Established two years after the official AVA designation in 1983, the Carneros Wine Alliance brings together wineries and grape growers in a collective mission to promote the vineyards, wineries and visitor destinations of the Carneros region.
Carneros is a complex appellation deeply rooted in agriculture and history. It was the first California wine region to be defined by its climate characteristics rather than political boundaries, spanning both Napa and Sonoma Valley.
Stretching from the San Pablo Bay to the foothills of the Mayacamas, this area is unique for its cool climate influenced by the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean and a combination of summer fog, warm days, and a long growing season. This is what makes it the perfect growing region for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines.
Vineyards were first planted in this area as early as the 1830s, with the first winery established here in the early 1870s. Today so much has evolved in Carneros and yet it remains the home of household wine names that have earned their reputations and produced award-winning wines over decades.
“In 1969, our first commercial vintage, my grandfather produced a Pinot Noir that had the first-ever official ‘Carneros' designate on a wine label,” says Brandon deLeuze, winemaker at ZD Wines. “We recently celebrated our 50th year making wine and our organically-grown estate Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay continues to make up some of the very best fruit we work with to-date.”
The name Carneros, meaning ‘rams' in Spanish, dates from the early 1800s when Mexico governed this region. Sheep ranches, dairies, and hay fields continued to dominate until the 1970s. Today, Carneros has over 8,000 vineyard acres in 90 square miles and more than 30 wineries.
Grapes have played a prominent role in Carneros’ agricultural history. Noted wine historian William Heintz of Sonoma contends that Carneros may, in fact, be the second oldest vineyard area in northern California. In the late 1830s, Jacob Leese planted a small vineyard on the Huichica grant. In the mid-1850s, William H. Winter of Indiana purchased 1,200 acres of the Huichica Rancho from Leese and by the early 1870s, had not only one of the largest vineyard holdings in the area but had also built the first winery in Carneros, Winter Winery.
In a wine region that has drastically changed over the past 35 years, Carneros remains unassuming and authentically agriculturally based. The growers and winemakers are farmers first, tending to the land just as the farmers in this region have done for generations. Carneros wineries offer a genuine wine country experience and world-class wines. Sheep graze amongst the majestic rolling hills and vineyards and Carneros offers panoramic views from San Francisco to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Visitors to the area can enjoy a wide variety of wineries and experiences, including Artesa Vineyards & Winery, Bouchaine Vineyards, Domaine Carneros, The Donum Estate, Etude Wines, Migration, Newton Vineyards, Poseidon Vineyard, and Viansa Sonoma.
Learn more about this historical AVA and plan your visit at carneros.com.