California Wineries — The 3 Most Important Vineyards

CALIFORNIA, especially Napa Valley and Sonoma, is generally known as the source of America’s best wine. Depending on who you ask, California may even produce the best wine in the world.  Unlike the French (the other contender for the world’s best wine) though, California wineries don’t have a classification system to help consumers understand which vineyards produce the best wine.

Let’s clear that up, right now.

California’s best wineries:

Mondavi Winery - Vineyard


We all know the name, since their wines are sold at every grocery and drug store in America.  That being said, when you look into the winery more you notice something interesting: their single vineyard, estate Cabernet Sauvignon, is still one of the top scoring wines in the world. Universally loved, the Mondavi Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is largely responsible for ushering in the era of fine wine to California in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Mondavi is also well known these days for being a publicly traded company. For some international brands that wouldn’t be a huge issue, but in California they were the first.  It is also interesting to note that, despite making about one million cases per year, the winery is considered to be worth approximately forty million United States dollars.  That is a pretty incredible figure, considering the family dynamics of the Mondavi family — and the fact that only forty years ago, you could buy land in Napa Valley for about $1 per acre.

Screaming Eagle

If Mondavi was responsible for bringing fine wine to California, Screaming Eagle was responsible for bringing in the era of the California cult Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you aren’t familiar with the concept of the cult winery, it is pretty simple: these are wineries which simply are not available at wine stores, or at restaurants. In fact, even for consumers willing to pay full price (often several hundred dollars per bottle), there is going to be a wait in order to buy wine from a cult winery — sometimes as much as ten years!

These days, given the recent sale of the winery for about twenty five million dollars, there are an increasing number of entries into this high-end Cabernet Sauvignon game in Napa Valley.  While reasonable people in California’s wine industry debate if that is a good thing or not, it has led to a rash of new investment in Napa Valley and beyond … which is definitely a good thing.

More Wine Country


We had to include a winery from Paso Robles in this list, simply because it is the newest and best thing to come along in some time.  La’Adventure is notable for a simple reason, it is owned by a French winemaker and offers a more restrained style than any of its competitors.  That restrained style is not something that Paso Robles was known for, but La’Adventure is helping to break that trend by being the most sought-after wine in Paso Robles. Paso Robles is also well known within the wine community. Critics, like Robert Parker, have called it both “The Next Napa” as well as “like visiting Napa in the 1970’s.”  Needlesss to say, it is an exciting time for wine in Paso Robles, and La’Adventure is helping to lead the way.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of the best California wineries and would love to get your recommendations and remarks. Your comments are absolutely welcome.
(All images used are from Creative Commons: 1. image source 2. image source )

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