By Bruce Cochran
This week begins our examination of California’s most prestigious area, the North Coast. This four-county region north of San Francisco includes the state’s most famous region-Napa Valley-as well as one of its least known, Lake County.
Try a new wine this week!
Lot 205 Winery Number One Red Blend
On a California wine label, the words “North Coast” have an official meaning—a four-county area about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. The most famous of these four counties is quite famous—Napa County, which wine-wise is pretty much Napa Valley.
To Napa’s west, and bordering the Pacific Ocean, is Sonoma County. It’s famous for Sonoma Valley, but that’s only about a quarter of the county’s wine country.
Immediately to the north of these are Mendocino County, which borders Sonoma, and Lake County, which borders Napa.
Just as we discussed last month with the Central Coast counties, sometimes a wine will be named for a specific location, and other times for a more general one. This has a lot to do with a wine’s quality, style and price. Usually, the more specific a wine’s appellation, or place name, the higher the quality and price. An example would be a cabernet sauvignon labelled North Coast, which could include wine from any or all of that four-county appellation versus a cabernet labelled as being from Napa Valley. The latter would almost certainly cost several times as much as the former.
But I think that the most useful part of a wine’s appellation is how it can help us predict a wine’s style. It doesn’t always work, but wines from cooler areas, such as Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, will often be more elegant in style than wines from warm northern Napa Valley. There are many other examples of specific styles being associated with specific places.
In the coming weeks we’ll examine each of these four North Coast counties in more detail, and list the most important areas of each. We’ll also look at which grape varieties tend to be better in which places. In the meantime, most of the wine in Lot 205 Winery’s Number One Red Blend is from the four-county area comprising the North Coast. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvingon, merlot and petite sirah. It sells for around $10.99, as does Lot 205’s straight cabernet.