The Napa Valley
The Napa Valley is not only America’s Premier Wine Region but one of the world’s greatest and is located just ninety miles from San Francisco.
A Short History of the Napa Valley
Grape growing and wine making date back to the mid nineteenth century. The first commercial vineyard in the Napa Valley was established in 1858, by John Patchett, who also made small quantities of wine. In 1861, Charles Krug established the Napa Valley’s first commercial winery, which is still in business today, and owned by a branch of the Mondavi family.
The early twentieth century, the Napa Valley was struck by 3 disasters in a row:
1) The vineyards of the Napa Valley were hit with the disease phylloxera, which destroyed the vines.
2) In 1920, Prohibition was declared on the manufacture and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Most grape growers survived by selling their grapes to home wine makers, or those making sacramental wines.
3) In 1929, the Great Depression struck, greatly effecting the dormant wine industry.
In 1938, Beaulieu Vineyards hired Andre Tchelistcheff, who is considered the father of modern wine making in the Napa Valley, by introducing many techniques in both wine making and grape growing. It was not until the 1960’s when both grape growing and winemaking began to awaken after a long sleep. In 1965, Robert Mondavi broke away from the family winery Charles Krug to start the Robert Mondavi Winery, which began to set the benchmark for the Napa Valley wines.
On May 24th 1976, the Judgement of Paris, a blind wine tasting organized by Steven Spurrier, (an English/British Wine Merchant based in Paris) who searched the globe for wines to compete against Bordeaux(Cabernet Sauvignon) and Burgundy(Chardonnay).
The American’s Won! Winners included the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, as well as the 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.
Later, in the 1980’s, phylloxera returned, and over the next 15 years most of the vineyards were replanted, greatly improving grape growing and thus wine making.
Today, the Napa Valley has over 450 wineries and 43,000 acres of vineyards. It has become one of the Top Tourism areas with nearly 5 million annual visitors.
Geography and Climate
The Napa Valley is surrounded by the Mayacamas Mountains on the western and northern sides, and the Vaca Mountains to the east. The region’s moderate climate benefits from the cooling influence of the San Pablo Bay at the southern end of the Napa Valley. The region’s soils are dominated by both Volcanic soils, created by the many now dormant volcanoes. Soils near the southern end of the Napa Valley are sedimentary soils left from when the Napa Valley was under the Pacific ocean. In general, the Napa Valley has a temperate Mediterranean-style climate, allowing vines to thrive.
(Explain what an AVA is here)
Howell Mountain AVA
Wild Horse Valley AVA
Stags Leap District AVA
Mt. Veeder AVA
Atlas Peak AVA
Spring Mountain District AVA
St. Helena AVA
Chiles Valley AVA
Diamond Mountain District AVA
Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA