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Los Carneros – The Valley’s Coolest Sibling *

Rewind back to 1981, Napa Valley is established as America’s second AVA. An AVA, or American Viticulture Area, is considered a specific wine-grape growing region that is distinguished by the unique soil, topography, and climate offered by the appellation. Within an AVA, sub-appellations can exist. These sub-appellations prove to have enough unique features within the primary AVA, that they are considered to be their own AVA. For example, within the Napa Valley AVA, there are 16 different sub-appellations! Meaning, if you started a day of wine tasting in the Coombsville appellation and ended your day in the Calistoga appellation, chances are that not only will the wine differ in taste and texture, but the varietals offered are probably completely different! Now fast-forward two years to 1983, Los Carneros is established as its own AVA within both Napa and Sonoma Valley due to the unique wine-grape growing features it has to offer. So what makes Los Carneros so unique?

The Climate

For Napa, in particular, the climate of Los Carneros differs greatly from other parts of the Valley. Being the southernmost part of Napa Valley, the region is conveniently located just four miles north of the San Pablo Bay. This allows the cool, strong sea breeze of the bay to funnel throughout the Los Carneros appellation. Rarely do you see a day in Los Carneros that exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit – making it the coolest region of Napa Valley! Along with being the coolest region, this appellation is also the driest, just supporting roughly 18-27 inches of rain on a good year. The beauty of this is rain that lingers close to harvest can disrupt the picking process. Los Carneros minimally experiences this late-year rain, making it an even-ripening process to allow for well-developed fruit flavors with plenty of acidity.

Map of Carneros

The Carneros region is well known for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay due to its cool climate.

The Soil

Now let’s rewind much further back to 12,000 B.C. All of Los Carneros is submerged under the water of the San Pablo Bay. As thousands of years pass and mother nature runs its course, erosion creates higher lands and sediments of the hillside are carried downstream by the Napa River into the San Pablo Bay. Because the appellation is nestled near San Pablo Bay, much of this erosive material was funneled through the appellation giving it a hard, clay-like textured soil. Now Napa is uniquely home to many different soil series (33 to be exact) which plays a specific part in the vegetation process. The beauty (and challenge) of Los Carneros’ soil is that it is a densely compact composition as opposed to the loose, grainy soil found on a mountainside. This results in a much higher water holding capacity for the vines. The combination of the climate and soil in the region provides optimal conditions for luscious, fruit-forward grapes that are found in such varietals like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rose.

The Wine

So if you have made it this far in the article, you are probably thinking to yourself “well that’s cool and all, but why should I care?” Well, this directly affects how you should go about your search for wines that match your palate!

If your palate consists of fruit-forward, tropical, soft-tannin, flavorful wines, then chances are Los Carneros is the appellation for you.

The fog and sea breeze from the bay allow for the refreshing notes found in Chardonnay and Rose. The clay-rich soil allowing higher water holding capacity produces the sweet, lush grapes found in Pinot Noir. The overall cooler climate of the region plays a direct role in producing the wines that are specifically made to be enjoyed slightly chilled.

The Honey B Estate Vineyard

When Baldacci Family Vineyards knew that they had a unique winemaking process that could support a broader portfolio beyond Cabernet Sauvignon, they bought the Los Carneros Honey B Estate vineyard in 2008. Along with that land came six new, distinct Baldacci wines: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Sparkling Wine, Syrah, and Merlot. Due to the climate that Los Carneros provides, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir remain the cornerstone offerings from the Honey B Estate. The Merlot and Syrah while not a primary focus, still yield amazing results which are seen as the main components of the Baldacci Fraternity Red Wine Blend. Every Spring, Baldacci Family Vineyards participates in the release of their Spring varietals which consist of all the wines harvested from their Los Carneros Honey B Estate vineyard. This year, the Spring Release will be held on Saturday, March 28th. Come on by and experience Los Carneros for yourself at this amazing event and see if Los Carneros is the appellation for you!

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