Appellation Name: Carneros, or Los Carneros
Where: Napa and Sonoma Counties in California
Officially Established: September 19, 1983
Location: In southern Sonoma and Napa counties, along Highway 121, from slightly west of Arnold Drive in Sonoma to slightly east of Highway 29 in Napa. For an exact, 27-step description of the official boundaries, please go here. To see a map of the area, please go here.
Background: The Carneros region was the first California American Viticultural Area (AVA) to span two counties, and the first California wine region to be defined by the characteristics of its climate rather than political boundaries. Vineyards were first planted in the 1830‘s, with the first winery established in the early 1870’s. Carneros achieved official AVA status in 1983 and a technical amendment from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (ATTTB) in 2006 made it clear that both “Carneros” and “Los Carneros” may be used as the name for the area. “Carneros” is Spanish for “Sheep.”
Wines/Varietals known for: Due to its cool climate, Carneros is best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines made from those grapes. Other varietals that do well here include Albariño, Roussanne, Pinot Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Recommended Wineries and Wines in Carneros
Two Guys From Napa recommend Artesa, Bouchaine Vineyards, Ceja Vineyards, Cuvaison, Domaine Carneros, Donum Estate, Etude Wines, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Liana Estates, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards and Winery, Saintsbury, Schug Carneros Estate, and Truchard Vineyards.
For details on the wineries, contact information, and our favorite wines, please use the navigation bar above to click on Favorites By Wine Region and follow the drop-down menu through either Favorites in Napa County or Favorites in Sonoma County to the Carneros Region link. Or, you can just click here.
Are Reservations Needed at the Wineries We are Recommending? If you are in a party of 5 or less, there are several wineries you can visit for wine tasting that don’t require an advance reservation. Otherwise, you should make a reservation. More information can be seen on our Favorites in Carneros Region page.
Favorite wines tasted recently made from grapes grown in the Carneros Appellation:
- Gloria Ferrer 2013 Brut Rosé
- Donum Estate 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir
- Bouchaine 2016 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
- Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2014 Abraxas (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer)
- Cuvaison 2014 Kite Tail Chardonnay
- Domaine Carneros 2015 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay
- Etude Wines 2013 Heirloom Chardonnay
- Poseidon Vineyard 2014 “Boon Fly’s Hill” Chardonnay
- Saintsbury 2014 Sangiacomo Green Acres Chardonnay
- Truchard 2014 Chardonnay
- ZD Wines 2015 Reserve Chardonnay
- Liana Estates 2015 Vintners White Blend (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc)
- Ancien 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir
- Bouchaine 2015 Gee Vineyard Pinot Noir
- Donum Estate 2014 Carneros Estate Pinot Noir
- Etude Wines 2014 Deer Camp Pinot Noir
- Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2012 Capa Vineyard Pinot Noir
- Saintsbury 2014 Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir
- Schug Carneros Estate 2014 Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir
- Truchard 2014 Pinot Noir
- ZD Wines 2014 Founders Reserve Pinot Noir
- Ceja Vineyards 2011 Carneros Merlot
- Truchard 2014 Merlot
- Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2012 Cabernet Franc
- Truchard 2013 Syrah
- Ceja Vineyards 2009 Dulce Beso
Please note that not all of the wineries listed above are physically located in the Carneros region.
Recommended Restaurants in Carneros
For details on the restaurants, contact information, and our favorite dishes, please use the navigation bar above to click on Favorites By Wine Region and follow the drop-down menu through either Favorites in Napa County or Favorites in Sonoma County to the Carneros Region link. Or, you can just click here.
Lodging Suggestions for Visiting Carneros
Within the appellation itself, the Carneros Resort and Spa is a luxurious retreat nestled among 28 acres of farmland including grapevines and apple orchards. If you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, they have electric vehicle charging stations and complimentary bicycles available (first come, first served). We also recommend the onsite restaurant Boon Fly Café.
In southern Sonoma, MacArthur Place is a lush 19th-century estate that has been transformed into a luxurious inn and spa set among seven acres of spectacular gardens filled with original sculpture. Each of the Inn’s 64 rooms and suites are individually appointed with designer furnishings, down comforters and custom linens.
In southern Napa Valley, the Meritage Resort and Spa is a luxury hotel featuring Tuscan inspired guestrooms and wine tasting onsite. The underground spa features steam grottoes, soaking pools, treatment alcoves and tranquil walls of water.
In central downtown Napa, the Andaz Napa is a boutique hotel blending high design with distinct architectural elements and state-of-the-art technology. It’s also within easy walking distance of many restaurants, shops, and downtown tasting rooms.
If you prefer Bed & Breakfasts, the Historic Inns of Napa offer full breakfast, air conditioning, gardens, and many other amenities. The organization’s nine members include Beazley House, Churchill Manor, Hennessey House, La Belle Epoque, and McClelland-Priest.
You’re bound to find something conveniently located in the cities of Napa or Sonoma, since Carneros is only 10-20 minutes away from either one, no matter your budget.
Other Information About Carneros
Appellation Climate: The Carneros region is significantly influenced by the maritime breezes and fog that come up from the San Pablo Bay on its south side, and the climate is more moderated than other wine regions to the north.
Appellation Soils: The soils in Carneros are predominantly clay and typically shallow in depth.
Distance to get here: The Carneros region is only about 10-20 minutes from the center of either Napa or Sonoma cities, and 40-50 minutes from either St. Helena or Santa Rosa. Sacramento is about 60-70 minutes away, and the trip from San Francisco is about 60 minutes.
Other Local Attractions:
Located on over 200 scenic acres in the Carneros region of the Napa Valley, di Rosa is a non-profit art destination housing the foremost collection of contemporary Bay Area art in the world, with approximately 2000 works by 800 artists working from the 1960’s to the present. The property includes three separate galleries, a sculpture park, a 35-acre lake, and wildlife preserve.
The di Rosa Gatehouse Gallery welcomes drop-in visitors to view di Rosa’s current exhibitions. To view the rest of the galleries and grounds (which contain the permanent collection) a tour is required. Advance reservations are highly recommended. 5200 Sonoma Highway, Napa (707) 226-5991
Cornerstone Sonoma is a wine country marketplace featuring a collection of world-class shops, galleries and gardens. The Cornerstone Gardens offer an ever-changing series of innovative designs from local and international landscape designers. The Sunset Test Gardens are also here, where they grow an interesting variety of plants and trees and experiment with design techniques. Sunset will soon bring their Sunset Celebration Weekend event to Cornerstone again on May 20-21, 2017.
Cornerstone Sonoma also has tasting rooms for a distillery and several wineries you can visit, and if you get hungry there is an onsite café. FYI, the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau also operates a Visitor Center on the property. 23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma (707) 933-3010