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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for July-August 2001


A Napa Versus Sonoma Shootout

Louis M. Martini

Louis M. Martini Winery.


Kenwood Winery.



"Today Sonoma County has its fair share of imposing and prestigious wineries [that] are a match for any grand estate in the Napa Valley. But it was not always thus. In fact, Sonoma remained steeped in rusticity until just 25 years ago."
...Stephen Brook, The Wines of California, 1999


Has Sonoma Caught Up?

So, Sonoma's been closing in on Napa? Has it caught up? To get an idea, we matched 11 Sonoma bottles against 11 Napas of the same varietal and price. The bottles were wrapped and my 15 tasters picked these winners.

Price Winner The Wine
  Napa Sonoma  
$8.50 X   Sauvignon Blanc, Louis Martini, Napa Valley, 1999
$11.50   X Sauvignon Blanc, Kenwood, Sonoma County, 1999
$12   X Cabernet Sauvignon, Belvedere, Sonoma County, 1992
$18   X Zinfandel, Gundlach-Bundschu, Sonoma Valley, 1998
$18 X   Sauvignon Blanc, Robert Mondavi, Stags Leap District, 1998
$18   X Pinot Noir, Gundlach-Bundschu, Sonoma Valley, 1997
$20   X Sonoma grapes; Napa winery; Zinfandel, Grgich Hills, Apln.—Sonoma County, 1997
$22   X Merlot, Gundlach-Bundschu, Sonoma Valley, 1997
$25 X   Merlot Reserve, Charles Krug, Napa Valley, 1997
$25 X   Pinot Noir, ZD, Carneros, 1995
$34 X   Generations (Bordeaux varietals), Charles Krug, Napa Valley, 1996


a) Sonoma grapes won six matches to Napa Valley's five.
b) However, Napa winemakers won six matches to five for Sonoma. This is because Napa's Mike Grgich used Sonoma grapes to make his $20 winning Zin.
c) Conclusion—Our results agree with Stephen Brook's opening observation that Sonoma County is becoming very competitive with Napa.

Research Assistance—Joe and Judy Lorentz


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.



This page created July 2001