5 California Wine Grapes to Know

Sure, France, Italy, and Spain are known for their wine. However, the United States is also one of the top-producing wine regions globally, thanks to California. 

As of 2021, California makes 81% of all U.S. wine and is now the fourth leading global wine producer. 

Whether you’re a California local, just visiting the Golden State, or hoping to enjoy California wines from afar, get to know these five California wine grapes that leverage their unique terroir to produce exquisite varietals. 

1. Syrah

Sure, Syrah originated in France and is also well-known in Australia (referred to as Shiraz), but Syrah wines are also commonly produced in California and Washington state. 

Syrah grapes are known for their thick skin, creating dark, full-bodied reds. Syrah typically offers deep berry flavors initially, finishing with a light spicy or peppery aftertaste. For example, Sweet Oaks 2017 Sol De Luz – Bite Me – Syrah yields aromas and flavors reminiscent of blackberries, blueberries, and sweet red fruits, ending with hints of tobacco leaf, clove, and peppercorns. 

The 2018 Deluzional is another Syrah to check out. 

2. Pinot Noir 

Pinot Noir grapes are another California wine grape to know if you love red wine. Again, this grape is native to Burgundy, France, but is now an iconic grape variety grown in California. In the 1980s, Pinot Noir was becoming more popular as restaurants and sommeliers became aware of this wine’s food-pairing abilities. By 2018, 313,824 tons of California Pinot were crushed. 

California produces some exceptional Pinot Noirs that are distinct based on the areas that make them. Never a Dull Moment, produced in 2018, is the perfect bottle to feature at your next tasting event or enjoy on date night. This wine is dry and fresh, packed with cherry, red raspberry, pomegranate, and cranberry.

Read more: Sweet Oaks 2018 Pinot Noir – Tasting Notes and Pairings

3. Chardonnay 

Chardonnay is one of the most popular grape varieties around the globe. The exciting thing about the Chardonnay grape is that it has so many possibilities. This California wine grape produces wines that vary in taste and aroma with varying terroir. Some California wineries offer unoaked Chardonnay, as it expresses the nuances of where the wine was produced. Another popular option is to oak Chardonnay, creating a deeper, more complex flavor as the wine ages. 

For example, here’s how two Chardonnays differ, even though they were both produced in the Temecula Valley. On the palate, Sweet Oaks 2017 Chardonnay offers notes of apple and pear. This light wine has a refreshing acidity and a clean, easy finish. Sweet Oaks 2018 Chardonnay was released a year later, after being oak-matured. Hints of golden apple still shine through, with the addition of French oak and spice. Discover the best pairing options for this light to medium body wine.

4. Pinot Grigio 

Another highly versatile California wine grape, Pinot Grigio often yields a soft, low acidic wine — but this is not always the case. Best known for being a crisp, refreshing white wine, Pinot Grigio is a beloved wine among those produced in California. This grape may have been a late-comer to California but has since joined the ranks of the most widely grown California wine grapes in recent years. 

If you’re in the market for an aromatic Pinot Grigio that is full of ripe stone fruit flavors with a dry finish, Sweet Oaks 2020 Pinot Grigio is exactly that and more. This wine is ideal for pairing, as it goes with so many dishes. Discover more about pairing suggestions here

5. Viognier 

Viognier is a white grape that produces full-bodied wine known for its tropical and floral aroma. Although this grape has its roots in the Rhône Valley of France, it is now a beloved Southern California wine grape, particularly among distinguished winemakers. 


Because Viognier is thick, complex, and for many, obscure. When made by someone with skill, this wine has remarkable finesse, giving way to layers of flavor. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because this grape is relatively difficult to grow. However, that is starting to change, as plantings in California are becoming more common. 

If you’re someone who likes the weight of Chardonnay but prefers fruit and floral aromas, Viognier may be what you seek. Sweet Oaks is proud to offer a 2017 Viognier and a 2020 Viognier. Each offers unique characteristics.

Are you interested in Viognier food pairings? Check out this guide.

Sweet Oaks Continues to Produce Remarkable Grapes

Without quality grapes, you can’t make quality wine.

Our collection of wine pays homage to some of the world’s most sought-after grapes, as well as those that offer complexity and character, especially when grown somewhere like the Temecula Valley. 

Check out our wines to see what these California wine grapes have to offer.

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