+1 855.946.3338
Lots of influences shape final results

Lots of influences shape final results

In a recent class a student asked a very simple question: “Why would rich soils grow more diluted grapes for wine?” It brought up the discussion of the different environmental factors that influence wines.

It starts with the grapes. Think of grapes as apples, each variety of which is a little different. One will have high acid (Granny Smith), another sweetness (Ambrosia, Fuji) and each has distinct characteristics. How do you know these taste profiles? Chances are you have eaten a lot of apples in your lifetime.

But grapes, in addition to the distinctive taste profiles due to variety, are further affected by variables in growing conditions and winemaking processes.

As a grape ripens the acidity drops and the sugar increases. The more sugar the grape has the higher the alcohol level. This is why higher-alcohol wines are often produced in hotter climates such as California, Spain and Australia, where grapes ripen faster.

The riper a grape becomes also affects the flavor of a wine. A red grape grown in a hot climate will result in wines that have more jammy, baked or dried fruit tones. Red grapes struggling to ripen in cooler climates produce more reserved, fresh berry flavors.

If a grape is grown in a cool climate the acidity will be higher. This is why most New Zealand sauvignon blanc has such racing acidity.

The viticulture also affects the grape and the type of wine it produces. If the vines struggle for nutrients and water, the fruits are more concentrated. If the vines are allowed to spread out in a large agriculture setting with irrigation and rich soils the resulting wine will be less concentrated. This is why many wine labels explain about “drip irrigation” or “dry farming.” Both will increase the concentration of the ending wine.

To further the learning fun, compare a jammy red wine from a hot climate, a fresh berry cool-climate red and a high acidity white.

Jammy Hot Climate Reds


  • 2013 Greg Norman Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $13 retail)


  • 2012 Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $28 retail)

Fresh Cool Climate Reds


  • 2013 J. Lohr Estates Pinot Noir, California (about $13 retail)


  • 2013 Schug Winery Pinot Noir, California (about $20 retail)

Racing Acidity Cool Climate Whites


  • 2013 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $13 retail)


  • 2013 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $21 retail)

California’s fog, wind work their magic

Every fine wine region has its own terroir — climate, soil type, topography — and it is believed these unique conditions give wines their distinct characteristics and styles.

Examples of terroir include Bordeaux’s Garonne River with its gravel and clay soils or Burgundy’s Jurassic limestone nestled in with a perfect sun exposure. California’s Monterey County has also joined this terroir club with a few geological wonders.

Beneath Monterey Bay is an enormous submarine canyon 60 miles long and two miles wide. Compared in size and depth to the Grand Canyon, the underwater canyon is sometimes called the “Blue Grand Canyon.” This canyon provides a unique climate pathway connecting the sea to the wine-growing regions of Monterey, bringing cool maritime influences with fog and wind.

The impact of the canyon is seen through a visual representation called “The Thermal Rainbow,” another term trademarked by the growing region for its diverse attributes. During the morning Monterey County is cool, about 55 degrees and mainly covered by a thick marine layer. As the sun rises the valley warms, burning off the fog and slowly heating the air. This heat forces warm air to rise and create a low-pressure effect. Cool air from the ocean is drawn and funneled through the Gabilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges. This air flow acts as a natural airconditioning system resulting in a range of temperatures from the north to the south and allowing for slow, gentle ripening of the grapes.

Vineyards are planted specif ically within The Thermal Rainbow, with cool-climate loving pinot noir and chardonnay found mainly in the north and sunloving cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and Rhone varieties flourishing in the south.

For more information or to plan a trip to this beautiful wine region visit their website at montereywines.org.


  • 2008 Chalone Vineyards Chardonnay, California (about $18 retail)
  • 2008 The Hess Collection Monterey Chardonnay, California (about $18 retail)
  • 2008 Wente Vineyards Merlot, California (about $19 retail)


  • 2008 J. Lohr Vineyards Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $23 retail)
  • 2008 Morgan Winery Monterey County Pinot Noir, California (about $47 retail)
  • 2007 Heller Estate Chardonnay, California (about $34 retail)