Curious Central Valley

Friends, this week we explored the Central Valley! Some of the highlights of our Sunday Edition are here: 

  • A brief recap
  • What We Drank
  • Dive into the AVAs of the Central Valley
  • A quick note on Alicante Bouschet

And remember, you can always go back and watch to get all of the details!

A Brief Recap

Settled largely by immigrants throughout the 1800s (Spain, Italy, Armenia, France, and more), the Valley became a home to a wide variety of communities that each brought their own culture and food ways. Such a beautiful variety of backgrounds with such a fertile planting area led to an incredible variety of crops – over 250 different types (and 8% of all Agriculture)! It’s no surprise that the area is often referred to as the Fruit Basket of the US.

Though Prohibition had a devastating effect on many vineyards and wineries in California, many grape growers in the Central Valley were able to survive by producing grapes for home winemakers. In particular, Alicante Bouschet was grown largely because of its resilience and hardy nature – thick skins, viscous flesh, and robust flavor – and shipped across the country so that individuals could produce their own wine. 

Following Prohibition, quantity over quality was the name of the game in regards to wine production. However, over the last twenty years, that’s largely changed. There’s been a huge shift in focus to creating beautiful and balanced wines that reflect the fertile soil, warm Mediterranean climate, and individual styles of the winemakers. Nearly 400 miles long and bounded on the West by the Coastal Mountains and the East by the Sierra Nevadas, the Central Valley has a lot to explore. 

What We Drank

We also tasted some fantastic (no, we aren’t biased) wines this week coming out of various regions within the Central Valley: 

Tinto Rey Rose, Dunnigan Hills, 2018
strawberry, raspberry, lemon zest, candied ginger, berry finish, strawberry rhubarb pie
Suggested Pairing: Chill it a bit and serve with stuffed jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon fresh off the grill.

Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, 2014 
orange blossom, honeysuckle, floral fruit, juniper, tropical fruit (pineapple, mango)
Suggested Pairing: Seafood all day, every day with this wine! I’m dreaming of perfectly fresh scallop crudo.

Omega Road Alicante Bouschet Rose, Madera, 2019
Not yet available – coming August 8!
raspberry, strawberry, herbaceous, eucalyptus, full bodied, long finish, solid structure
Suggested Pairing: Again, great for summer grilling! Has the structure, fruit, and tannin to stand up to a beautiful steak grilled to perfection. 

Omega Road Alicante Bouschet, Madera, 2015
fig and blackberry jam, butterscotch, black cherry, blackberry
Suggested pairing: This is another great wine to enjoy with a beautiful steak. If you want something lighter, enjoy with a beautiful hunk of bleu cheese after dinner (or before…or for lunch…). 

Dive into the AVAs of the Central Valley

Capay Valley

  • AVA established in 2002
  • Yolo County
  • 102,400 acres, 25 acres planted
  • Grapes: Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Syrah, Mouvedre, Tempranillo, Viognier
  • Capay Valley was created as a result of a petition by Capay Valley Vineyards. The first winery in the area was founded in 1860, and the land was part of the Rancho Canada de Capay Mexican Land Grant purchased by John Gillig. 

Dunnigan Hills

  • AVA established in 1993
  • Yolo County
  • 69,365 acres, 212 acres planted
  • Grapes: Cab Sauv, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Sauv Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier


  • AVA established in 1984
  • Sacramento, Solano, Yolo Counties
  • 68,792 acres, 2,399 acres planted
  • Grapes: Albarino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Gewurztraminer, Grenache blanc, Malvasia, Merlot, Orange Muscat, Petite Sirah, Pinot gris, Riesling, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Verdelho, Viognier
  • Of the 45,000 tons produced each year (2017), 90% of the grapes produced in Clarksburg are taken to Napa. In addition to the beautiful vineyard estate wineries in Clarksburg, they are also home to The Old Sugar Mill, which houses multiple wineries in one incredible building. 

Merritt Island
Located within Clarksburg AVA

  • AVA established in 1983, amended in 1987
  • Yolo County
  • 5,269 acres, 428 acres planted
  • Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Petite Sirah

Since we discussed Lodi during a previous episode of What We’re Drinking, we didn’t devote much time to it today. Check out that episode here

Tracy Hills

  • AVA established in 2006
  • San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties
  • 39,200 acres

River Junction

    • AVA established in 2001
    • San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties
    • 1,296 acres, 35.7 acres planted
    • Grapes: Chardonnay (90%, sandy loam soil) and some Cab Sauv
    • River Junction was created as a result of a petition by McManis Family Vineyards.

Salado Creek

    • AVA established in 2004
    • Stanislaus County
    • 3,000 acres, 44 acres planted
    • Grapes grown here are used by KitFox Vineyards at a custom-crush facility in Lodi.

Diablo Grande

    • AVA established in 1998
    • Stanislaus County
    • 35,000 acres, 36 acres planted
    • Grapes are/were owned by Diablo Grande Resort Community and Isom Ranch Winery. However, it is unknown if the vineyard is in existence and being maintained, but the winery is no longer in operation. 


    • AVA established in 1985, and amended in 1987
    • Fresno and Madera Counties
    • 230,000 acres, 38,000 acres planted
    • Grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Barbera, Black Muscat, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Colombard, Grenache, Malbec, Malvasia, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Muscat of Alexandria, Orange Muscat, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Souzao, Syrah, Tinta Cao, Tinta Madeira, Touriga Nacional, Valdiguie, Viognier, Zinfandel
    • Over 10% of all wine grapes grown in CA are produced in Madera, which benefits from warm days cooled by the San Joaquin River and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The area was settled in the late 1800s by homesteading immigrants from Europe and originally known for port-style and dessert wines​. Today, however, the focus has shifted to include the production of quality, dry wines. 

Squaw Valley-Miramonte

    • AVA established in 2015
    • Fresno County
    • 45,000 acres, 7.5 acres planted
    • Grapes: Aglionico, Barbera, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Dolcetto, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Symphony, Syrah, Teroldego, Viognier, Zinfandel
    • This recently established AVA was started when 2 wineries and 10 vineyards came together to acknowledge the superior wine-growing area distinguished by hilled elevations (between 1,600 ft and 3,500 feet), granite soils, and slightly higher rainfall than the San Joaquin Valley.

A Quick Note on Alicante Bouschet

Alicante Henri Bouschet is named after the Frenchman who created the variety – Henri Bouschet – in 1855 by crossing Grenache and Petit Bouschet. The grape is one of the few red-fleshed berries (aka teinturier grapes), and is early budding and early ripening. Vigorous by nature, Alicante Bouschet neds short pruning to maintain flavors and balance in acid, tannin, and sugars. Typically, consumers will get bits of black cherry, blackberry, plum, pepper, sweet tobacco on the nose and palate.

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