Pinots, Cabs and Chardonnay with a sense of place

In California, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Chardonnay are planted just about everywhere, often side by side. But their wines seldom speak of any particular place. That's changing, though, as the state's wine industry continues to evolve.

Distinctions are emerging among Cabernets from different zones within Napa Valley. Try comparing Cabs from Rutherford (Staglin Family Vineyards), Calistoga (Chateau Montelena) and Stags Leap District (Shafer Vineyards).

Pinot Noirs on the cutting edge are showing the regional distinctions of two or three areas, especially Carneros (Saintsbury), the Russian River Valley (Dehlinger), Sonoma Coast (Williams Selyem "Hirsch Vineyard") and Santa Lucia Highlands (Morgan "Garys' Vineyard").

But for now, Zinfandel is way ahead of the varietal pack in the scope and scale of its regional expressions.

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