more. The Sierra Foothills region notably includes Amador County, Calaveras County, and Placer County among more. The Inland Valley Region includes Lodi and the Delta, Madera County, Sacramento Valley, and San Joaquin Valley. Southern California includes the areas south of Los Angeles along the coast including Temecula Valley AVA, Cucamonga Valley, and San Diego County. The far North section of California currently has no AVA’s, but does contain several wineries worth knowing.

Fun Facts

Having a few quick facts up your sleeve can help you sell a glass or bottle to your guests. Even if you don’t know everything about wine, being able to recite a few facts will help you seem more knowledgeable.

  • California grows over 3.4 million tons of wine grapes.
  • Over 80% of the wine coming out of California is produced sustainably are certified sustainable wineries.
  • There are over 620,000 acres of vineyards across the state of California.