||(shar dohn nay)—This noble grape’s reputation was established in France, particularly in the Burgundy region, and the highly prized Chardonnay wines from Chablis, Mâcon, Mersault, and Pouilly-Fuissé are imitated by winemakers around the world. Generally an oaked wine (whether from expensive oak barrels or a quick soak in oak chips), its fruity aromas and flavors range from apple in the cooler regions to tropical fruits such a pineapple in the warmer regions. It can also display subtle earthy aromas, such as mushroom or minerals. It has a medium to high acidity and is generally full-bodied. Classical Chardonnay wines are dry. Chardonnay is also an important grape in the Champagne district where it's picked before fully ripe and while it still has high acid and understated fruit flavors—the perfect combination for champagne. California has adopted this grape with a fervor and there are some 200 wineries producing Chardonnay wines in other parts of the United States. Chardonnay has also seen a tremendous planting surge in Australia, and new vineyards are being planted in Italy, Lebanon, New Zealand, Spain, and South Africa.
||This tiny strip of land just north of San Francisco is home to America’s most prestigious wineries. Its climate is ideal for viticulture. Ironically, it was deemed too ideal for some vintners, who have moved their vineyards from the valley’s flat plain to the hills in the east and west, adhering to the idea that grapes that struggle to grow yield better wine. The climate, soil, and individual wineries are enormously varied, so it’s impossible to identify a singular trait of Napa wines. In addition, nearly every noble grape is grown here, although Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the primary grapes. In the past, Napa’s wines have alternated between extremely fruity and fat to lean and subtle. Today the best Napa wines have achieved a balance between these extremes. Many are made to be drunk young and have abundant ripe fruit; others can be initially hard and tannic, but soften over four or five years to perfumed, cedary fruit. White Napa wines are excellent with fresh-grilled fish and chicken, but can also cope with more spicy and creamy flavors. Many Napa reds will overwhelm delicate cuisine, but rich red meat and cheeses do make good companions.
||Wineries exist in all fifty states, but the most predominant (and best) wine comes from Northern California, Oregon, and Washington State, with New York gaining a foothold in the industry. American wines make up about 75% of all wine sales in the US. The appellation system uses the term AVA (American Viticultural Area) to determine where wines were produced, but grape varieties can be planted anywhere in the country. American wineries generally use varietal labeling, and government regulations require that the variety on the label must make up at least 75% of the blend (in Oregon it’s 90%). The words reserve, special selection, private reserve, classic, and so on have no legal definition in the US. Some wineries use these terms to indicate their better wines; others use the words as a marketing tool to move lower quality wines off the shelf.
||California produces the majority of wine made in the United States. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir dominate the wine production in California, but many other varietials thrive in the California climate. Many fine wines are produced in California using Mediterranean grapes.
||Chardonnay has emerged as the premier white wine in California. Originating from Burgundy, France, the Chardonnay grape has enabled vintners from the Golden State to produce opulent white wines with crisp, bold flavors. A well made Chardonnay can be enjoyed in a wide array of situations. California Chardonnays typically are dominated by buttery, creamy flavors.
||Napa County is located north of the San Francisco Bay Area in California. At the north end of Napa County is the Bay Area's second tallest peak Mount Saint Helena, and to the far south of Napa County lays the section of the Napa Valley that bleeds into Carneros. When the first white settlers arrived in the early 1830s, there were six tribes in the valley speaking different dialects and they were often at war with each other. The Mayacomos tribe lived in the area where Calistoga was founded. Napa County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. Napa Valley is widely considered one of the top wine regions in California and all of the United States. By the end of the nineteenth century there were more than one hundred and forty wineries in the area. Today Napa Valley features more than two hundred wineries and grows many different grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Zinfandel. The region is visited by as many as five million people each year, making it the second to Disneyland as the most popular tourist destination in California.