Napa Valley Vineyards
The sub-appellations of Napa Valley
North of San Francisco, between the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges, lays the Napa Valley. Despite being one of the smallest winegrowing regions in the world, Napa Valley abounds with complexities due to its undulating topography ranging from breeze-blown flatlands near sea level and rolling hills at the southern end, to steep hillsides rising up to Mount St. Helena at the northern border. The differences in soil composition throughout the valley and variances in cooling breezes, sun exposure, and daily temperature swings create a great number of distinct microclimates for a region so small.
Oakville lies on the valley floor in the heart of Napa Valley. The climate here is perfect for the vines as warm sunshine is abundant. The sun quickly burns off the early morning fog and the afternoon breezes arrive late, giving the grapes the ripeness they need to fully develop. The soils are well-drained alluvial fans, so the roots go deep, making the vines work hard. As a result, the wines of Oakville are rich and complex, sometimes dense, with the reds showing classic aging potential.
Just to the north of Oakville, Rutherford is wider than its southern neighbor and a smidgen warmer too. The area shares the alluvial fan soils of Oakville and, because of these geological similarities, the wines are comparable. Rutherford wines are more uniform in their structure and style, less diverse than those of Oakville. Yet they are of no inferior quality. Wines of Rutherford are known for their fruit-forward elegance and structure.
As the southernmost Cabernet Sauvignon-growing region in Napa Valley, the Oak Knoll District enjoys a cool, marine influence, leading to a longer growing season. In an area sandwiched between the city of Napa and Stag's Leap District, the vines grow in deep alluvial soils with open valley exposure that gives them long sunny days with which to ripen grapes of concentrated flavor and great balance.
Wooden Valley is a small valley nestled against the Vaca Mountain range. Even though it sits on the eastern side of the Napa Valley, the orientation of the mountain range allows for influence from the San Francisco Bay Delta and the vineyards sit right at the marine layer line. The fog banks from the delta creep up through the rolling hills of the valley, and this allows for a longer growing season, giving time for perfect balance to develop in the grapes.
The Michael Mondavi family's Oso Vineyard is planted on slopes facing the northeastern side of Howell Mountain, growing out of a rocky, porous soil. Due to living with warmer evenings and cooler days than found on the valley floor, and to afternoon breezes blowing down the rows, the fruit remains fresh and vibrant throughout the growing season. From the soil and elevation the Cabernet Sauvignon extracts intense varietal characteristics, a firm structure, and excellent aging potential.
Tucked behind a ridge in the southern foothills of the Vaca Mountains, the Suscol Vineyard sits closest to the bay, growing in broken-up shale soil. The stress that the vines experience in such a high drainage, nutrient-poor environment imparts density, richness and depth to the grapes.
Paso Robles is home to several distinct vineyards, including Santa Margherita Ranch, originally planted by the Mondavis, and San Juan Creek Ranch. A distinctive mountain-valley climate exists in the Santa Margarita Ranch, characterized by the adjacent steep mountain slopes of the Santa Lucia Range that drop dramatically down to the valley floor of the Salinas River, thus creating high diurnal temperature swings in the AVA for optimal sugar and flavor development. The striking landscape of the San Juan Creek Ranch has stunning land formations from the nearby San Juan Fault. Situated about 30 miles from the coast and within the Santa Lucia Coast Range rain shadow, it has a warm, continental climate that can get exceptionally hot in the summer, for a growing degree climate well suited to ripening Cabernet Sauvignon. Layering fruit from these distinct Paso Robles ranches provides for a wine with greater complexity and a more dynamic flavor profile.