In our final episode of Carneros, we’ll look at Carneros and Napa, focusing on their relationship over time.
But first, we’ll start with a quick review. A mix of good fortune and prescience created Carneros, a unique region lying on the north coast of San Pablo Bay that straddles the borders of Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The good fortune was that the Phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s, which killed all other grapes, didn’t destroy those on one small but important farm, Stanly Ranch. The prescience was that Louis Martini and other forward thinking entrepreneurs snapped up most of Stanly Ranch’s vineyards and began developing the modern Carneros wine industry in earnest.
It would seem that the early vintners took a risky chance on this cool, foggy area. But in 1983, their efforts more than paid off when the region received formal recognition as a unique American Viticultural Area (AVA).
It would have been interesting to be in the back rooms during the time of these negotiations. The wine makers from the non-Carneros portions of Napa Valley and Sonoma were definitely not happy with what was going on. According to GrapeHeaven.com, their “science side” agreed that it was sensible to designate appellations based on geography. But their “business side” was concerned that their more widely recognized name (particularly Napa Valley) would be diluted, or worse yet — ignored altogether.
As a unique appellation, Carneros didn’t have to include any words about Napa on their labels. The result was, as Napa feared: Carneros garnered much publicity without mentioning neighboring Napa Valley at all.
Having learned from this defeat, Napa managed to have California legislation enacted stating that any subsequent appellations created in the area would have to mention Napa Valley on their labels.
Today, however, Napa wine makers are very happy that they have a nearby sister named Carneros. First, the increasing demand for wine is forcing all wine makers to scramble to find more grapes. Chardonnay grows more prolifically in Carneros than it does in Napa. So Napa wine makers are readily using Carneros Chardonnay grapes (and other Carneros grapes) in their Napa-labeled wines! Second, the unique characteristics of Carneros wines has helped elevate the Napa Valley name altogether, and contributed to increased market demand.
So Napa has its prolific neighbor to thank for augmenting and supplementing its wines with terrific flavor and intensity.
To review my four earlier articles on Carneros, please go to Betty’s Wine Musings and search Carneros.
Cheers to enjoying Carneros wine!