Looking to challenge the traditional ways of Friuli winemaking
on the Italian-Slovenian border, maverick Italian winemakers
began experimenting with new styles of winemaking, creating
unique and exciting white wine blends. When Mike Drash,
Winemaker for Luna Vineyards in Napa Valley, tasted these
exotic white wines, you could say he freaked out.
The secret of Freakout is in the innovative winemaking. Each
varietal is treated individually, and then married together two
months before bottling, to create the ultimate blend.
promote the aromatics of the wine, the Chardonnay begins
fermentation in tanks before moving to French oak barrels.
Meanwhile, a small portion of the Sauvignon Blanc is fermented
on the skins like a red wine, and punched down twice a day
until fermentation is completed. The Pinot Grigio is fermented
in stainless steel for a crisp, lively finish. The distinctive Ribolla
Gialla from Vare Vineyard in Napa Valley is the only Ribolla
Gialla planted in the U.S. It is fermented in small oak barrels
and provides the wine weight, texture and minerality.
Treating each varietal separately creates a complex wine
with multiple layers of exotic fruit, soft citrus, honey and spice
that dance across your senses. Intense aromas of tropical fruit
and orange peel combine with rich flavors of dried apricot,
spice and toasted nuts to create a lush texture and brisk
Luna Vineyards was founded in 1995 by George Vare and Mike Moone. Both Vare and Moone have been Presidents of major California wineries and important influences in the California wine industry since the mid-1960's.
The founders purchased the St. Andrews winery, located at the foot of the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, and set out to produce Italian varietal wines - Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and Merlot.
In 1996, after 20 years experience with other wineries, the last 13 at Newton Vineyards where he established himself in the forefront of Napa Valley winemakers, Winemaster John Kongsgaard joined Luna as Vice President and partner. John is particularly noted for his outstanding Merlots and spent seven years in collaboration with Michel Rolland from Bordeaux perfecting winemaking techniques in the Napa region.
With a passion for Italian wines combined with a desire to live slightly on the edge, John happily joined Luna. He was excited by the opportunity to travel to the "Old World" and learn how to adapt their traditional and new techniques for growing grapes and making wine from Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio.
View all Luna Vineyards Wines
California has nearly 100 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) and accounts for almost 90% of wine production in the United States. In our section of Other California, we include wines from smaller AVAs as well as wines from the California AVA. Here are a few smaller AVAs you may see on the label:
Livermore Valley AVA
, located right outside of San Francisco and home to wineries such as Wente.
Lodi County AVA
, an AVA further east of San Francisco and known for its excellent, old-vine Zinfandels.
San Francisco Bay AVA
, a sprawling AVA that covers Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, to name a few.
Wine that holds only the California AVA is typically a wine that includes grapes from a number of different AVAs, which leads to the general labeling of the wine as California. This does not denote the quality of the wine, only the diversity of where the grapes originate.
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.