California Wine Regions: The Central Valley

California’s Central Valley

The Central Valley of California may include fewer well-known AVAs than the other wine regions, but it actually produces three-quarters of the grapes grown in California. You’ll often find wine grapes grown here in wines simply labeled “California” rather than with the name of a particular AVA. The Central Valley is located about 100 miles inland and contains the northern two-thirds of California. Many new vineyard owners find their way to the Central Valley as the area has the perfect soil and climate for growing just about anything. The area is highly fertile and productive, so it’s a great choice if you want to grow anything in addition to wine grapes.

Central Valley Climate

While the Central Valley’s climate and soil are best for producing table grapes, wine grapes flourish here as well. California is quite hot – particularly once you move inland away from the cooling breezes of the Pacific Ocean. Because of this, vineyard owners in the Central Valley have to be careful about the exact location they choose for their wine grapes.

Grapes grow more quickly if there is something to moderate the temperature. As a result, many vineyards in the Central Valley are located near the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. This meeting point of salt and fresh water helps to lower temperatures in the area. It also provides a critical source for irrigation. If you’re interested in starting a vineyard in the Central Valley, consider real estate near this river delta for best results.

Central Valley Wines

While the hot, dry conditions in California’s Central Valley can lead to high yields, the conditions are not ideal for all grape varietals. The exact varietals that will grow at your site depend on the microclimate and whether the site is near a cooling influence like a river delta. Consult an expert in the area to determine which varietals you should attempt.  Generally, though, wine grapes with high acidity tend to grow best in the Central Valley. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Barbera tend to flourish.

The Sierra Foothills AVA has slightly different weather and soil conditions than other areas in the Central Valley. Because of this, vineyards in the AVA have more freedom about which varietals they can grow. Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Viognier thrive in the Sierra Foothills, though they may not grow well elsewhere in the Central Valley.