11 Interesting Facts About California Wine

California wine, oh what a selection to discover. There’s so much to be explored when it comes to California vineyards and the varietals they produce. From Pinot Noir to Chardonnay you’re bound to find a glass that keeps you asking for more.

We’ve gathered 11 interesting facts about California wine that will give you a bit more insight.

#1 If California were a country, it would be the fourth leading wine-producing country in the world.

Although France, Italy, and Spain are renowned for their histories in wine-production, California comes right behind — they don’t call it Wine Country, California for any ol’ reason.

California wine is often assumed to be less prestigious than its European competitors, but California has been in the wine-making industry for nearly 251 years. Vineyards in Napa Valley date back to 1769, giving California its own history and story that’s well worth exploring.

#2 California produces 90 percent of the wine made in the United States.

More than 17 million gallons of wine are made in California each year, this accounts for nearly 90% of all American wine production.

California's 2020 grape acreage totaled about 895,000 acres, growing over 100 varietals to be enjoyed.

#3 Wineries and vineyards are California’s second most popular tourist destination after Disneyland.

California’s sunshine-y fun is for the adults too! A total of 14.8 million tourists visit the state’s wine regions each year. Wine lovers congregate in small groups for private wine tours, visits to tasting rooms, and just a nice day trip on the central coast.

Next time you’re booking your a family trip, schedule out a couple of hours for a California wine tour for the grownups.

#4 In 2020, California winemakers crushed 3,542,037 tons of Wine.

When we say California produces tons of wine, we mean millions of tons of wine. To put this statistic in perspective, the top bragged stat is 70,000 tons of Pinot Noir being crushed back in 2004; in 2020, this number jumped to 211,194 tons.

Drink away at your next wine tasting in California; they have plenty to spare.

#5 By volume, Chardonnay remains the leading varietal wine from California.

Chardonnay reigns king of the California vineyards, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, White Zinfandel, and Pinot Grigio follow closely behind.

Out of the millions of tons of wine varietals crushed in California, Chardonnay holds 15.2% of the share. 15% may seem like a slim sliver of the pie, but it equates to about 538,551 tons, more than double that of Pinot Noir.

Chardonnay and California go hand in hand, making any Chardonnay from the region a safe bet.

#6 50 years ago, an acre of land in Napa would have sold for about $1000.

Oh boy, what an investment you wish you were around for.

Major headlines published in May boasted the $42 million sale of a 40-acre estate with an established winery in St. Helena, California. Equalling about $1,050,000 per acre, this estate is one of the most expensive sold in Napa County.

To think you could have gotten in on the Napa Valley wine industry for only $1000 might bring a tear to your eye.

#7 Southern Napa Valley produces different wines than Northern Napa Valley.

Defined by mountain ranges and proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Napa Valley enjoys a dry Mediterranean climate perfectly suited to growing fine wine grapes. Only 2% of the Earth’s surface is covered by a Mediterranean climate, making all wines from this region unique.

What’s even more interesting is that within Napa Valley, you’ll find a changing climate. Los Carneros (Southern Napa Valley) and Calistoga (Northern Napa Valley) have different terrains, climates, and varietals.

Although the Napa Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is only a few miles wide and 30 miles long, distinctly different wines are produced on each end. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are typically grown in the south, where the valley floor sits almost at sea level, and breezes from the San Pablo Bay keep the temperatures cooler and more moderate.

In the northern part of the valley, where the elevation rises to 362 feet above sea level, the area can get extremely warm during the summer days. At night, the Russian River Valley cools the area dramatically. These unique conditions allow Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc to thrive better in the northern part of Napa Valley.

#8 Covid boosted the California wine economy.

California Polytechnic State University recently conducted a study that showed how the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has boosted California wine sales. Wine consumption increased by about 48%, and people have even been sharing fun through virtual happy hours.

A little more time at home and a need for relaxation with some fabulous California wine definitely correlate.

#9 Falcons help keep California grapes protected.

What better way to protect our Californian grapes from pests than by bringing in their natural predators? Napa Valley vintners are finding that falcons are producing better results than modern technology when protecting their grapes.

Falconry is seen as a sustainable practice that limits noise, pollution, and netting, without putting falcons in any harm. Next time you’re on a private tour, keep an eye out for some soaring falcons keeping watch over the property.

#10 You’ll find celebrities scattered across the California wine country map.

What do Olympic Gold Medal figure skater Peggy Fleming, actress Drew Barrymore, racecar driver Randy Lewis, and “The Bachelor” reality TV star Andrew Firestone have in common? They are among the several celebrities who either own or co-own a California winery.

#11 In a blind tasting, California wines outranked some of France’s finest.

In 1976, California wine disrupted the industry and brought credibility to the idea that good wine could be made all over the world. The Paris Wine Tasting pitted some of the finest wines in France against unknown California bottles in a blind taste test. When the scores were tallied, the top honors went not to France's best vintners but to a California white and red.

The tasting is now recognized as “The Judgement of Paris,” and is noted as the day the doors opened to the globalization of wine.

Learn anything new?

Now that you have some California wine fun facts, you can go into your next California visit with some “full-bodied” knowledge.

Enjoy your trip to the Napa Valley vineyards and have fun sharing these exciting facts over some elegant food and wine.

 

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