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Explore Butte County Wineries

With about 20 winer­ies and vine­yards across Butte Coun­ty — from the small, fam­i­ly-owned Odyssey Vine­yards in Chico and Durham’s Almen­dra Win­ery and Dis­tillery to Oroville’s Long Creek Win­ery and Ban­gor Ranch Vine­yard and Win­ery in the south­east part of the coun­ty — there is no short­age of places to unwind for a glass or pro­cure a favorite vin­tage for a spe­cial (or any!) occasion.

His­to­ry of Wine in Butte County

His­tor­i­cal­ly, a flour­ish­ing wine pres­ence in Butte Coun­ty seemed unlike­ly. Some of the area’s ear­li­er pio­neers unsuc­cess­ful­ly gave wine grape-grow­ing a go: Leland Stan­ford, Peter Lassen, and even famed pro­hi­bi­tion­ist John Bid­well took a swing at pro­duc­ing wine grapes in the region. Whether it was due to choos­ing vari­etals that weren’t ide­al for the cli­mate or a lack of demand is hard to say, but for what­ev­er rea­son, wine didn’t take root in Butte Coun­ty for many years after those first attempts.

Tony San­tos is cred­it­ed with estab­lish­ing the first mod­ern vine­yard in Butte Coun­ty in 1968, accord­ing to Phil LaRoc­ca of LaRoc­ca Vine­yards. In the ear­ly 1990s, though, an upswing began. LaRoc­ca him­self had start­ed to make a name as a bit of a farm-to-table savant thanks to var­i­ous roles in agri­cul­ture and cui­sine, but his wine renown real­ly began when he took over a cou­ple of strug­gling caber­net sauvi­gnon and mer­lot vine­yards in For­est Ranch in 1984, accord­ing to a 2017 Sacra­men­to Bee report. His suc­cess in bring­ing them along was the begin­ning of an edu­ca­tion for the area about which prop­er­ties about cer­tain wine grape vari­eties could enable them to flour­ish in the var­i­ous val­ley climates.

The Local Cli­mate’s Effect on Wine Growing

Look­ing at Durham, Oroville, and Ban­gor — all agri­cul­tur­al hotbeds in the coun­ty, com­pared to the more urban and beer-dom­i­nat­ed stylings of Chico — each has an envi­able list of wine pur­vey­ors and grow­ers. Indeed, the empha­sis on agri­cul­ture in those sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties could be the first major hint about wine’s pop­u­lar­i­ty in spe­cif­ic parts of Butte County.

For starters, cer­tain ele­ments of the cli­mate on the Sacra­men­to Val­ley floor indi­cate that spe­cif­ic grape vari­eties can flour­ish here, while oth­ers sim­ply won’t thrive. 

Butte Coun­ty has very fer­tile, deep top­soil that sup­plies plen­ty of nutri­ents to grow excep­tion­al fruit,” explained Berton Bertagna, the own­er of Almen­dra Win­ery & Dis­tillery and Bertagna Son Kissed Vine­yards. The high heat in our val­ley works well with cer­tain vari­eties, and brings out the sug­ars and inten­si­fies the fla­vors and pro­files in the wine.”

In the local area, Euro­pean wine grapes ben­e­fit most from the warm (and often quite hot) cli­mate, and also from the winds that coun­ty natives know so well. 

Bertagna said that some of the bet­ter-grow­ing grapes in the region are tra­di­tion­al Ital­ian vari­eties, like San­giovese and Bar­bera, as well as some clas­sic vari­eties like Zin­fan­del and Syrah. 

Plant­i­ng the cor­rect vari­eties for our region lends itself to excel­lent wines,” Bertagna said.

The region’s fre­quent air streams that breeze through the val­ley also sup­port those excel­lent wines. While many winer­ies in dif­fer­ent cli­mates have to use chem­i­cal fungi­cides to com­bat mois­ture and fun­gal infec­tions caused by still con­di­tions, Butte County’s breezy val­ley means that local grow­ers can use sul­phur as a nat­ur­al fungi­cide or even none at all, which means there is an abun­dance of organ­ic wines available.

Organ­ic wines do excel­lent here,” Bertagna said, as they will in any area when farmed correctly.”

Some of the more renowned organ­ic winer­ies in the coun­ty include Nascere Vine­yards and Dog Creek Cel­lars, locat­ed in Durham, and LaRoc­ca Vine­yards, all of which have been fea­tured on the Sier­ra Oro Farm Trail in recent years.

Over­all, this is an excit­ing time for wines in Butte Coun­ty, said Jen­nifer Leonard, the gen­er­al man­ag­er at Almen­dra, not­ing a boom in small hob­by vine­yards and large-pro­duc­tion vine­yards alike since 2000. Region­al winer­ies have come togeth­er to form wine dis­tricts — specif­i­cal­ly, the Durham Wine Dis­trict just south of Chico and the Ban­gor Wine and Spir­its Region in south coun­ty — to pro­vide vis­i­tors with an ele­vat­ed, mul­ti-stop eno­log­i­cal adventure.

Enjoy a Vis­it and Tastings

Whether explor­ing a dis­trict or sin­gle win­ery, wine enthu­si­asts in Butte Coun­ty will find high-qual­i­ty North­ern Cal­i­for­nia wines paired with rea­son­able tast­ing fees, relaxed and invit­ing tast­ing rooms, and easy access to the wine­mak­ers — in fact, they’re often the ones pour­ing the wine tast­ings! That rare com­mu­ni­ty feel around the region’s wine indus­try cre­ates a more inti­mate wine-tast­ing expe­ri­ence that can be hard to find at oth­er destinations. 

There is an increased desire to dis­cov­er craft winer­ies and dis­til­leries,” Leonard said, and to con­nect with the wine­mak­er. … I expect that as more and more peo­ple dis­cov­er and explore the wines of Butte Coun­ty that we will con­tin­ue to grow and make our stamp on the wine world.”

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