By Lisa Rowlands

Located some distance from the Pacific Ocean, the climate of Knights Valley ranks amongst the county’s warmest. Most of the appellation’s vineyards have excellent south / south western exposure affording them the very best of the Californian sunshine, and many also benefit from elevations of up to six-hundred metres above sea level. Inland, and hence sheltered from coastal influences, temperatures here are warm during the day, and cooler in the evenings, ensuring that the grapes achieve full ripeness whilst preserving their natural acidity.

The soils of Knights Valley owe much to the volcanic eruptions of its past. Shallow, free draining alluvial gravel lends itself to the low yielding, high quality viticulture for which the area is acclaimed. Red wines dominate, with California’s emblematic grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, accounting for more 60% of all production. Other dark skinned varieties which are well represented here include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Zinfandel, whilst the small amount of white wine produced, is principally from the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes.

Today, the Knights Valley AVA covers an area of close to fifteen thousand hectares, of which around eight-hundred-and-fifty are planted with vines. There are thirty-five vineyards, many of which belong to non-resident wineries such as Beringer and Kendall-Jackson, who operate principally out of other AVAs but utilise high-altitude plots within Knights Valley to produce terroir-driven, flavoursome wines. Few wineries exist within the appellation, and of those that do, the Peter Michael Winery is perhaps the most well known.