Learn about the wines of California

A Golden State of Mind

With its sunny, free-spirited nature, progressive and pioneering producers and wide-ranging sustainability efforts – never mind its amazing array of world-class wines –  it’s no wonder California is such a revered region.

From its beginnings in the 18th century, California has evolved into an international winemaking powerhouse. The unique diversity of the Golden State’s climate, geography and soil types make it one of the largest wine producers on earth – up there with Italy, Spain and France for sheer volume – and its top wines easily rank among the best in the world.

Wines to Try

Discover our newest collection of exciting California wines with this curated list, or visit our Destination California store at 2625 Weston Road in Toronto to see our expanded in-store collection.

Fine California wines from Vintages

Try these new releases – here for a limited time only – and wines from Vintages’ always-available Essentials Collection.

Wine Regions to Know

California wine region map. San Francisco centre. Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino north of San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Monterey, Paso Robles to the south. Full descriptions below.

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Less than an hour outside San Francisco, Napa is easily California’s most famous region. Nearly 500 wineries can be found among the region’s lush, rolling hills and fog-kissed vineyards, including some of the state’s most famous: Mondavi, Beringer, Opus One, Stag’s Leap. While dense, massive Cabernet Sauvignon wines are what put this region on the map, Napa also produces excellent Chardonnay, Merlot and more. 

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Sonoma stretches from Napa's border to the east up the coast of the Pacific Ocean where it meets Monterey in the north. While Sonoma is California’s largest producer of Pinot Noir, its vast size and diverse climates allow for a wide variety of grapes to be grown here, from rich Chardonnay along the coast to intense Zinfandel.

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One of California’s most northerly wine regions, home to giant redwoods, rugged coastline and supple Pinot Noir, the Mendocino region is also one of its most climactically diverse. In addition to being recognized as one of California’s best regions for sparkling wine, Mendocino is home to winemakers who are experimenting with everything from Riesling and Semillon to Grenache and Tempranillo.

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Monterey County

A relatively new wine growing region — wine has only been produced here on a commercial scale since the 1960s — Monterey County has quickly developed a reputation for producing some of the state’s most refined and intriguing Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Stretching down the Pacific Coast from Monterey Bay to Paso Robles, Monterey is renowned for its relatively cool, stable climate, making it a winemaker’s dream. 

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Santa Cruz Mountains

This small but influential region along the coast south of San Francisco is renowned for the quality of its Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes. Although sustainable practices are widespread in California, Santa Cruz is particularly known for sustainable and organic grape growing and winemaking. 

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Paso Robles

America’s fastest-growing wine region, Paso Robles currently has 200 wineries producing exceptional Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as some superb Rhone varieties like Syrah and Viognier. Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles, in the heart of the Central Coast, is considered by many to be California wine’s next big thing.

Fast Facts


A sustainable leader

California is the world’s 4th largest wine producer; 80% of its wine is produced in a certified-sustainable winery.

100+ grapes

100+ grapes and 1000+ wineries

Home to more than 1,200 wineries, California grows 110+ varietals in 107 different AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).

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A wine and foodie haven

23 million culinary travellers a year visit California wineries to enjoy the wine, food and hospitality

Great California Reds

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One of the world’s iconic wines, Zinfandel remains nearly synonymous with California. This chameleon grape variety  can be made in a wide range of styles; from soft and fruity to full, spicy and tannic.

You’ll Experience: Although the grape lends itself to a variety of styles, it is typically expressed as a very full bodied and lush wine with heaps of liquorice, cherry, sweet baking spices and black pepper.

Try It With: Sweet Italian sausages with roasted peppers or short ribs with Chinese five spice.


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Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is grown all around the wine world, but California has a special affinity for it. It’s the state’s most widely planted red wine grape, fashioned here in a distinct, fruit-forward style all its own.

You’ll Experience:
This is a deep and full-bodied grape with plenty of rich tannins. Dark, ripe berries are elevated by tobacco and cedar aromas.

Try It With: A great steak fresh off the grill and covered in sautéed mushrooms, or a caramelized onion tart with olives and fresh goat cheese.


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Merlot was brought over to California from France in the mid-19th century.

You’ll Experience: Fruit forward and medium bodied, California Merlot offers plum, vanilla and leather aromas typically underpinned by mocha and black cherry notes.

Try It With: Greek-style lamb sausage with smoky baba ganoush or rib-eye steaks with miso mirin butter. as brought over to California from France in the mid-19th century.


Wonderful California Whites

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California’s most widely planted grape has undergone a significant style change; while the buttery, oaky, lush style that it was long renowned for still has legions of fans, today the state also produces Chardonnay in  a fresher, more balanced style.

You’ll Experience: Apple, peach and almond flavours are typical while oak aging brings out the grape’s vanilla and toasted coconut flavours.

Try It With: The big barrel-fermented, barrel aged examples are well suited to grilled salmon (with hollandaise sauce or mango salsa), veal and lobster with drawn butter. Fruitier, crisper, unoaked or lightly oaked chardonnays are great with delicate shellfish, poultry, ham or pasta in a creamy sauce.

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Sauvignon Blanc

Loved throughout the world for its fresh, racy style, Sauvignon Blanc thrives in California’s warm vineyards.

You’ll Experience
: Crisp and citrusy, with lime and grapefruit flavours, this elegant grape often shows white flower and melon aromas.

Try It With:  Whole grilled branzino with lemon and mint or shrimp tacos with fresh avocado.

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Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is quickly becoming one of California’s most popular grapes, and the warmer climate leads to expressions that are a little riper, more rounded and lower in acidity than those produced in cooler climates.

You’ll Experience: Soft and subtle lime, pear and apple are the flavours most associated with California Pinot Gris. Honey and almond aromas are also common in this crisp grape.

Try It With:
A silky plate of carbonara or clams casino would make great pairings for this versatile wine.