Clarksburg is a 128 square mile AVA (American Viticultural Area) five miles south of the capitol city of Sacramento. The California capitol lies eighty miles northeast of San Francisco in the northern extremes of the Central Valley. This area would little interest me if it were not for the convergence of natural phenomena that results in a very counter-intuitive wine-friendly terroir. If I was a landscape designer I would say the place has "bones"; you just have to dig a bit to find them.
The Clarksburg AVA was established in 1984 and today has 10,000 acres in vines. Since ninety percent of the wine production is made outside of the region, the Clarksburg Wine Growers Association was established in 1987 to recognize and protect those growers. Later when wineries actually started making wine there, "and Vintners" was added to the name. While the area was first settled in the 1850's, grape growing and wine production started about eighty years later, long after the area became known for its fruit and vegetable agriculture.
Clarksburg is located in the California River Delta formed by the convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. What was swampland a hundred years ago, has gradually been reclaimed as farmland and now, as vineyards. Most of Clarksburg lies ten feet above sea level. French drains in the vineyards facilitate the redirection of waters. It has a maritime climate courtesy of both the river influence and the breezes and fog from San Francisco Bay. Clarksburg is cooler than Napa and has the much desired diurnal effect of cool nights to complement warm day times.
The soils of Clarksburg are an alluvial mixture of clay and sand transferred there by the Sacramento River from the Sierra Mountains gold mining of a hundred fifty years earlier.
Historic vineyards and wineries of the region include Bogle and Wilson Vineyards, but as we said above, most of the wine production of the region is done elsewhere. Pine Ridge and Dry Creek Vineyards were in the vanguard of pedigreed northern California wineries to take advantage of Clarksburg fruit when they marketed Chenin Blanc and Viognier thirty years ago. To their credit they put Clarksburg on the wine map by putting the place name on their labels.