Napa Valley Appellations

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Los CARNEROS - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Los Carneros Appellation Napa Valley ranted its official AVA status within the Napa Valley Appellations in 1983, but the area’s first winery, Bouchaine Vineyards, was established in the 1870s. The name Los Carneros, meaning ‘the rams’ in Spanish, dates from the 1830s when Mexico administered this region with sheep ranches. Sheep ranches, dairies, and hay fields continued to dominate until the 1970s, and even today sheep help to naturally control weeds in the area. The official boundaries of the Los Carneros AVA fall into both Napa and Sonoma counties with the largest portion being in Sonoma. The region is moderately cool and windy with influences from nearby San Pablo Bay, making early morning fog a persistent feature.

The soils of the Los Carneros region are predominantly clay and is very thin and shallow, providing poor drainage and fertility. The fierce and persistent winds coming off the San Pablo Bay encourages the grapevines to struggle causing moisture to retain. While this will aid in keeping crop yields small, it can also delay the grapes from ripening sufficiently. In vintages with a long, drawn out growing season that allow the grapes to ripen, intense and vivid flavors can develop. Los Carneros is primarily associated with cool-climate wines such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines made from those grapes. Wineries in Carneros include, Domaine Carneros, Bouchaine Vineyards, Etude Wines, and Hyde vineyards.

COOMBSVILLE - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Coombsville Appellation is a 11,000 acre region that was officially designated as the 16th sub-appellation of the Napa Valley Appellations in 2011. Located East of Napa, the Coombsville agriculture was initially focused on livestock and farming as opposed to vineyard development. It was only in the mid-20th century that the region began to attract attention from grape growers and vintners. The altitudes range from near sea level at the western edge of Napa, to about 1,900 feet at Mount George. The cool marine air and fog occur almost daily during the growing season, arriving earlier and lasting longer than most northern Napa Valley region. The soils of the Coombsville Appellation are substantially alluvial on top of volcanic ash and include large stones and gravel. These soils were formed by erosion of volcanic rhyolitic tuff from the Vaca Range, and allows easy drainage. Coombsville wineries mostly include all family-owned wineries and have a long history of production dating to the 1800s. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most grown varietal in the Coombsville AVA, and other red Bordeaux varietals; Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Due to its varied soil and the micro-climates spread throughout its rolling landscape, examples of Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir are also produced. Wineries in the Coombsville appellation include, Shadybrook Estate Winery, Ackerman Family Vineyards, and Caldwell Vineyard & Winery.

MOUNT VEEDER - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Mount Veeder Appellation consists of natural beauty and diversity; within 85% of the land still remains dense natural forest. Mount Veeder was designated as an AVA of Napa Valley Appellations in 1990 and is the only mountain district that adjoins the cool Carneros region. The signifigant marine influence from Carneros helps to produce mild summers and allows grapes to grow slowly and evenly. The breezes from San Pablo Bay can keep temperatures up to twenty degrees cooler than the valley floor which lengthens the growing season, usually making Mount Veeder the last to harvest in Napa Valley. Many vineyards are found on the steep mountain and are as steep as 30°, giving the vineyards benefits of direct sunlight and drainage.

The Mount Veeder Appellation is the most rugged and difficult vineyard terrain in California, and naturally limits the number of acres planted. The steep, winding slopes contain shallow topsoil with minimal water retention in many areas, and low nutrient content due to the steep runoff. Mount Veeder is made up of primarily rocky, clay seabed, with areas of volcanic soils and other variations. There are 17 grape varieties known to be planted on Mount Veeder such as, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Riesling, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Wineries located within the Mount Veeder appellation include, The Hess Collection Winery, Fontanella Family Winery, Progeny Winery, and Mayacamas Vineyards & Winery.

OAK KNOLL DISTRICT - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Oak Knoll District Appellation is at the Southern end of Napa Valley and was officially recognized as an AVA of Napa Valley Apellations in 2004. The marine influence from San Pablo Bay is strong here with foggy mornings, cool summer nights and cooler temperatures than up valley. This creates the longest growing season in the valley, providing early bud break and a long growing season for optimal, balanced ripeness. Oak Knoll District is one of the rare places in Napa Valley where it is warm enough to perfectly ripen red varietals while being cool enough for grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The cooler nights and slowly rising daytime temperatures create fruit with bright acidity and elegant flavors.

The Oak Knoll District soils are made of sand, gravel, and clay over a rock base and is porous allowing easy drainage. This soil forces vineyard roots to extend deep into the ground in search of water; stressing the vine, leading to long term health. The soil in the northern part of the AVA, near the hills, retains heat quite well and is capable of ripening full bodied red varietals. However, the soil on the valley floor is clay influenced and is planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other cool weather varietals. The Oak Knoll District is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. Wineries within the Oak Knoll AVA include, Black Stallion Winery, Trefethen Family Vineyards, and O’Brien Estate Winery.

YOUNTVILLE - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Yountville Appellation is a lesser known AVA of the Napa Valley Appellations that possesses a unique combination of climate and terroir producing magnificent Cabernet Sauvignon as well as other varietals. Yountville is named after George C. Yount, the settler who planted Napa’s very first vineyard at Rancho Caymus in the 1830s. Today, most of the vineyards are situated on the Napa Valley floor, although some are planted on the slopes of the foothills. It is slightly warmer than the Carneros and Oak Knoll AVAs to its South, but cooler than the Oakville, Rutherford, and St. Helena AVAs to the North. The balanced temperature in Yountville gives the wines a very distinctive profile, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, which dominates the AVA’s production.

Yountville AVA has a diverse range of microclimates and soil types that allow for many different grape varieties to be grown. Yountville’s vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with just a few percent of the vine rows given over to Syrah and Petite Sirah. The few white wines made in the AVA are based on California’s favorite white wine varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Yountville’s cooler growing conditions result in elegant wines which can age for a long time in the bottle. Although relatively small, Yountville is the home of some of the top growers and vintners in Napa Valley. Wineries within the Yountville AVA include, Hill Family Estate, Hope & Grace Wines, and Jessup Cellars.

STAGS LEAP DISTRICT - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Stags Leap District Appellation became an officially designated AVA in 1989 and is often referred to as a ‘valley within a valley.’ The Stags Leap District was the first of the Napa Valley Appellations to be designated an AVA based on the unique terroir characteristics of its soil. Located five miles North of the town of Napa, and East of the Napa River, along the Silverado Trail. This region covers an area three miles long and a mile wide, with half of its 2,700 acres planted to vineyards. The Stags Leap Palisades are the most prominent geographical feature in the area and are part of the Vaca Range. Stags Leap District AVA is well placed to receive cool, moist breezes that blow northwards from San Pablo Bay.

The soil from Stags Leap District includes loam and clay sediments from the Napa River and volcanic soil deposits left over from erosion of the Vaca Mountains. This free-draining soil forces the Cabernet vines to grow strong, deep roots, ultimately leading to healthier vines. The Stags Leap District is known for higher-quality fruit and for producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignons. Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 90 percent of the vineyards in Stags Leap District, although a small amount of Merlot and even Chardonnay is also grown. Wineries within the Stags Leap District AVA include, Stags’ Leap Winery, Chimney Rock Winery, and  Odette Estate Winery.

ATLAS PEAK - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Atlas Peak Appellation sits on a higher elevation than most of Napa Valley Appellations which limits the effects of the cool fog coming in from Pacific Ocean. The westward direction of most vineyards on the Vaca Mountains also extends the amount of direct sunlight on the grapes. The Foss River, rather than the Napa River, is largely responsible for the terroir in this region as every Atlas Peak vineyard is located within the Foss Valley. The Foss River flows down from the Milliken Reservoir and then plunges down a deep, narrow gorge and into the Rector Reservoir below. Atlas Peak grapes enjoy long, warm summer days, but are given the chance to cool down at night due to the temperature variation.

The soil of Atlas Peak AVA is volcanic and very porous which allows it to cool down quickly despite the increased sunlight. The volcanic and highly porous soils also aids in drainage and prevents waterlogging and provides naturally low-yield, high-quality wines. The area has a fairly significant diurnal temperature variation upwards of 30 °F  between daytime and night. Atlas Peak shows a heavy preference for Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for more than half of the vineyard area. Zinfandel and small quantities of Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese are also planted along with Chardonnay. Wineries within the Atlas Peak AVA include, Del Dotto Historic Winery & Caves, William Hill Estate Winery, and Krupp Brothers Winery & Estate.

OAKVILLE - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Located in the heart of Napa Valley, the Oakville Appellation was officially declared a sub-appellation of Napa Valley Appellations in 1993. Oakville AVA is a two-mile-wide swath of Napa Valley that extends to 600 feet in elevation up the base of the Vaca Mountains to the east and the Mayacamas Mountains to the west. Within this small district you will find the greatest concentration of Napa Valley’s most prominent producers of Cabernet Sauvignon. Oakville AVA has a warm climate well-suited to wine grape production with wind and fog arriving from the San Pablo Bay. The grapes ripen slowly in the sun without burning or raisining and slowing down the ripening process slightly, allowing the grapes to preserve acidity.

The Oakville AVA soil is gravelly and sandy, with exceptionally well-drained loam with one portion along Highway 29 that has a mix of clay. The Oakville AVA has over 80 wineries with either an estate owned vineyard or produciton facility, and dozens more that produce wine that is sourced in Oakville. Oakville has been known for having the ideal climate for growing age-worthy and complex Cabernet Sauvignon. Producers here focus on cultivating limited parcels of distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and even tinier parcels of high-quality Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. The wineries within the Oakville AVA include, Opus One Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery, Nickel & Nickel, and Silver Oak.

 

RUTHERFORD - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Rutherford Appellation was designated in 1993 and ranks among the very finest of Napa Valley Appellations. This region is located South of St Helena and immediately North of Oakville, at the heart of the Napa Valley winegrowing area. The vineyards reach from the base of the Mayacamas mountains to the Silverado Trail at the bottom of the Vaca mountains. Abundant sunshine and warm temperatures allow Rutherford’s grapes to reach optimal maturity over the course of the growing season. Rutherford has hot summer days that are also blessed with damp, cooling fog rising northwards up the valley from the Bay Area. The results of the long and even ripening period are grapes that produce deep, richly flavored wines with  balance.

The Rutherford AVA has deep, well-drained, sandy loam soils that are relatively consistent throughout the AVA, although a greater clay component can be found closer to the banks of the Napa river and Conn Creek. The appellation accounts for only 7,457 acres of which 1,454 acres are cultivated for grapes in the middle of Napa Valley. Rutherford is home to some of the regions most historic and world-renowned wineries such as Beaulieu Vineyards, Rutherford Hill, Raymond Vineyards, and Inglenook Winery. Bordeaux varieties dominate the vineyards, and tiny quantities of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown in the AVA. More wineries within the Rutherford appellation include, Peju Winery, Grgich Hills Estate, Cakebread Cellars, and Round Pond Estate Winery.

ST HELENA - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

St. Helena appellation was approved as an AVA in Napa Valley Appellations in 1995 and is nestled between the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges. Charles Krug opened his winery here in 1861 and now the AVA hosts more than 80 wineries. The shape and distance from the cool waters of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean set this historic location apart. The consistent sunshine and wide fluctuation of temperature during the growing season is due to the protection of the western hills. Heat is locked in during the day and is amplified by the hillsides, and at night moderate breezes dramatically cool the vines. St. Helena AVA covers a total area of roughly 12,000 acres with 6,800 of those acres under vine.

The mountain runoff on both sides of the Valley have created numerous waterways that have contributed to the 21 different soil types found in the St. Helena Appellation. The South and West borders are more sedimentary, gravel-clay soils, with lower fertility and moderate water retention. Further North and to the East the soils are prevalently volcanic in origin and are deeper and more fertile. This region is well suited to produce rich, structured red wines from the key Bordeaux varieties, as well as Zinfandel. Some of Napa Valley’s most historic, recognizable, and collectible wineries and vineyards are located in the St. Helena appellation including, Beringer, Charles Krug, Trinchero, and Salves

SPRING MOUNTAIN DISTRICT - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Spring Mountain District Appellation was officially established as an AVA in Napa Valley Appellations in 1993, and is above the town of St. Helena on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains. This mountain appellation is defined by vineyards that range from small to smaller, often hand-tilled on terraces and sloping meadows. The climate in Spring Mountain is based on elevation, with most vineyards located 1300-2000ft above sea level. The mornings warm more quickly on Spring Mountain than on the valley floor as most of the district lies above the morning fog line. The effect of this is moderately warm daily and nightly temperatures, keeping sugar accumulation in the berry in pace with flavor development.

Spring Mountain District Appellation contains about 8,600 acres, of which about 1,000 are planted to vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon dominating. Spring Mountain has an array of other grape varieties including, Merlot, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. The region contains mostly residual upland soils and a few areas of alluvial soils at lower elevations. The soils are derived almost equally from Franciscan sedimentary rocks and Sonoma volcanic formations. The rocky, infertile slopes provide the perfect level of stress for the vines, forcing them to dig strong root systems. Spring Mountain has over thirty wineries including, Barnett Vineyards, Pride Mountain Vineyards, Spring Mountain Vineyard, and Stony Hill Vineyard.

HOWELL MOUNTAIN - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Howell Mountain was the very first sub-region in Napa Valley Apellations to be officially recognized as an AVA, in 1984. Howell Mountain Appellation covers an area of land on the Vaca mountain range in the northern part of the valley, just above the town of St Helena. Howell Mountain is famous for its robust, complex red wines, the majority of which are made from Napa’s favorite, Cabernet Sauvignon. Howell Mountain AVA measures about 10 miles from northwest to southeast and less than two miles across at its widest point around the town of Angwin. The diurnal temperature variation gives the grapes the opportunity to bask in the sunshine throughout the day and cool down overnight.

Howell Mountain Appellation soils tend to be thin, dry and lacking in nutrients, forcing the vines to produce small, intense grapes. Many of Howell Mountain’s vineyards are planted on volcanic soils and in some places contains clay. Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are some of the most celebrated wines, with powerful flavors and robust tannins. In addition to those most well known here, other varietals planted on Howell Mountain are Merlot and Viognier. There are about 30 producers on the mountain and many wineries that source wine grapes to make a “Howell Mountain” designated wine. Wineries on Howell Mountain include, Cade Winery, Bremer Family Winery, Burgess Cellars, O’shaughnessy, Robert Foley Vineyards, and Duckhorn Vineyards.

DIAMOND MOUNTAIN DISTRICT - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Diamond Mountain District Appellation was established an AVA in Napa Valley Appellations in 2001, and is located at the northern end of Napa Valley. The Diamond Mountain forms part of the Mayacamas Mountains, which divides Napa from Sonoma Valley, located South of and above Calistoga. This AVA occupies 5000 acres of rolling vineyards, scrubland and forest on the western side of the valley. Most Diamond Mountain vineyards are located 656–820ft above sea level, and are scattered among the various peaks and troughs created by the low mountain topography. Diamond Mountain is one of Napa’s warmest AVAs due to the elevation above the valley floor, avoiding fog and winds.

The Sun-baked, rocky, infertile slopes on Diamond Mountain provide the perfect level of stress for the vines, forcing them to dig deep, strong root systems. This results in small yields of intensely flavored grapes with a good balance of sugars and acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates Diamond Mountain’s plantings, but there are also other grape varieties planted, mainly other Bordeaux varieties like Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, and Zinfandel. There is also a small number of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc vines providing fruit for the AVA’s white wines. Wineries on Diamond Mountain include, Reverie Vineyard, Schramsberg Vineyard, Von Strasser Winery, Lokoya Winery, and Diamond Creek Vineyards. 

CALISTOGA - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Calistoga Appellation was approved as a designated AVA in Napa Valley Appellations in 2009 and became effective in 2010 after two wineries fought the proposal. This region covers an area of the valley floor surrounding Calistoga town in the northern Napa Valley. Calistoga is distinguished by its volcanic soil, high temperatures during the day and cool nights during the growing season. This causes Calistoga to have the highest diurnal temperature variation in the Napa Valley and is most notable for its red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The hot days provide color and flavor in the wines, while the cool nights help to maintain acidity and structure.

The entirety of the Calistoga AVA is underlaid by volcanic bedrock and sediments, making it the most geologically uniform AVA in Napa Valley. Of all the soil series in Napa Valley, Calistoga AVA has the highest percentage of volcanic type soils. This environment enables growers to control vine quality and produce consistent flavors and characters within small vineyard block areas. Red wines outweigh whites in Calistoga with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, along with a few white wines based on Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Wineries in Calistoga include, Chateau Montelena Winery, Castello Di Amorosa, Frank Family Vineyards, Twomey Cellars, Cuvaison Estate Wines, Clos Pegase, and Arroyo Winery.

Chiles Valley - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Chiles Valley Appellation was designated an AVA in Napa Valley Appellations in 1999 and ranks among the smallest AVAs in the US. Located in the eastern hills in Napa Valley, just between St. Helena and Lake Beryessa, with a total area of 6000 acres, Chiles Valley AVA is elevated 1000ft above the Napa Valley floor, avoiding the morning fog and breezes which cool down the lower AVAs. Due to its eastern location and altitude, the area is little affected by maritime leaving Chiles Valley vineyards without a daytime cooling mechanism. However, the relatively high diurnal temperature variation brought about by increased altitude allows vineyards here to cool down overnight, retaining a level of acidity in the grapes. 

Chiles Valley Appellation’s wine heritage can be traced back to the 1870s when the first vines were planted. Now the area contains a number of small wineries with about 1000 acres under vine. The soil on the valley floor is primarily alluvial with silty-clay composition of marine origin, with good fertility. The hillsides show more clay-loam and stony-clay composition, mostly marine in origin, with some volcanic outcropping, and less fertility. The most planted grapes in Chiles Valley are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon blanc. Some wineries within Chiles Valley Appellation include, Volker Eisele Family Estate, Rustridge Vineyard & Winery, Green & Red Vineyard, and Chiles Valley Vineyard.

 

Wild Horse Valley - Napa Valley APPELLATIONs:

Wild Horse Valley Appellation was one of the first AVAs to be established in Napa Valley Appellations in 1988, after Howell Mountain and Napa Valley itself. This winegrowing region straddles the county line between Napa and Solano County, and only wines grown in the Napa portion can claim the Napa Valley title. Wild Horse Valley is one of the cooler AVAs in the area and is elevated roughly 1400ft above sea level. This altitude raises the vines above the fog level, but is open to the nearby San Pablo Bay breezes. The sunshine and high diurnal temperature variation make healthy vineyards that produce intensely colored wines with balance of acidity and tannin. Wild Horse Valley AVA covers just 3300 acres of land and is planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The Wild Horse Valley Appellation soil is lean and generally volcanic throughout the entire AVA which forces the vines to dig strong, deep, healthy root systems. The vines struggle for water source which causes the vines stress, resulting in reduced yields and increased concentration in the harvested fruit. Wild Horse Valley had its first vineyards planted in the late 19th Century, and today there are only around 100 acres dedicated to vine. Only a handful of boutique producers use this terroir that is planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, rather than the popular Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Heron Lake Winery created their first wine in 1985 and they still remain the only winery in the Wild Horse Valley AVA.

 

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