California Wine Varietals
More than 100 different varieties of grapes are planted and harvested in California for use in winemaking, including French, Italian, Spanish and hybrid grapes developed by wine researchers.
They fall into two broad categories: New World and Old World wines. The most commonly grown originated in the Bordeaux, Rhone, and Burgundy regions.
Bordeaux Grape Varietals Popular in California Wine
One of the world’s most popular wine varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce full-bodied wines with high tannins and noticeable acidity that adds to the wine’s aging potential.
This black/dark blue grape is used both for blending and for varietal wines. It’s soft character make it a popular grape to match with the high tannins and acidity of Cabernet.
Lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc is often used as a blending varietal, though it can be vinified alone. The result is often somewhat peppery light red wine.
An inky purple grape high in tannins, this thin-skinned and frost-sensitive grape produces a wine that is typically rich, dark, and plummy.
A green grape that produces a light, crisp, acidic white wine that is often paired with fish or cheese and may be characterized by “grassy” qualities reminiscent of bell pepper as well as tropical fruit aromas.
Frequently blended with light whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon can also be crafted into a sweet, citrusy dessert wine.
Rhône Valley Grape Varietals Popular in California Wine
Also known as Shiraz, this dark grape produces a full-bodied wine with soft tannins that may produce qualities of jammy fruit and spices.
This medium-bodied and versatile grape is used as both a single varietal as well as a blending grape, and has a wide range of flavors from raspberry, cherry, and blackberry to rich earthy tones.
Rich and heavy with intense fruit aromas, this warm climate grape is used both in Rhône blends and stand-alone varietals.
Delicate and crisply acidic with fresh herbal aromas Roussanne is largely grown in the mild climate of the Central Coast.
A full-bodied varietal known for its floral aromatics, lushness on the palate, and a long finish, Viognier often features broad, complex flavors, from delicate fruit to florals such as orange blossom and rose.
Burgundy Grape Varietals Popular in California Wine
A versatile and widely planted grape, California Chardonnay rose to fame in the “Judgment at Paris” wine competition of 1976, when largely unknown California wines defeated French wineries in a blind tasting. Chardonnay may be developed as a crisp, un-oaked wine or a rich, buttery wine aged in oak. It has a broad flavor spectrum that is influenced by the regions where it is grown as much as the process by which it is fermented and aged.
Grown mostly along the coast, Pinot Noir’s floral notes and rich cherry flavors and floral notes may complement more complex hints of earth and leather. This is a wine that can range from delicate to rich and complex.
Other Grape Varietals in California Wine
Most commonly used as a blending grape, Petite Sirah features big fruit flavors of dark plum, black cherry, and blackberry.
Zinfandel, a signature grape of California and of the Cucamonga Valley, can feature an extraordinarily broad range of flavors and aromatic profiles, from raspberry, plum, and dark berries to black pepper, cloves, and licorice.
Other Wine Grapes Common in the Cucamonga Valley AVA
This thick-fleshed red wine grape was planted extensively during the Prohibition era because of its ability to survive transport to the East coast and its blendability with other wines.
Mission grapes were introduced from Spain by Catholic missionaries for use in the making sacramental, table, and fortified wines. Also occasionally used in the making of brandy and some fortified wines, Mission grapes are infrequently used in the making of table wines.
*Also commonly grown in the Cucamonga Valley AVA