Which Grapes Produce California Red Wines?

california red winesThough Napa Valley is most widely known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay varieties, as these are the most widely planted, there are actually over three dozen grape varieties grown throughout the region. The Mediterranean climate found in Napa Valley so conducive to wine making is also particularly unique globally for being diverse and thus lending to growing many different kinds of grapes. While all the wines coming from the region are spectacular, the Californian red wines are of particular interest to many who travel from near and far to taste the fruits of the land here in Napa Valley.

The best place to experience Napa Valley’s incredible wines is right here at Churchill Manor. As a guest, you’ll have access to the hundreds of wineries that surround us in this gorgeous region. Download our free Napa Valley Vacation Guide to learn about the many things to do and see here. It has everything you need to know to plan your getaway to our town, including where to find the best California red wine!

There are numerous reds produced right here in the valley, all of which are the product of different grape varieties, or blends. This blog will focus on the most widely planted among those varieties, as they are the ones you will undoubtedly have the chance to taste while in town.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Known as the king of red grapes in Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon makes up a whopping 40% of the area’s production, and over 50% of its crop value! These grapes are grown throughout the entire valley, giving each vineyard a slightly different take on this delicious variety. Cabernet Sauvignon, when young, can be quite bold, yet will mellow out with age. The flavor notes most commonly associated with this wine are a variety of dark fruits like currants, cherry, and plum.


Following in step with Bordeaux, Merlot has been a staple blending variety in Napa Valley since the 1970s and is often mixed with its more tannic partner, Cabernet Sauvignon. Now that these initial vineyards have matured and their vintners have fine tuned their processes, Napa Valley Merlots have become quite respected among California red wines, and are known for a wide range of both lighter and full bodied wines.

Pinot Noir

This red varietal has been the bane of many a winemaker, as the fruits are known for being thin-skinned and fickle, yet connoisseurs of California red wines swear that the Pinots produced in Napa Valley are some of the world’s best. Being such a fragile fruit, Pinot Noir grapes are lighter in color than most red varietals and thus undergo an additional maceration process in production to extract more color from the fruit.

Cabernet Franc

Another grape borrowed from the Bordeaux style of blending varieties in production, Cabernet Franc is closely related to Cabernet Sauvignon and, when produced in Napa Valley, tends to make wines with just as much personality.  

Petite Sirah

These thick skinned and small berries produce a high ratio of skin to juice in fermentation, resulting in a dense and even syrupy wine. While that doesn’t sound the most appealing, after being aged in oak and then in the bottle the wines produced are rich and complex, often bearing notes of dark chocolate.

This primer on California red wines will be a great start to your wine education as you prepare for your next trip to Napa Valley. Winemakers of the region are proud of their craft, and absolutely love talking about it, so don’t be shy! There is so much to know about this ancient art!

Stay at Churchill Manor

The Napa Valley is filled with amazing delicious wineries, restaurants, and tasting rooms, and one of the benefits to staying at Churchill Manor is easy access to these destinations. Ask our friendly and helpful staff about our favorites!

Breakfast at Churchill ManorAnother benefit to staying with us at Churchill Manor is the ability to select from 10 exquisite rooms, some of which have a two-person soaking tub and a fireplace. Wake up slowly in one of our luxurious and romantic rooms. Enjoy a quiet breakfast in our sunroom or relax on the porch and eat outside. Start your romantic getaway in Churchill Manor by checking our availability and booking your favorite room today!