Carmel Valley is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) located within the larger Monterey County AVA and lies 100 miles south of San Francisco. It’s home to over a dozen wineries and tasting rooms and is responsible for some of the best quality Cabernet Sauvignons in the country.
Designated an AVA in 1983, Carmel Valley is split into two distinct growing regions. The Cachagua Valley is in the south of this AVA and is home to the majority of vines. A rather mountainous area with a warmer mesoclimate than other parts of the Carmel Valley AVA, Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet and Merlot thrive. While daytime temperatures can get quite hot, due to elevation (some vines are planted up to 2,200ft), nighttime temperatures can drop significantly. This wide diurnal range is excellent for producing complex and intensely flavoured wines. Soils here are nutrient-poor and free draining, forcing the roots to dig deep, making the vines strong and the grapes greatly concentrated in flavour.
Zinfandel was first established in Carmel Valley in 1984 by Dick Sias of Joullian Vineyards and has seen great success, as well.
In the more northern section of the AVA, vines are lower lying, and the area is more influenced by the fogs and cooling winds that blow in off the Pacific Ocean. Plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are seen here.
This is a little-known gem of a wine producing region of California. If you see wines from this AVA in your local bottle shop, I highly recommend giving it a try!