Noteworthy North Coast

Friends, we’ve talked about a LOT of details the past few weeks with our virtual explorations of the North Coast. We’ve dug into nearly 60 AVAs and sub-AVAs, talked about a bunch of the historical folks  involved in the regions, and learned about some of the well-known and prominent varietals. So now, we’re going to take a step back and take another brief look at the North Coast. We’re tasting some delightful Merlots, and answering all of your questions along the way!

We made it through!  We gave you all a HUGE amount of information.  Hopefully, you feel like you understand more about the North Coast, and more, have a desire to try some new wines and visit some new places. As promised, Shannon has provided you with a basic list of AVAs, and the wine styles you can generally expect from them. Keep in mind…this is GENERAL… New world wines are largely based on the style of the winemaker and not governed by regulations on what grapes can be grown, how they are grown, how they are harvested, how the wine is produced, aged, and more. Because of that, you can have a variety of styles of wine in any given AVA. By providing you with some basic information on geography, it will give you a general idea of how grapes will grow in that particular area.

So let’s dig in…

Lighter, Earthier Wines: Maritime climates, coastal influences, east and north sides of mountains with coastal influences
(Pacific Ocean to Mendocino Ridge/Coastal Range)

Medium Bodied Wines: Mediterranean climates, valley floors with fog and coastal influences, often winemakers delight
(Mendocino Ridge/Coastal Range to Vaca Mountains)

Big and Bold Wines: Continental and mediterranean climates, west and south facing mountains, inland
(Valley floors and inland ranges)

Lighter, Earthier Medium Bodied Bigger Bolder
Mendocino County Anderson Valley

Mendocino Ridge

Cole RanchMcDowell Valley

Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak

Potter Valley

Redwood Valley

Yorkville HIghlands

CoveloDios Rios

Eagle Peak Mendocino County

Lake County Benmore Valley Big Valley District Clear Lake

Kelsey Bench Guenoc Valley

High ValleyRed Hills
Sonoma County Fort Ross – SeaviewGreen Valley

Los Carneros

Sonoma Coast

Fountaingrove District Petaluma Gap

Sonoma Valley 

Dry Creek Valley

Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak Moon Mountain

Northern Sonoma


Russian River Valley

Alexander ValleyBennett Valley 

Chalk Hill 

Knights Valley

Sonoma Mountain

Napa County Diamond Mountain District Los Carneros 

Mount Veeder

Spring Mountain District

Calistoga Coombsville Napa Valley 

Oak Knoll District 



St. Helena 


Atlas Peak Chiles Valley 

Howell Mountain

Stags Leap District

Wild Horse Valley 

And as always, the quiz answers: 

Old World wine is largely based on the terroir, whereas California wine is largely based on the winemaker. True

Which of the following counties is not a part of the larger North Coast AVA? Humboldt County

If a wine is labeled Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, what percentage of the grapes in the bottle must be Pinot Noir? 75%

What were the 2 things that hindered the growth of California wine until the mid-1900s? Phylloxera + Prohibition

Agoston Haraszthy was the founder of what winery? Buena Vista Winery

Who was a vital figure in modern California winemaking? Andre Tchelistcheff
Hints: He was brought to California by Georges de Latour to be the winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyards. He brought improvements in winemaking with malolactic fermentation, French barrels, and more. In addition, he later went on to inspire and mentor a whole generation of winemakers. 

Robert Mondavi is a common name in Napa Valley, known for a commitment to quality. However, one of his most important contributions is to the attention he brought to the Valley through marketing efforts. True

Who of the following died from an alligator attack? Agoston Haraszthy

Which of the following AVA’s profit the most from the Pacific Ocean? Fort Ross-Seaview, Anderson Valley, Mendocino Ridge

Lake County vines are in some of the highest elevations in California. True

What is the smallest AVA in the North Coast? Cole Ranch AVA

What was California’s first AVA in 1981? Napa Valley

Maritime climates, coastal influences, and eastern facing mountains tend to display wines that are… Lighter and Earthier

Why? Grapes have a hard time ripening to completion, making acid levels slightly higher.

If I have a white wine from Los Carneros AVA, what percentage of grapes need to come from Los Carneros AVA? 85%

Continental and Mediterranean climates with western and southern facing mountains tend to display wines that are… Big and Bold

Why? Grapes ripen fast and less evenly, making sugars slightly higher.

Mediterranean climates with coastal / fog influences and valley floors tend to display wines that are… Medium Bodied

Why? Grapes ripen slower and more evenly, making sugar to acid ratios balanced.

What geographical mark is not a part of the North Coast AVAs? Mount Shasta

For additional research, check out the following:


  1. Paul Benevento

    HI Alex, I haven’t been in in a long time. You would probably remember me if you saw me. My name is Paul and I was the guy who brought the classical guitar and just played about 30 min. For the hech of it shows Ratliff before you moved in to your new digs. Any who…… If the wanted to come by and visit and play a little and sip a little, what day and time would be good? Also I see you show some awesome food pics on your site. Do you sell food now? Thanks and see you semi-soon I hope.
    Paul Benevento alias DPPP (Dog Park Party Paul). Cheers 🍷😎

    1. Alexandra Henkelman

      Unfortunately, due to COVID-19/Coronavirus, the tasting room is not currently open. However, stay tuned and, as soon as we open and are able to have music (let alone food and normal tastings), we’d love to have you join us.

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