It has been noted that one would require a passport, numerous flights and a few weeks of travel to even begin to experience France’s Burgundy wine region, Italy’s majestic Piedmont, or the Douro Valley of Portugal. Even if you’re not yet sure of a destination, you can travel the wine regions of the world without ever leaving the table. Leave your passport behind and follow me through my favorite unique (and sometimes undiscovered) wine regions.
Your Guide to Different Wine Regions
California – Northern Central Coast
The California wine region is a complex place; and it’s not all about Napa. Grab your map and discover the Russian River, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, or Monterey appellations. If you’re planning a visit to California wine country, I recommend visiting Livermore Valley, where you will find our historic Concannon Vineyard estate. Our estate is home to the 1883 Concannon Margaux, Mother Vine Vineyard. These vines are some of the most treasured Cabernet Sauvignon vines in California due to their rich history. Hailing from Château Margaux in the Bordeaux wine region of France, these vines are responsible for around 80% of California Cabernet as cuttings were propagated into what are now known as the Concannon Clones 7, 8, and 11.
The Livermore wine region is not only rich in history, but also has the perfect combination of gravel-based soils, marine winds, and an east-west orientation that creates just the right balance to grow ripe, delicious grape varietals that make for balanced, structured, and delicious wines. Big, bold wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah do very well in the Livermore area.
Colorado – Rocky Mountains
High quality beef? Sure. Beer? Of course. But wine? Never. Now the idea of Colorado wine is not only plausible, but it’s also quite intriguing. Colorado’s grape growing regions contain some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world, with most wine growing areas in the state practiced between 4,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level. This region gives an entirely new meaning to “mountain fruit”. The high-altitude climate temperatures ensure warm summer days and cool nights, which keeps grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon happy. Don’t count out the Rieslings (darling varietal of the state) or the Viognier, which offers up punches of tropical flair from mangos, plantains and passion fruit. I can confidently say that Colorado has crossed the line from wine growing region novelty to serious potential.
France – Rhône
I think the Rhône Valley is one of the most exciting wine regions in France. Northern and Southern Rhône are extremely different wine growing areas due to climate, grape varietals, terroir and soil, leading to very different wines.
Northern Rhône’s vineyards are perched perilously on impossibly steep slopes of granite, soil mixed with stone, shingle, and clay, and produce only a few varietals – mainly Syrah (the benchmark by which all other Syrah wines are measured). The vineyard’s position on steep slopes with clay-based soils bring big, bold flavors of black raspberry, chocolate, bacon fat and so much more. The largest white wine appellation also produces a rich, opulent Viognier. Expect rich oily flavors of tangerine, papaya, lime peel, almonds and toasted oak. These wines make up less than 10% of the Rhône Valley French wine region.
The Southern Rhône gives us warmth and generosity, swaying between continental and Mediterranean influence in culture and climate, with mild winters and hotter summers. Unprotected from the southern regions mistral winds, the vines welcome the chill, which allow for higher acidity and intensity in flavor. The wines here are typically full-bodied reds offering decadent flavors of cocoa and dark fruits. If Syrah is big boy of the North, Grenache is the king in the South and forms the foundation of the region’s popular blends. Up to 14 varietals are planted at four levels of altitude as the land rises up from the Rhone River. Sanctioned reds such as Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre produce red wines that are full and aromatic with spicy dark fruits balanced with acidity and minerality.
South Africa – Constantia
A player in the wine world since the mid-1600s, South African wine had its start when Dutch settlers arrived and planted grapes in Constantia. Since its beginnings, South African wine has made quite a name for itself in the wine world, particularly with its creation of Pinotage – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault – that can stand on its own or serve as a powerful blending wine. Apart from Pinotage, plan to taste Cape red blends and Syrah’s while experiencing South African wine.
It is really all about going out there and discovering what you like, there is room for everyone in the world’s various wine regions, from big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon in the Livermore Valley, to soft and supple Viognier in Northern Rhône.