Dean Clough

February 21, 2024

Portico Darwin: French Wino in Sonoma



<2 Minute Read

Some may find it shocking that I am well into a full week here in Sonoma, yet have not bragged nor otherwise gone on about it.  That all ends now, but it's not what you think. 

Motivated by my surroundings, I am pleased to present the virtue-signaling and decidedly pompous:

Portico Darwin Simple Guide to French Wines

Julie and I have been fortunate to learn much about wines, given our proximity to Napa and Sonoma.  And that knowledge has been expanded further on didn't-suck vacations to wine regions in Italy, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. 

And France. 

10 Seconds of Seriousness:  I am no expert on French or any other wines.  But I do think too many are wrongly confused and intimated when attempting to select a French wine they'll enjoy.  This is my attempt to make it easy. 

While many are aware of this, it's worth repeating that confidently buying French wine is as simple as remembering that they are labeled by region, and each region has a predominant varietal or varietals.

And if you drink wine now, you already know what varietal you like:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc.  Don't get hung up on not seeing the actual grape name on the label/list or the fact that the wine is almost certainly a blend of grapes from those grown in the region.

Now, the fun part.  Below are most of the main wine-making regions in France.  Just connect the grape variety you enjoy to its region, and you're ready to order or buy.  And I bet you've heard of most, if not all, of these places.

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Malbec
  • Cabernet Franc (primarily used for blending)
  • Petit Verdot (primarily used for blending)
  • Carménère (primarily used for blending)
  • Semillon

Loire Valley
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Sauvignon Blanc

  • Pinot Gris
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Riesling

  • Grenache
  • Syrah
  • Mourvèdre
  • Viognier

I typically associate the region with red wines, but boy, did I learn otherwise at the Sonoma go-to Girl and the Fig this past Monday.  They have, beyond the obvious and extensive list of Sonoma wines, a huge selection of Rhône wines; indeed, the region has been a focus since the restaurant opened 27 years ago. 

I am sharing all of that because this $52 bottle of white wine was so good, we had two.  An amazing value, at one of the best restaurants in California.

  • Synonymous with rosé wines, its proximity to Rhône means the same grapes are often used
  • Like in this, the very popular Miraval:
Sutter Home White Zinfandel it ain't.

  • As you almost certainly know, only the Champagne region in France makes Champagne
  • But look for a Cremant - these are white or rosé sparkling wines made the same way, but elsewhere in France; they are often great values

Next time:  Cognac or Sauternes, anyone?

(No, not really and don't worry:  Another scintillating installment of London Calling is coming Friday.)


The stars must have aligned, as this came in from the noted oenologist, Dr. Davis Fladgate.  However, his correspondence was not about wine, but the related subject of travel.  Here are some rabbit holes for you, via Davis and Travel & Leisure Magazine:

10 Best Places to Live in the US for Families

20 Best Places to Live in Europe

9 Best Places to Retire in Mexico

Thanks, Davis and LOL - SF finished 10th on list #1.  List #2 includes several of our favorites, and I think Mexico and Mexicans are kick-ass, and we would never rule out retiring there.

Although moving to Sonoma would be a lot easier.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


Of course, it's the French chill-meisters Air.  I play this about once per year on KLUF, and for good reason.  Here, at both TIDAL and Spotify, is my Diamond Certified and hand-picked selection of their best music.

It's almost exactly 2 hours in length, and will be an ideal complement for your next bottle of wine, wherever its source.

About Dean Clough