Can grapevines find happiness where sheep once reigned supreme?
If the vines are planted in the Northern California region of Carneros, which straddles the southern ends of Napa and Sonoma counties, the answer is yes.
While Carneros (the Spanish word for ram) has long been considered an ideal location for the cultivation of Burgundian grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in recent years special sites throughout the region have increasingly produced Merlot, Syrah and other varietals.
Carneros enjoys a long, moderate growing season that allows the grapes to mature slowly and evenly, resulting in balanced fruit that is rich in color, flavor and acidity.
Topographically, it is the crossroads between the low-lying areas of the northern reaches of San Francisco Bay and the rolling hills to the north that define the Napa and Sonoma valleys. The elevation in Carneros ranges from sea level in the south to about 400 feet in the Mayacamas foothills.
As inland temperatures rise during the day, moist air over the cold Pacific is drawn inland through San Pablo Bay and over Carneros. This helps cool temperatures from the mid-afternoon into the evening.
The fresh afternoon winds slow activity in the vine leaves and dry the dew left by morning fog, thus inhibiting mildew and mold. Fog then rolls in throughout the night, providing a gentle buffer to the next morning’s sun, repeating the climatic cycle that is friendly to winegrapes.