Who can define a regional American Viticultural Area (AVA) better:

  • The collective marketing decisions from a gaggle of people, and a Webmaster who simply needs content?
  • Or, the historian who did the research and development?


I always begin my searches with the organizations. In this case, it’s the Carneros Wine Alliance and the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association. They’re both great resource, if you ever have any questions about this AVA called “Carneros.”

  • UNIQUE DISTINCTION: The only California AVA that’s contiguous into two locations; both Sonoma County and Napa Valley.
    • SONOMA SIDE: The southern rolling hills in Sonoma
    • NAPA SIDE: The southern base of Napa Valley, overlooking San Pablo Bay

Would I endorse Carneros Wines as a region? You bet I would, in a heartbeat.

It was a lovely day in Carneros, at The Donum Estate, the host winery for this educational, wine event.

From the Carneros Wine Alliance:

“Influenced by the maritime breezes and fog from its southern border with the San Pablo Bay, Carneros produces the region’s finest Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines. The Carneros Wine Alliance is committed to promoting the distinction, diversity and above all, quality, of the grapes and wines from Carneros.”

From the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association:

“On the northern most edge of San Francisco Bay (here called San Pablo Bay), is the Carneros region, which rises gradually from flush-with-waterfowl wetlands, where tiny pink brine shrimp thrive in salt marshes. The thin-soiled gently rolling hills spill over into neighboring Napa County, and was once home to shepherds and their wooly flocks, hence the name – which is Spanish – for “ram.”

Having an invitation for a media day with the Carneros Alliance members, I decided it was time to get my own perspectives about the region. While driving to the event, I began to think about how I was going to approach the dynamic.

  1. First, I was going to get some photos
  2. Next, going to interact with the individual vintners and/or winemakers
  3. Finally, will taste the wines, if there’s any time left (only about 10 minutes, as it turned out)

I’m familiar with the region (since my 1980’s visit). I wanted something else, though; something to expand what I’ve a;ready heard, learned, know, written, tasted, and driven through.

Each person will have his or her own story to tell. That’s not exactly what I want… Marketing speak about the winery. (I write it, I know it. Nothing gets out that isn’t approved, and it might not even have what I think should be included – or not included.)

So, what’s it going to be? I wills say, ahead of time, that terroir plays a major role. They all know they’re in a cool climate, and take great joy in where they are as it relates to their wines. This is not a commodity wine group; these are passionate people and it’s serious business in Carneros.

The Obvious ~ The Hook, Something from the Heart

SHE: Hello, I’m going to ask you only one question, because I’d honestly like to connect with each of you here today.

HE: Fair enough.

SHE: Okay, here it is. “There are at least 10,000 brands in the whole wide world. Each company has a unique point of view, based on its own history and development over time. I want to know, in this context, what makes your brand so unique, from ALL others in the world.”

HE: Hum… Let me think about that for a minute. It’s a good question, and I’ve never thought about what the answer would be.

I repeated that 17 times, pushing people out of their comfort zones.

The following are the results, from Participating CWA Members

Final Participating CWA Member Wineries:

  • Artesa Estate Vineyards & Winery
    • Winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper
    • Our vineyards present soil diversity, within our terroir. We have a Spanish heritage and a Spanish flavor with California Albariño and Pinot Noir.
    • From the Web: Our iconic, modern, hilltop Estate, just 15 minutes from both downtown Napa and Sonoma, is surrounded by rocky mountains, rolling vineyards, and breathtaking views across the San Pablo Bay. Established in 1991 by the oldest winemaking family in Spain, Artesa takes pride in blending old and new-world techniques to create the next generation of estate-grown wines.
  • Bouchaine Vineyards
    • Winemaker Chris Kajani and Assistant Wine Maker Erik Goodmanson
    • Site to financial district. Wine ties to micro climate of San Francisco. Lots of energy and attention to wines.
    • From the Web: Bouchaine is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Carneros District – a winery that began making wine long before the region earned its reputation for producing the great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of Carneros today.


  • Calmére
    • Proprietor Ariana Peju (proprietor), with Winemaker Sara Fowler Calmére (daughter)
    • Cal Mére means calm sea. Our wines are made with love. We have cute, little baby-top tanks. All of our wines are estate grown. We have a sparkling Roe Pinot Noir, a chardonnay, and a bit of Viognier. I have a loosely based name for it… “How to train a dragon.”
    • From the Web: In 2016 our family purchased 100 acres in Carneros and a state-of-the-art winery. We have spent two years developing a brand that represents our vision and captures the spirit of this unique property. The beautiful Calmére Estate Winery represents the next generation of Napa Valley and beautifully showcases the terroir of Carneros through Burgundian varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot
  • Ca’ Momi Winery
    • Owners: Stepano, Dario, and Valentina
    • We’re tied to wine and foods, from Italy. We make approachable wines. We’re rebels, just being ourselves.
    • From the Web: Ca’ Momi is built on Napa Valley soil, but we’re rooted in soulful Italian tradition. Founders Valentina Guolo-Migotto, Dario De Conti and Stefano Migotto all grew up in Italy, where community comes together around the table. We brought this tradition to Napa Valley with all the fiery passion you’d expect from three Italians.
  • Cuvaison Winery
    • Winemaker Steve Rogstad
    • Our fruit is 100 percent Estate grown. We represent the heart of the vine, where it grows.
    • From the Web: Founded in 1969, Cuvaison is one of the pioneering wineries that helped shape the modern era of Napa Valley winemaking. As an independent, family-owned winery for nearly five decades, we are dedicated to crafting exceptional wines from our acclaimed estate in the Los Carneros region of Napa Valley. To this day, our mission remains true to our roots, and so do our wines.
  • Domaine Chandon
    • Director of Winemaker Pauline Lhote
    • They are unique in that they are in six countries from around the world (Argentine 1959, California 1973, Brazil 1973, Austria 1982, India 2013, China 2014; so, they really and truly do have a global perspective and can consult internally with their winemaking team, in a “let’s work together attitude. Each region stays true to their roots, and the French tradition of making sparkling wine. And, in California’s instance, it’s their California terroir.
    • From the Web: This year at Chandon California, as we celebrate our 45th Anniversary, we are humbly thrilled to be reminded that so much of what our founders dreamed to achieve has come to fruition. In 1973, ‘M & H Winery,’ that will be renamed to Chandon, became the first French-owned sparkling winery in California.
  • The Donum Estate
    • Tony (assistant winemaker) and Agustin (cellar master)
    • Our estate was planted in 1985. At the time we were a dairy farm. We really work vines that reflect our own site. We’re Terroir driven. We have a sense of place in Carneros (also in Russian River Valley and Angel’s Camp, where we source some of our fruit). At our winery, we farm fruit on the valley floor, where air moves in different ways, than in a valley with some elevation.
    • From the Web: Donum means “gift of the land.” We produce only single-vineyard, estate wines from vineyards in Carneros, Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley.
  • Etude Wines
    • Winemaker is Jon Priest
    • We have a one-world connection: Vineyards, wines, and people, in everything we do. We’re all connected to by the vineyards. We bring in interns from around the world. Everyone we also takes on this special responsibility.
    • From the Web: Etude was founded on the philosophy that winemaking begins in the vineyard long before harvest, and that superior grape growing allows our winemakers to craft wines of exceptional varietal expression and finesse. This remains our approach today as we continue to build the Etude legacy.   – Jon Priest, Etude Winemaker
  • Poseidon Vineyard (left)
    • Coolest right nest to the San Pablo Bay. We also have our own cooperage, where we work with Hungarian Oak, from Tokai, Hungary. Our barrel treatment is completely controlled. In 2017 we launched our first vintage. James McPhail is our winemaker, and we sell our wines only by allocations in the spring and fall.
    • From the Web: In 1973, we planted Poseidon Vineyard on what had been grazing land since the time of the missionaries. We were among the first to farm the southern extreme of Napa Carneros, which at the time was considered too cool to ripen wine grapes. Poseidon Vineyard is the heritage wine project of Obsidian Wine Co. We seek and farm the extremes of the North Coast. This is our story. 
  • Saintsbury Vineyards
    • Gary (extreme right)
    • Our history dates back to 1981, when two guys went from Burgundy went to U.C. Davis. Richard Ward – get other name. They found their place in Carneros and dug in their heels.
    • From the Web: When the wines were good they pleased my senses, cheered my spirits, improved my moral and intellectual powers, besides enabling me to confer the same benefits on other people.” ~ GEORGE SAINTSBURY
  • Sangiacomo Family Vineyards
    • Jamie
    • We like having some control over our grapes’ flavors. We’ve been growing wine grapes for over 50 years. We’ve always been devoted to being wine grape farmers; but, now we are also making our own wines from our estate grapes, and defining our own flavors, according to our vineyard location.
    • From the Web: We are proud to continue our family’s farming tradition. We would not be where we are today without the knowledge and values we learned from our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunt. And we continue to plant seeds to enable future generations of our family to build upon this legacy.
  • Schug Carneros Estate Winery
    • Winemaker is Michael Cox
    • Our philosophy is heredity… Walter Schug came from the same school 50 years later. Johnaes whites are more popular. New world with history of old world. We have a beautiful climate for growing Chardonnay and Pinot for 3 years.
    • From the Web: ‘WINE AS PURE AS THE LAND’ ~ At Schug we craft our wines to be true to the land they were sourced from; our grower relationships are among our oldest and most cherished. In the tradition of Walter Schug’s home estate in Germany, we offer this Sparkling Pinot Noir as a celebration of the intense yet delicate flavors the Pinot Noir grape
      has to offer.
  • Starmont Winery and Vineyards
    • Pamela, with Jeff Crawford being their winemaker
    • In the early 1900s, traditional farming kept most vineyards sustainable. We keep Green in our thinking. We have our Stanley Ranch Estate for our chardonnay, and we have diversity from the Brown Family, located in Napa.
    • From the Web: SUSTAINABLE WINES from classic vines in NAPA VALLEY ~ “Starmont has always had a special spirit.  It is a soulful place that speaks to each person who visits this unique location.  It is this soulfulness that we try to express in our wines, so that they can be shared and experienced by all who enjoy the wines.” — Jeff Crawford 
  • Truchard Vineyards
    • Anthony M. Truchard II, second generation Vintner, General Manager
    • Our location is 100 percent estate. We’re the northern most vineyard in Carneros. We have volcanic soil running through the property. Some clay, some volcanic, this soil is the most diverse in California.
    • From the Web: During Tony’s [Father] tour in California the Truchard family took a number of road trips.  On one such trip, after checking in at the Presidio in San Francisco, the family drove up to the Napa Valley to see the vineyards.  Tony thought it would be “fun” to buy some Napa property and plant a vineyard.  During the next two decades, Tony continued to buy property until he had 400 adjoining acres.  At the same time, their family grew to include 4 daughters and 2 sons.
  • Viansa Sonoma
    • Heather
    • We have a long Sebastiani history, and we work to define Sonoma Valley, including with our Carneros wines.
    • From the Web: Idyllically situated at the summit of the Sonoma Valley, Viansa Sonoma embodies the proud history of local winemaking. The legacy of Viansa Sonoma dates back to 1896 when Samuele Sebastiani arrived from Tuscany and saved enough money, while making cobblestones for San Francisco streets, to purchase vineyard property in 1904. Following in his footsteps, Samuele’s children and grandchildren continued the tradition of sharing great wine, supporting the land from where it comes, and through passionately maintaining precious wetlands that are vital to our eco-system. Founded by Samuele’s grandson in 1989, Viansa Sonoma remains committed to producing wines of true excellence while continuing the tradition of land stewardship and winemaking that defines the Sonoma Valley.
  • ZD Wines
    • Scott
    • Z Zapone aero jets, Brett Dillars Scientists Get what they did that’s so unusual.
    • From the Web: ZD is a favorite wine country destination for folks who enjoy world class ChardonnayPinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Situated in the heart of Napa Valley in picturesque Rutherford, ZD is surrounded by gorgeous vineyards.


This was my morning in Carneros. I learned a lot worth sharing. Perhaps you learned something new, too?