The vineyards of Southern California comprise those within the following counties:- Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino. The hot, dry climate at this latitude dictates that most of the viticultural areas are confined to coastal regions where the high temperatures are tempered by the cool Pacific Ocean breeze, or elevated plots inland, where the high altitude has the same moderating effect. Indeed, Southern California is home to the state’s highest vineyard - at an altitude of two-thousand-and-fifty-seven metres above sea level, Stone Summit, in Big Bear Lake (San Bernardino County) claims to be the highest in the entire northern hemisphere.
Although today, the AVAs of the Southern counties play a largely supporting role to the superstar leads of Napa and Sonoma, this region is often cited as the birthplace of Californian wine, and prior to Prohibition was amongst the state’s most productive viticultural areas. Urban Sprawl, particularly the growth of cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego, together with the destruction caused by Pierce’s disease in the late twentieth century, had led to the region being largely forgotten about until fairly recently. However, with a renewed verve and a focus on delivering elegant, terroir driven wines from a broad range of grapes, the area is re-establishing itself as a serious winemaking sub-zone.
The key red grapes of the region are Zinfandel, the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and types typical of the Rhône Valley such as Grenache and Syrah. Sangiovese and Tempranillo are also gaining a reputation for success in some of the area’s AVAs - notably Temecula Valley and Antelope Valley of the California High Desert, whilst Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and to a lesser degree Viognier, are the most prevalent whites.
Los Angeles County and the populous city which bears its name is perhaps best known for its affiliation with the film industry and its vast, decentralised urban sprawl that extends for many kilometres in each compass direction. It is however, somewhat surprisingly, also home to a thriving viticultural scene, producing wines from a variety of grapes, principally the Bordeaux reds, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.