Santa Cruz Mountains – There are many boutique wineries found along both sides the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains. More than fifty wineries operate here. Elevation, location (being on the cooler Santa Cruz side of the ridge vs. the warmer Santa Clara side), ocean winds and fog all affect the micro-climates of Santa Cruz Mountains.
Livermore Valley – Winemaking began here when an English sailor, Robert Livermore, jumped ship in 1844 and planted the first vineyards. Livermore Valley is one of the first designated appellations based on its unique gravel-based soils and marine winds drawn into the valley every afternoon, has more than 40 wineries.
Santa Clara Valley - The “Valley of Heart’s Delight” has a long rich history of viticultural dating back to the Gold Rush era. Urban sprawl has forced most of the valley’s wine industry to migrate to its southern extremes near Gilroy but there are still 22 wineries in this appellation. The valley is largely protected from the influence of the Pacific Ocean.
San Benito – Long the home of industry giant Almaden, San Benito shook when this winery sold out in the late 1980’s. Small boutique wineries have taken its place and there are over 300 acres planted now. The climate is moderate, cooled by the Pacific Ocean breezes that penetrate through the mountain ranges.
Monterey – Most of this massive appellation lies south of Salinas in the fertile Salinas Valley. A few Monterey wineries lie within the 50 mile radius of San Jose, in the area a few miles south of Salinas. This area has a moderate climate with fog cooling the air in the morning and a midday blast of air, keeping daytime temperatures in the 70’s.
For more information and lists of wineries: