Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga was founded in 1964 by Peter Newton, an English businessman and journalist. The first commercial vintage was the 1969 Merlot. Ric Forman was the winemaker for the early vintages, which were made in a Bordeaux style. In 1977 the estate was sold to Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and in 1983 it was purchased by Seagram. Today the estate owns more than 700 acres and makes a large portfolio of wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Riesling and Pinot Grigio.
Central Coast AVA is a huge wine producing area that extends from Santa Barbara County in the south to San Francisco in the north. With more than 100,000 vineyard acres, it includes parts of six counties near the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 20 smaller AVAs lie within the Central Coast AVA. Central Coast earned appellation status in 1985. Included in the appellation are parts of the counties of Contra Costa, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. Nearly every grape varietal grown in California is grown somewhere in the Central Coast AVA, though Chardonnay accounts for nearly 50% of the entire wine grape crop.
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.