The Carneros District
The proximity of the compact Los Carneros AVA to San Francisco—just north of San Pablo Bay, the northernmost part of San Francisco Bay, it's less than an hour's drive away—makes it a favorite of day-trippers and lovers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This viticultural region, also known as the Carneros District or just the Carneros, stretches across the cool lower reaches of Sonoma and Napa counties.
Carneros means "rams" in Spanish, and the slopes now covered with vines were once thought to be fit only for sheep-grazing. On a gray day, the flat marshes and low hills near the water look moody, more like a Scottish moor than a typical California shore. During summer and autumn, strong west winds blow in from the ocean every afternoon, tempering the hot days.
Exposed Windy Slopes
The soil on these exposed windy slopes is shallow and not particularly fertile, which means that the vines struggle to produce fruit. Vines that grow slowly and yield less fruit tend to produce concentrated, high-acid grapes that are ideal for wine making. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in particular thrive here. Some winemakers grow Merlot and Syrah, which are also well suited to the thin soil, moderate temperatures, and comparatively low rainfall. Even such warm-climate grapes as Cabernet Sauvignon can ripen well in locations with the right sun exposure.
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