The vineyard appellation known as Carneros spans two counties, Napa and Sonoma. Most of Carneros is in Napa, but a decent-sized chunk is in Southern Sonoma County. Both counties claim her as their own.There are no historic buildings, but it shares the same history as Sonoma, and the same periods of blight and recovery. Carneros achieved recognition when it received its own AVA in 1983.
Carneros has San Francisco’s marine climate with milder winters and summers than the inland valleys of Napa and Sonoma. This gives the Carneros appellation a longer growing season suited to certain grapes. They reach maturity at lower sugar levels and higher acids, giving the flavors greater depth.
Early settlers were attracted to the mild climate and beautiful hills. In 1850, when hay was still free to anyone who would cut it, workers traveled by barge to Carneros to load hay and grain to take to San Francisco. The farmers followed and settled, raising sheep and cattle, and planting grapes, pears, plums, apples and apricots.
In 1942 Louis M. Martini bought 200 acres of an old ranch and planted pinot noir and chardonnay. Not much came of it, and the current wineries began in 1972 when Francis Mahoney established Carneros Creek, the first new winery in the area in 40 years.
Today, the appellation’s vineyards are harvested by local wineries, and also wineries from other parts of Sonoma and Napa. The roads in Carneros are small and uncrowded. It’s an easy feat to visit most of the wineries in a weekend.
Some great Carneros wineries in the 39,000 acre AVA are: Artesa Vineyards and Winery; Folio Winemaker’s Studio; Domaine Carneros; Cuvaison Estate; Bouchaine Vineyards; Homewood Winery; Nicholson Ranch; Larson Family Winery; Cline Cellars; Jacuzzi Family Vineyards; Robledo Family Winery; Gloria Ferrer; Viansa Winery; McRostie Winery.
And do visit di Rosa Preserve while you’re there. Between the art and the wine, you’ll be blown away.