Small in size, but mighty in stature…
Just an hour’s drive north of San Francisco lies the Napa Valley, California’s most revered fine wine region. Despite its world-wide fame, the Napa Valley is a relatively small vineyard area, consisting of 46 000 acres, divided across 16 sub-AVAs (American Viticultural Areas, or appellations). Famous for its bold, fruit-forward Cabernet Sauvignon, the Napa Valley produces a wide assortment of grapes, including opulent Chardonnay, plush Merlot, and vibrant Sauvignon Blanc.
The Napa Valley stretches northward 30 miles from the San Pablo Bay to Calistoga. Cool ocean breezes funnel through the Petaluma Gap into the San Pablo Bay making the southerly vineyards of the Napa Valley considerably cooler than those situated further north. Carneros, Napa’s southernmost AVA is highly regarded for its crisp sparkling wines crafted from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Hot Calistoga, at the north end of the valley, is better suited to full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel production.
Altitude also plays a major factor in Napa’s climate. Plantings range from sea level to as high as 600 metres above the valley floor. Lower lying vineyards, such as those of Rutherford, are esteemed for their supple, elegant wines. Whereas, mountainside vineyards like Howell Mountain, are regarded for their freshness, firm structure, and concentrated dark fruit flavours.
The Napa Valley is composed of a complex mixture of volcanic, alluvial, and maritime soil types, creating a patchwork of vineyards ranging from well-drained gravel loam, to dense clay, to thin, rocky hillside soils. The combination of such diverse soils and climate conditions give a unique expression to each AVA.
Sustainability is of vital importance to the 475 wineries of the Napa Valley. All members of the region’s grower’s alliance, Napa Valley Vintners, have committed to achieving the ambitious Napa Green environmental certification.