About Sonoma County
Twice as large as Napa in size, Sonoma County only makes about half as much wine as its northeasterly neighbor. Because of its vast size, however, Sonoma is able to achieve far more diversity within its borders, which include sub-AVAs that are climatically varied. The atmosphere of Sonoma is decidedly laid-back and down-to-earth, but the wines are serious and well-made, ranging in style from subtle and elegant to rich and powerful. Grape varieties are more varied here, from Pinot Noir and Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Notable FactsThe largest sub-AVAs of Sonoma include Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Valley. Each sub-AVA, with its own micro-climate, is unique in its grape varieties and styles of wine. Dry Creek makes a mean Zinfandel while Russian River produces stand up Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Alexander Valley makes some of the better Cabernet Sauvignons in the county and Sonoma Valley creates excellent wines from all the above varieties. Other grapes found throughout Sonoma include Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Syrah.
In comparison to most wine regions, Canada seems a bit far north – and far too cold – to cultivate successful vineyards. But as most wine regions, Canada has pockets of grape growing climates that are slowly being discovered. For some time, wineries have used the cold winters to their advantage, producing some of the world's best ice wines. Still wines are also gaining ground as the regions explore the best varieties for the area. The industry is still small, but consistently growing in both quality and quantity.
The qualification system of Canada is called the Vintner's Quality Alliance, or VQA. Their stamp of approval means the wine has been tasted for quality and follows the rules set out by the organization. The VQA also names the wine growing regions for Canada. The two main regions of the VQA are on opposite sides of the country – British Columbia and Ontario. These two regions produce about 98% of the high quality wine of Canada. Between the two there are 7 separate viticulture areas.
On the east coast lies Ontario, producer of over two-thirds of all Canadian wines. This area, while technically further south than British Columbia, is where the beautiful and delicious late harvest and ice wines are produced. Vidal Blanc is popular here for the making of ice wines, as is Riesling. Still wines are made here as well, with the vines enjoying the warming affect of the Great Lakes. Popular varieties for still dry wines include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Hybrids have a strong place here as well, in particular Vidal Blanc and Baco Noir. The best known sub-region is the Niagara Peninsula, famous for its ice wines, namely those from Inniskillin.
British Columbia sits along the Pacific Ocean, with much of its wineries centered in the smaller region of the Okanaguan Valley. This area, close to the Washington State border, has become a wine growers dream because of its specific micro-climate that is perfect for certain white varieties, like Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. For reds, the Bordeaux varieties seem to flourish most.