Contra Costa County is a sub appellation within the Central Coast AVA. Contra Costa is the region just to the east of San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Though the area includes many square miles of suburban build-up, there are also vineyards. It is the northern edge of the Central Coast AVA, 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.