Introduction

By Lisa Rowlands

The Central Valley wine region - one of five Californian sub-zones and covering a large part of the valley itself - produces around 70% of all the wine grapes grown in the state. Its climate - categorised as hot Mediterranean by the Köppen climate classification system - is typified by year-round warmth and hot, dry summers, with record temperatures reaching forty-six degrees Celsius. These conditions, coupled with the fertile soils synonymous with the area, are favourable for producing high yields with much of the valley’s output being used to make mass market wines for immediate consumption.

That is not to say however, that quality wines are not produced in the Central Valley. On the contrary, a growing number of producers in some of the cooler appellations such as Lodi AVA, are building a reputation for rich, flavoursome red wines principally from the Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, along with a number of other white varieties with naturally high acidity, have also found success in the valley, delivering refreshingly crisp, multi-layered varietals and blends. Other varieties prevalent in this sub-zone are the dark skinned grapes, Barbera, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah and the white fruits, Sauvignon Blanc and Colombard.

The Central Valley - an area renowned for its fertile farmland - produces fruits, vegetables and nuts which account for around 8% of the total annual US agricultural output. And grapes - be they for consumption as fruit, as juice or as wine, undoubtedly constitute an important part of this harvest.

Counties of the Central Valley