Saintsbury is in the Carneros appellation in southern Napa Valley. It was founded in 1981 by Richard Ward and David Graves. The men met as students in the winemaking program at the University of California at Davis. They decided to focus on Pinot Noir, which in the early 1980s was rarely produced in California. The pair named their 53-acre estate after George Saintsbury, an early 20th-century English writer and wine connoisseur. Saintsbury makes several Pinot Noirs and a few Chardonnays. They purchase some of their grapes, and have also produced Syrah. Flagship wines are vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from Brown Ranch. Wine writer James Laube has noted that “Saintsbury has been a model of intelligent wine making on several counts. The winery’s style emphasizes ripe fruit flavors and supple textures and the ratio of quality to price is high.”
Carneros AVA, also known as Los Carneros, is at the southern end of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys at the top of the San Francisco Bay. The 8,000 vineyard acres are mostly planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both of which thrive in the district’s cool, marine climate. Carneros became an AVA in 1983 and it has attracted foreign wine companies along with local producers. It has been especially appealing to European producers of sparkling wines including the giant Spanish cava producers Codorniu and Frexinet, and the French Champagne house Taittinger. Codorniu in Carneros is called Artesa, and Frexinet’s Carneros brand is Gloria Ferrer. Taittinger calls its Carneros winery Domaine Carneros. The European producers also make still wines in Carneros.
This red wine is relatively light and can pair with a wide variety of foods. The grape prefers cooler climates and the wine is most often associated with Burgundy, Champagne and the U.S. west coast. Regional differences make it nearly as fickle as it is flexible.