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spacer.gif^ Livermore, CA | Paso Robles, CA | San Luis Obispo, CA | Santa Barbara, CA | OREGON       >> Tasting Dispatches
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road_pic2.jpgWhen asked how I came by my wine knowledge, I tell people it's from a decade of drinking, most of which I did on the road. I have traveled the length of California, tasting in every major region that produces wine...and had a great time doing it. That said, my many trips will hopefully provide you with a quick look into the various regions and the best they have to offer. Though I have been everywhere some of those trips were too long ago for any individual assessments to be accurate, so they are not included here, but my overall thoughts are. Those regions listed above I visit at least 2-3 times a year. Most of us who live in this great state are closer than you think to a premium area, so get out there and drink.

>>Click here to read my Tasting Dispatches

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CALIFORNIA APPELLATIONS


LIVERMORE VALLEY: For detailed information and winery ratings, CLICK HERE.

LODI: One of the oldest wine-grape growing regions in California, located 37 miles due south of Sacramento. The first grapes were planted in 1850. Initially mostly Zinfandel and Tokay. While Zinfandel is still the most popuar red wine coming out of Lodi, Tokay disappeared in the 1960s when dry, table wines became the fashion. The appellation was recognized in 1986 and there are currently over 70 wineries located here.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


MENDOCINO COUNTY: Lovely scenic area about 2 hours North of San Francisco. About 45 wineries mostly spread out along Hwy. 128 on the road to Mendocino and Hwy. 101 around the towns of Hopland and Ukiah. Mendocino is the most central place to stay with great views of the ocean and fabulous restaurants to choose from. A cool growing region that specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Good wines at good prices with mostly basic tasting rooms.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


NAPA VALLEY: California's premium growing region with fancy tasting rooms and high prices located about an hour North of San Francisco. Most of the wineries can be reached off Hwy. 29, which can get quite crowded depending on the time of year you visit. Though there are over 100 wineries, not all are open to the public, so a little research is needed. Bring a good map and a lot of cash, as most tasting fees begin at $10. Since I like to buy wine when I go on a trip, I have not tasted extensively here. Just can't afford it. Plus I'm not a fan of the attitude. Cab and Chardonnay are the big things here, as you well know.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

PASO ROBLES: For detailed information and winery ratings, CLICK HERE

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY: For detailed information and winery ratings, CLICK HERE

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY: For detailed information and winery ratings, CLICK HERE

SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS: Though there are plenty of wineries in this region (60+), most of them are very small and not open to the public. Those that are, are quite far apart from one another along very windy mountain roads, which makes it even harder to experience these wines. Most of the tasting rooms are between Santa Cruz and San Jose (which has the closest major airport). The bulk of the wines grown here are the Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc and Chardonnay. A great way to see what the region is all about is to attend one of their Passport weekends in January, April, July or November, since almost all the wineries open their doors for these events.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

SIERRA FOOTHILLS: Probably the state's least well-known appellation. The wine region is nestled between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe (about an hour from each) along Hwys. 50 and 49 and contains around 60 wineries. Planted during the gold rush by immigrants it's one of the oldest wine-growing regions. Most of the towns are quite small and quaint with Placerville, Plymouth and Sutter Creek offering the most options for tourists. There are a few fancy tasting rooms, but for the most part they are small and fairly rustic. Their big claim to fame is their Zinfandels, which have great flavor and more finesse than their low country brethren. Many wineries also feature Rhone and Italian varietals.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

SONOMA COUNTY: California's 2nd most famous region, located west of Napa. There are over 100 wineries, with most of them open to the public. You'll need a good map here as well, but mostly because the wineries are further apart than in Napa. The best regions are off of Hwy. 101. Have done more tasting here because you get more bang for the buck and a more friendly, less crowded experience than in Napa. Best known for their Chardonnay (Carneros), Pinot Noir (Russian River), Zinfandel (Dry Creek) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley).
– For more information CLICK HERE.

TEMECULA: All I can say for this region, which is located between Los Angeles and San Diego (off I15 and Hwy. 79), is that it's easy to get to. They're trying to give a classy wine experience – most of the 20 tasting rooms are quite nice – it's just too hot in this region to make good wine. While some of it is enjoyable, most of it's flabby and overpriced for the quality. I've been every couple of years for the past decade and it hasn't gotten better, just more expensive. It's 2-Buck-Chuck for $20. Currently making any varietal that will grow, with the exception of Pinot Noir. Big into sparkling wines.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


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OREGON APPELLATIONS


WILLAMETTE VALLEY: For detailed information and winery ratings, CLICK HERE.



Top rated wines all under $20

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