As a region, however, some generalities can be found. Cool nights, fog in the morning hours followed by warm afternoons, and wind late in the day typify the summer weather pattern here. As a result, the region is ideally suited to cool-climate varietals such as Pinot Noir, despite daytime high temperatures that approach those of warmer regions. This is why we have been growing here since 1972 and are pioneers of Carneros wine.
Trellis systems are important in Carneros, as wind is reliably strong, especially during Summer. Without adequate support, shoots can easily break in these conditions. Most of Carneros is planted using a vertical shoot-positioned canopy where the canopy is tightly reined in by wires at a height of about six feet. Row direction may play a role in wind resistance as well, but there is no consensus among winegrowers. Row and vine spacing in Carneros varies, though most sites are planted at densities between 900 and 1200 vines per acre.
Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
The most common varieties planted here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, however the growing season in Carneros often extends two or more weeks beyond the harvest of these varietals. Other varietals planted include Merlot, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Classic Carneros Pinot Noir descriptors include fresh berry, jam, spice and cherry, while Chardonnay exhibits crisp apple, citrus, and stone fruits with an emphasis on bright acidity.
It should be noted that these characteristics are highly dependent on farming practices, harvest timing and other winemaking decisions, in addition to regional effects. If you try one of our Pinot Noirs compared to others outside of this AVA, you will notice our distinct Carneros flavors.
Other Wines of Carneros
Typical wine style in Carneros has historically tended toward an emphasis on bright fruit with pleasant acidity. However, since the long growing season here allows harvesting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at high levels of maturity and sugar, the timing of picking has a huge impact on wine style. In recent years, many wineries have chosen a riper, softer style achieved through picking at higher sugars, which are accompanied by lower acid levels. These choices are not available in regions where harvest is dictated by impending rain or freeze, and this makes it more difficult to pinpoint a typical Carneros style.
Likewise, growers are experimenting with varietals such as Albarino, Vermentino, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and others, for which no style targets exist for the region. A few large, winery-owned vineyards are still dedicated to growing grapes for sparkling wines, but many independent growers who had farmed for sparkling have moved to selling fruit for the non-sparkling varietals. Our Rosé is make of Pinot Noir grapes, and it gives it a crisp and refreshing profile for the hot Carneros days.
While Carneros is best known for fruit-driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, new plantings and approaches in the winery are creating varied styles from a broad array of varietals.
Try one of our Carneros wines, and you will get to really taste the flavor of the region.