Michael's Insider Concierge - California Wine Appellation Specialist® Online

Hello My Wine Friend, 

The warm summer is finally upon us and it is time to think of wines to enjoy outside.  

Lately, I have been deeply engrossed in a professional wine course on the Appellations of California.  California Wine Appellation Specialist® Online is by Master Sommelier David Glancy through his San Francisco Wine School.  I highly recommend this course as I am learning a lot! 

I am studying each individual California AVA (American Viticultural Area) for its unique soil and climate as it relates to the best quality for the grapes grown.  I will be using this valuable information in my upcoming book: Exploring Wine Regions - California.  In the mean time, I am giving you the inside track of some of the wines I have discovered.  These are truly outstanding wines of impressive quality.  This I share with you.

  • Livermore AVA - Wente Vineyards, Chardonnay
  • Russian River Valley AVA - Dusk To Dawn Vineyards, Pinot Noir 
  • Santa Lucia Highlands AVA - Hahn Estate, Pinot Noir
​  • Knights Valley AVA - Beringer Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 

Sip with me.  We have a beautiful summer ahead.

Michael C. Higgins, PhD
Insatiable Traveler and Explorer


Wente Vineyards    
Riva Ranch Chardonnay

Arroyo Seco AVA - Wente is located in Livermore but this wine is from a large plot of land that they own in Monterey County.  

Fascinating Fact:  80% of all the Chardonnay planted in California can be traced back to the Wente Clone.

I am generally not a Chardonnay drinker; however, this wine will make you notice what is great about Chardonnay.

This is a rich, full-bodied Chardonnay, with rich pear flavors.  It is unusually tropical in the nose and mouth.  This Chardonnay is an impressive wine, at a very impressive price ($13.99).


Dusk To Dawn Vineyards
Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley AVA - Located in northern Sonoma County, just south of the historic little town of Healdsburg.

The Russian River Valley is known for its cool climate to produce extraordinary Pinot Noir. There is a gap in the coastal mountain range that allows the cool ocean breezes and fog to flow into the Russian River Valley to produce an optimal cool environment perfect for Pinot Noir grapes to grow.

This is an excellent Pinot Noir with delicious  juicy cherry flavors.  There are beautiful cherries and vanilla on the nose with bigger red cherry in the mouth.  Rich and elegant, with a hint of the sweetness of caramel.


Hahn Estate
SLH Pinot Noir

Santa Lucia Highlands AVA - 
 Located just south of the Monterey Bay in the Salinas Valley.  The deep Monterey Bay blows cold air and fog into this valley.  The Santa Lucia mountain range faces northeast into this valley giving the vineyards morning sun after the fog break, with afternoon cool breezes flowing through the valley.

​The Santa Lucia Highlands is a magical environment for growing Pinto Noir grapes. Seeing this AVA on the label, you can pretty much count on excellent Pinto Noir.  And Hahn uses the SLH initials of the AVA to denote their special wine.

Big nose of black fruit and spices.  Plum and deep black cherries in the mouth, with subtle earthy spices. ($29.99)


Beringer Vineyards
Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 

Knights Valley AVA -  Located in the far northeast of Sonoma County, to the east of the Alexander Valley AVA in the wooded mountains at the border of Napa Valley. 

Since this is a very remote mountainous region, it really does not have wineries.  Instead, smart wineries like Beringer, have vineyards here to grow extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignon, the special grape of the Knights Valley AVA.

This wine has a big nose of blackberries and licorice.  The mouth is even bigger with delicious blueberries, blackberries and dark coffee, with a hint of coco. This wine is silky smooth and so well balanced. Big tannins though and needs decanting and even better to hold for 10 to 20 years.  ($29.95)


This blog was contributed by:
Michael C. Higgins, PhD
PhotoJournalist & Publisher
Exploring Wine Regions
the lifestyle of enjoying extraordinary wines and travel experiences


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San Francisco Wine School strives to open up the world of wine to serious students and enthusiasts everywhere while helping people of all levels break into the wine industry, advance their career, or simply pursue their passions. Founded by Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator David Glancy, San Francisco Wine School is the largest wine school in the U.S., offering the most thoughtful approach to wine study. Their inspired educational programs and workshops are taught in their state of the art wine education & events center and their cutting edge virtual classroom by industry-leading instructors from all major educational disciplines. San Francisco Wine School’s curriculum features the best content in the business: expert course materials, carefully conceived wine flights, and in-depth blind tasting exercises designed to engage students, illuminate course content and enhance learning. Their brand new sunlight-filled wine education & events center is conveniently located just 5 minutes from San Francisco International Airport and boasts 16-ft high coved ceilings, eight 12-ft tall arched windows, and gorgeous 180 degree views of the San Bruno Mountains, South San Francisco City Hall and the San Francisco Bay, making it the perfect place to enjoy classes, industry seminars and tastings and host a wide variety of private events—from serious educational programs for wine/hospitality industry staff to team-building and other fun, social, private events for wine enthusiasts.

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