With its bright and shimmering regal red color, the Merlot port is pleasing to the eye. Soft legs cling to the glass and the nose conjures up nougat and caramel with a hint of blackberry. A smooth mouth-feel gives way to a burst of spice while hints of licorice and blackberry are followed by a finish of almonds. Enjoy this delightful port with pates, chevre and nutty cheeses.
St. Barthelemy Cellars Winery
This family venture into the wine business started just a few years ago in 2000. After living in the beautiful Napa Valley for 20 years and enjoying the fruits of everyone else’s labors, Bart and Cynthia Barthelemy decided to join the fun. Since then, they’ve found that not only is it fun but very hard work! They asked their daughter, Angelique, and her husband, Jason, if they would like to join forces and help build and grow the new company. The idea was to take a different path than most of the vintners in the wine business and become a port-only winery. Varietal ports, made from the wonderful, high-quality grapes grown in California that would focus on the individual traits of each varietal.
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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.