Today’s class traced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to their home in Burgundy before it went on to explore why Sonoma County, California, has proven as successful a place to their production.
Burgundy is divided into two popular areas, the Côte du Nuits to the north and the Côtes du Beaune to the south. The marl, gravel, sand, and limestone soils of the north support growth of the most renowned Pinot Noirs in the world. La Tache, Richebourg, Gevrey Chambertin, and Bonnes Mares are just a few of the world famous (and prestigious) wines made in an exclusive growing area called the Côtes d’Or, or “Gold Coast.” Conversely, Chardonnay is grown in the limestone soils of southern Côtes du Beaune, where prized bottles of Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Savigny-les-Beaunes are vinified, often with prices that can run into the hundreds of dollars. Lesser Côtes du Beaune areas include Mercurey, Givry, and the Maconnais, with average temperatures that run between 50 ̊to 70̊ degrees Fahrenheit.
Its American counterpart is California’s Sonoma County, north of San Francisco and east of the Pacific Ocean. Here, temperatures range between 70̊and 80̊ Fahrenheit, with alterations within certain microclimates. Certain soils are comprised of either sandstone or limestone in places, while others have elements of alluvial deposits, sand, clay, silt, and gravel deposits carried by water flow. (For example, consider Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, an ideal area for growing Pinot Noir. Its water source originates in the Laughlin Range, a part of the Pacific Mountain System). The county’s limestone offers perfect spots for Chardonnay to grow also, plots equal to those of Burgundy, with sandstone and alluvial deposits reflecting the soil of the Côtes du Nuit, where such spectacular fruit is grown.