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General Wine Descriptions


CHARDONNAY: The most widely planted varietal in California, it has become synony­mous with white wine in the minds of many consumers. A dry wine with a balance of fruit, acidity and texture, it can be produced in many styles from clean and crisp to rich, complex and oaky. Often exhibits the aroma and taste of apples, peaches, citrus and vanilla.

CHENIN BLANC: Light, floral and fruity (peach and citrus), this is usually a well-bal­anced wine. Can be made dry to slightly sweet. Planted throughout France’s Loire Valley and grown for more than a hundred years in California.

FRENCH COLOMBARD: Used primarily for blending, although it can be made as a light semi-sweet varietal.

GEWURZTRAMINER: One of the most easily identifiable wines, it has a distinctive spicy aroma and

JOHANNISBERG RIESLING: Floral with fruity, yet delicate, aro­mas and flavors. Styles range from dry to sweet.

MUSCAT BLANC: Sweet, generally simple wines made for casual quaffing. Wines from Paso Robles are among the better examples.

SAUVIGNON BLANC: Generally light to medium-bodied wines with a grassy, herbaceous aroma.

SEMILLON: Usually off-dry with a fruity almost spicy aroma and herbaceous, citrus flavor.

VIOGNIER: A small number of winerics arc experimenting with this varietal. Wines are quite flavorful with a fairly distinctive floral aroma.



CABERNET SAUVIGNON: This varietal is undoubtedly one of the finest reds in California and the world. The best have tremendous depth, complexity, flavor concentration and intensity, are full-bodied and can age for

CABERNET FRANC: Used primarily for blending; flavors of mint and olives.

GAMAY BEAUJOLAIS: Believed to be related to pinot noir, and not to be confused with gamay, it is a fruity, medium-bodied wine.

GRENACHE: A light-colored red grape used for blending and for producing blush wines.

MERLOT: Soft is the word most often used to describe the easy accessibility and drinkability of this wine. Long used for blending with cabernet sauvignon, it has come into its own as a California varietal. Medium- to full- bodied with herbaceous flavors.

PETITE SIRAH: Frequently full-bodied, robust and tannic with a spicy nose and peppery flavors.

PINOT NOIR: One of the most difficult grapes to grow. Delicate, smooth and rich in complexity, often with a raisin-like undertone and hints of black cherry and mint. Also used in production of sparkling wine.

SANGIOVESE: Very small amounts of this grape, which, traditionally, is cultivated throughout Tuscany, are being grown in California, particularly in Napa and Sonoma.

ZINFANDEL: Berry-like with spicy, black pepper flavors, can he light- to full- bodied.


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