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Napa Valley Wine

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The Region

Suited to Produce Extraordinary Wine

Timeline

New World Wine Region Created

Our Beginnings

European immigrants begin to settle a lush California valley, making wines to rival their homelands.

One Region’s Bust is Another’s Boom

The Gold Rush & Napa’s First Wave

California’s Gold Rush leaves most high and dry, and many look to a new economic opportunity in the nearby Napa Valley.

An Era of Excitement and Abundance

Roots in Napa Valley

The Napa Valley as we know it is founded by some very recognizable names and truly begins to flourish.

Experience & Expertise Lead the Way

The Quality Revolution

Vintners band together and begin to set the winemaking standards that the Napa Valley is known for today.

A Rising Star in the World of Wine

The First Boom

The Napa Valley’s unique terroir, climate and spirit of American entrepreneurship draw many talented vintners to the area.

Phylloxera, Prohibition and the Depression

Weathering Storms

After an exciting boom, hard times hit the Napa Valley at the turn of the 20th century.

A New Generation of Pioneers

Recovery & Rebuilding

As the grandfathers of today’s Napa Valley rebuild the wine industry, Cabernet Sauvignon emerges as the valley’s muse.

Working Better Together

Napa Valley Vintners Founded

This group lays the groundwork for the Napa Valley to become one of the premier winegrowing regions of the world.

The Highest and Best Use of the Land

The Napa Valley is the Country's First Agricultural Preserve

In a visionary act, the vintners of the Napa Valley place permanent protection on the land and prevent future overdevelopment of the region.

A Turning Point for the Napa Valley

The Judgement of Paris

In a landmark blind tasting, Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon take top honors against French wines.

Appreciation of Terroir

The Napa Valley AVA Is Established

With vineyard-designate wines gaining in popularity, the state’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA) is created in the Napa Valley.

Advocating For Great Wine

The Napa Valley’s Golden Decade

A combination of driven winemakers, high-scoring wines and idyllic conditions firmly place the Napa Valley among the elite wine regions of the world.

Playing By Our Own Rules

Napa Green Establishes Sustainability Standards

Napa Green is established as a comprehensive sustainability certification, setting rigorous standards for both vineyards and wineries.

Today’s Napa Valley

A World Renowned Wine Region

Reflecting on our past in order to seek inspiration for the future of the Napa Valley wine industry.

California's First AVA

The Napa Valley Appellation

Our great diversity in soil types, microclimates and topography has led our vintners and growers to create defined grape-growing areas within Napa Valley, to help distinguish the effects of this diversity on the wine. These areas are called American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs.

The Napa Valley is itself an AVA, and it has been since it received its own designation in 1981. It is California’s first recognized AVA and the second in the United States.

An Exploration of Terroir

16 Nested AVAs


Atlas Peak

High in elevation, the Atlas Peak appellation is as rugged as it is stunning.

Climate: Cool, mountain influenced with temperatures about 10–15°F cooler than the valley floor in summer. Located above the fogline, there is a low day-to-night temperature range, with summer temperatures rarely rising above 90°F (32°C).

Elevation: 760 to 2,600 feet (232 to 792 m)

Rainfall: 38 inches (96 cm) annually

Soils: Volcanic in origin, with basaltic red color, shallow with limited water retention. Irrigation is often essential.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
Calistoga

Located at the top of the valley and one of the most geologically uniform of all of Napa Valley’s AVAs.

Climate: Warm to hot, depending upon the time of year. Daytime summer temperatures may peak above 100°F (38°C) and fall to the low 40s°F(6°C) at night due to cool afternoon and evening breezes drawn in from the Chalk Hill Gap from the Pacific.

Elevation: 300 to 1200 feet (92 to 370 m)

Rainfall: Up to 60 inches (96.5 to 150 cm) annually

Soils: Almost completely of volcanic origin. Soils range from rocky, stony loam on the hillsides, to gravelly or cobbly loam on the alluvial fans, and heavier clay-silt soils in the valley center areas.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Zinfandel
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Merlot
  • Petite Sirah
  • Cabernet Franc
Chiles Valley District

Find some of the Napa Valley’s oldest vines in this small AVA located high in the Vaca Mountains.

Climate: Fairly warmer summer days (mid-80s°F or 30°C), but due to higher elevation and summer fog, it can be quite chilly at night (below 50°F or 10°C). With a colder winter and spring, as well as strong winds, harvest comes later than on the valley floor.

Elevation: 600 to 1,200 feet (182 to 366 m)

Rainfall: 35 inches (88 cm) annually

Soils: On the valley floor, primarily alluvial soils with silty-clay composition of marine origin, with good fertility. Hillsides show more clay-loam and stony-clay composition, mostly marine in origin, with some volcanic outcropping, and less fertility.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
Coombsville

Tucked into the foothills of the Vaca Mountains, find the Coombsville AVA just outside the city of Napa.

Climate: With weather moderated by its proximity to the San Pablo Bay, daily average high temperatures can be as much as 10°F cooler during hot months than most other AVAs, and heat spikes tend to be less severe.

Elevation: 100 to 1,000 feet (30-305 m)

Rainfall: 25 inches (65 cm) annually

Soils: Primarily weathered volcanic rock and alluvial deposits from the Vaca Mountains that surround the region

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
Diamond Mountain District

Its name is inspired by the shards of reflective volcanic glass found in its ash-like soil.

Climate: Moderately warm temperatures with lower maximum temperatures (90°F or 32°C) and higher minimum temperatures (50°F or 10°C) than the valley floor, due to topography and altitude.

Elevation: 400 to 2,200 feet (122 to 671m)

Rainfall: 40 to 55 inches (135 cm) annually

Soils: Residual uplifted soils of volcanic origin. Often reddish and very fine-grained, even gritty in texture, composed of both weathered sedimentary and volcanic origin soil.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
Howell Mountain

Explore the rolling hills and microclimates of this off-the-beaten path AVA.

Climate: Located above the fogline on the eastern side of the valley, this AVA is warmer and drier than other AVAs with more hours of sunshine and little-to-no marine influence.

Elevation: 1,400 to 2,600 feet (427 to 792 m)

Rainfall: 40 to 50 inches (100 to 125 cm) annually

Soils: Predominantly volcanic and shallow. Drainage is high, fertility is low.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
Los Carneros

This region stays cool due to the marine fog and breeze coming in off the San Pablo Bay.

Climate: Cool, with prevailing marine winds from the San Pablo Bay and through the Petaluma Gap to the west. High temperatures during summer rarely exceed 80°F (27°C) with less diurnal range variation.

Elevation: Sea level to 700 feet (0 to 213 m)

Rainfall: Lowest in Napa Valley: up to 24 inches (10 cm) annually

Soils: Clay dominated, very shallow in general, with more loam and hillside alluvials in the northern areas. Yields typically are restrained by the hard claypan subsoil, which prevents deep-rooting.

Principal Varieties:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
Mount Veeder

The rugged mountain terrain of this AVA results in low yields and high ageability of its wines.

Climate: Cool to moderate, with most vineyards above the fogline, meaning warmer nights and cooler days but with less diurnal range than the valley floor. A typical mid-summer high temperature is about 85°F (29°C).

Elevation: 500 to 2,600 feet (152 to 792 m)

Rainfall: 35 inches (87.5 cm) annually

Soils: Sedimentary based, former seabed, shallow and generally well drained, as well as more acidic, with low fertility. Most have a sandy or sandy-loam texture.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley

Fog and breeze from the San Pablo Bay cause cooler summers and a long growing season.

Climate: Moderate to cool, marine air and fog can remain until late-morning. Late afternoon breezes frequently occur, maintaining slightly cooler temperatures than the upper valley. Mid-summer temperatures may reach 92°F (33°C) and drop to around 50°F (10°C) at night.

Elevation: Sea level to 800 feet (244 m)

Rainfall: 36 inches (90 cm) annually

Soils: The valley's largest alluvial fan formed by Dry Creek creates the defining feature of the district. The northwest area is composed of volcanically derived soils, with stony or gravelly consistency. Southern and eastern areas transition from gravel to silty clay loam near the river.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
Oakville

The Oakville AVA spans a well-drained expanse of gravel soil near the center of the Napa Valley.

Climate: Moderately warm, with temperatures commonly in the mid-90s°F (35°C) in the summer, but still strongly affected by evening and early morning fog, helping to maintain acidity. The eastern side of the AVA receives warmer afternoon sun.

Elevation: 130 to 1,000 feet (40 to 305 m)

Rainfall: 35 inches (87.5 cm) annually

Soils: Primarily sedimentary, gravelly, alluvial loams on the western side, with more volcanic but heavier soils on the eastern side. Low-to-moderate fertility and fairly deep, with average water retention.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Franc
Rutherford

Located on the valley floor, the Rutherford AVA is warm with abundant sunshine.

Climate: Moderately warm, but still marginally influenced by early morning fog. The western bench area is cooler, with less late afternoon sun, tempered by afternoon marine winds. This AVA averages a bit warmer than Oakville and Stags Leap District to the south. Usual summer peak temperatures are mid-90s°F (35°C) with a large diurnal range.

Elevation: 155 to 500 feet (47 to 152 m)

Rainfall: 38 inches (95 cm) annually

Soils: Western benchland is sedimentary, gravelly, sandy and alluvial, with good water retention and moderate fertility. The eastern side has more volcanic soils, and is moderately deep and more fertile.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Merlot
Spring Mountain District

On the steep eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains is the Spring Mountain District AVA.

Climate: Cool to moderate depending on elevation and aspect. Most vineyards sit above the fogline,providing warmer nights and cooler days than the valley floor. Typical mid-summer high temperatures reach 85°F (29°C).

Elevation: 600 to 2,600 feet (183 to 792 m)

Rainfall: 40 to 50 inches (100 to 125 cm) annually

Soils: Primarily sedimentary with weathered sandstone and shale. Loamy and friable in texture. Drainage is high, fertility is low.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Chardonnay
St. Helena

Diverse soils and consistently warm weather are hallmarks of the St. Helena AVA on the narrow valley floor.

Climate: Warm, due to greater protection from western hills, with less fog or wind incursions. This narrowest part of the Napa Valley floor provides more heat reflection off the hillsides. Mid-summer temperatures often peak in the mid-to-high 90s°F (36°C).

Elevation: 200 to 475 feet (46 to 145 m)

Rainfall: 38 to 40 inches (95 to 101 cm) annually

Soils: Southern and western borders are more sedimentary, with gravel and clay soils, lower fertility and moderate water retention. Further north and east, the soil is prevalently volcanic in origin, deeper and more fertile.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Zinfandel
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Merlot
  • Petite Sirah
Stags Leap District

The first AVA in the U.S. to be created based on the distinct qualities of its soil.

Climate: Moderately warm with afternoon marine winds acting to cool the warmer air radiating off the bare rocks of Stags Leap itself and the surrounding hillsides. Mid-summer temperatures can reach 100°F (38°C), but more regularly are in the mid-90s°F (35°C).

Elevation: Sea level to 400 feet (0 to 123 m)

Rainfall: 30 inches (75 cm) annually

Soils: Volcanic gravel loams are found on the floor of the valley, with rocky hillsides, and low-to-moderate fertility due to hard clay subsoils.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Sauvignon Blanc
Wild Horse Valley

The Wild Horse Valley AVA is the coolest of Napa Valley’s nested appellations.

Climate: Due to elevation and proximity to the San Pablo Bay, it is the coolest of all the Napa Valley AVAs. The air mass that passes over Carneros cools another 10 degrees by the time it rises to the Wild Horse Valley AVA.

Elevation: 850 to 2,130 feet (259 to 650 m)

Rainfall: 35 inches (94 cm) annually

Soils: Volcanic in origin, with basaltic red color. Shallow with limited water retention, so irrigation is often essential.

Principal Varieties:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
Yountville

Home to the Napa Valley’s very first vineyard, planted by George Calvert Yount in 1836.

Climate: Moderate, with cool marine influence and fog contributing to cool summer mornings. The strong breezes of San Pablo Bay keep afternoons more comfortable than further up valley. Mid-summer peak temperatures may reach the low 90s°F (33°C), with noticeable diurnal fluctuation to the mid-50°F range (13°C).

Elevation: 20 to 200 feet (6 to 61 m)

Rainfall: 32 inches (80 cm) annually

Soils: Principally gravelly silt loams, sedimentary in origin, and gravelly alluvial soils with rock and moderate fertility.

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Where Taste Begins

What Is Terroir?

A combination of all natural elements in the environment in which a wine is grown, “terroir” speaks to climate, soil and topography. Some say it defines the heart of a region.

Ideal Growing Conditions

The Climate of Napa Valley

The Napa Valley is known for its large diurnal shifts—the temperature swing from daytime peak to nighttime low. This gives our fruit a chance to ripen slowly, maintaining the acidity needed for long ageability.

  • An ideal dry Mediterranean climate
  • Cooled by both coastal fog and wind
  • Warmed by our two mountain ranges
  • Dramatic & distinctive mesoclimates

From the Ground Up

The Soils of Napa Valley

Dramatic geological events and the steady march of time have combined to form the agricultural eden that is the Napa Valley of today.

Environmental Leadership

16
Distinctive AVAs
Created to distinguish the unique terroir of the Napa Valley.
5
Miles Wide
At just 30 miles long, the Napa Valley is considerably small.
33
Different Soils
Half of the world’s soil orders and 33 distinct soil series are found here.
06

Articles

More

Learn about the terroir and history of the Napa Valley.


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The Makers

Makers

Building a culture of passion, camaraderie, and heritage.

Meet