St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is in Sonoma County. It was founded in 1971 by Joe Martin who planted 22 acres of Chardonnay and 60 acres of Merlot. Today the estate is part of the Kobrand conglomerate of wine and spirits companies. St. Francis now owns more than 415 acres in several appellations, including Sonoma and the Russian River Valley. St. Francis produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Claret, Merlot, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. The estate is especially well known for its old vines Zinfandel.
Sonoma Valley AVA is Sonoma County’s original winegrowing district. Designated as an AVA in 1981, it includes 14,000 vineyard acres in a long, narrow valley that runs north-south. Rather romantically, the valley is also called The Valley of the Moon. The oldest winery in the AVA, and one of the oldest in California, is Buena Vista Winery, founded in 1857 by a Hungarian count who planted vineyards in Wisconsin before moving to California. Today there are nearly 60 wineries in the AVA producing a variety of wines, from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewurztraminer. The appellation is bordered by mountain ranges on the east and west, which partly account for Sonoma Valley’s unique terroir. The mountains protect it from the cooling weather of the Pacific Ocean and fruit ripens well.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.