Founded in 1857 as California's first premium winery, Buena Vista, under the direction of winemaker Jeff Stewart, is a leader in cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah. Straddling Sonoma County in the southern end of the Carneros appellation, the 523-acre Ramal Vineyard Estate is broken up into 167 small blocks, with 21 different clones of Chardonnay and 13 different clones of Pinot Noir, and is set along rolling south-facing hillsides overlooking the San Pablo Bay. The Ramal Vineyard is the crown jewel of all Carneros.
Most winemakers will agree that cool-climate wines like Pinot Noir are the most difficult to produce. And most will agree that Jeff Stewart does so with unparalleled success. Jeff comes to Buena Vista with over 15 years of achievement in cool-climate viticulture and his focus on gentle handling of the grapes and temperature moderation produces wines with complexity, character and depth.
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Technically a part of Napa Valley, the Carneros region straddles both Sonoma & Napa counties. It's the Napa region closest to the San Francisco peninsula and the San Pablo Bay, which is instrumental in controlling the climate of the area. The winds from the San Pablo bay create a cool weather pattern ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Carneros are delicate, yet complex, with firm structure and acidity. And while the pair are the most popular varieties of the region, some winemakers have branched out, particularly with Syrah. The cool climate Syrah of Carneros is well structured and stylistically similar to Syrah from the Northern Rhone, though often fuller-bodied.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.