Napa Valley AVA

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Napa County AVA
Wine region
TypeAmerican Viticultural Area
Year established1981[1]
Years of wine industry1858–present
CountryUnited States
Part ofNorth Coast AVA
Other regions in North Coast AVASonoma Valley AVA
Sub-regionsLos Carneros AVA, Howell Mountain AVA, Wild Horse Valley AVA, Stags Leap District AVA, Mt. Veeder AVA, Atlas Peak AVA, Spring Mountain District AVA, Oakville AVA, Rutherford AVA, St. Helena AVA, Chiles Valley AVA, Yountville AVA, Diamond Mountain District AVA, Coombsville AVA, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA, Calistoga AVA [2]
Climate regionMediterranean
Size of planted vineyards43,000 acres (174 km2)[3]
Varietals producedCabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and more
No. of wineriesOver 400

Napa Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in Napa County in California's Wine Country. Napa Valley is considered one of the premier wine regions in the world.[4] Records of commercial wine production in the region date back to the nineteenth century,[5] but premium wine production dates back only to the 1960s.[4]

The combination of Mediterranean climate, geography and geology of the region are conducive to growing quality wine grapes. John Patchett established the Napa Valley's first commercial vineyard in 1858.[6] In 1861 Charles Krug established another of Napa Valley's first commercial wineries in St. Helena.[6] Viticulture in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an outbreak of the vine disease phylloxera, the institution of Prohibition, and the Great Depression. The wine industry in Napa Valley recovered, and helped by the results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, came to be seen as capable of producing the best quality wine – equal to that of Old World wine regions. Napa Valley is now a major enotourism destination.


The valley floor is flanked by the Mayacamas Mountain Range on the western and northern sides the Vaca Mountains on the eastern side.[7] Several smaller valleys exist within these two ranges. The floor of the main valley gradually rises from sea level at the southern end to 362 feet (110 m) above sea level at the northern end in Calistoga at the foot of Mount Saint Helena. The Oakville and Rutherford American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) lie within a geographical area known as the Rutherford Bench in the center of the valley floor.[8] The soil in the southern end of the valley consists mainly of sediments deposited by earlier advances and retreats of San Pablo Bay while the soil at the northern end of the valley contains a large volume of volcanic lava and ash. Several of the small hills that emerge from the middle of the valley floor near Yountville are indicators of the region's volcanic past.

Panoramic view of vineyards


Several mesoclimates exist within the area due to various weather and geographical influences. The open southern end of the valley floor is cooler during the growing season due to the proximity of San Pablo Bay while the sheltered, closed northern end is often much warmer.[9] The eastern side of the valley tends to be more arid because winter storms tend to drop much more precipitation on the western mountains and hills.


Grapes in a Napa Valley vineyard

Early years[edit]

Early pioneer and settler George C. Yount is generally credited to have been the first to grow grapes in the Napa Valley.[6] In 1864, on the marriage of one of his granddaughters to Thomas Rutherford, Yount gave the couple around 1,000 acres (4 km2) of land, which Rutherford dedicated to winemaking.[10]

Commercial production started in 1858, with John Patchett selling wine for $2 per gallon.[6] His wine cellar, built in 1859, narrowly predates that established in 1861 in St. Helena by Charles Krug, although this is commonly cited as the Napa Valley's first winery.[11]

Captain Gustave Niebaum established Inglenook Winery in 1879 near the village of Rutherford.[12] This was the first Bordeaux style winery in the USA. Inglenook wines won gold medals at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris.

In 1868 H. W. Crabb bought land near Oakville close to the Napa River. Crabb established a vineyard and winery named To Kalon, and by 1877 had planted 130 acres (0.5 km2) and was producing 50,000 US gallons of wine per year. Crabb experimented with over 400 grape varieties to find the types best suited for the area.

By the end of the nineteenth century there were more than one hundred and forty wineries in the area. Of those original wineries, several still exist in the valley today including Beaulieu, Beringer, Charles Krug, Chateau Montelena, Far Niente, Mayacamas, Markham Vineyards, and Schramsberg Vineyards.

Phylloxera, Prohibition and the Great Depression[edit]

Viticulture in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Phylloxera louse killed many of the vines throughout the valley. Prohibition, enacted in 1920, caused many wineries to shut down. A few remained open with agreements to produce sacramental wine. Growers who elected to keep their vines planted sold their crops to home winemakers.[13] The Great Depression slowed the wine business further. These events stalled the growth of the wine industry in Napa County, California for years.

Modern era[edit]

André Tchelistcheff is generally credited with ushering in the modern era of winemaking in California. Beaulieu hired Tchelisticheff in 1938.[14] He introduced several techniques and procedures to the region, such as aging wine in small French Oak barrels, cold fermentation, vineyard frost prevention, and malolactic fermentation.

Opus One vineyard in Napa Valley

Following Prohibition, Beringer Vineyards invited attendees of the Golden Gate International Exposition to visit the winery using promotional maps printed with the phrase "All roads lead to Beringer" in 1939. The winery also invited Hollywood stars including Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard to visit. These early promotions are considered to be the birth of wine-based tourism that is now a large part of the economy of Napa Valley today.[15]

Brother Timothy of Christian Brothers winery was also instrumental in establishing the modern wine industry in Napa. After an earlier career as a teacher, he transferred to the order's Mont La Salle located on Mount Veeder in the Mayacamas Mountains northwest of Napa in 1935 to become the wine chemist for the order's expanding wine operations. Christian Brothers had grown grapes and made sacramental wine in Benicia, California during Prohibition, but decided to branch out into commercial production of wine and brandy after the repeal of Prohibition. The science teacher was a fast learner and soon established Christian Brothers as one of the leading brands in the state's budding wine industry. Brother Timothy's smiling face in advertisements and promotional materials became one of the most familiar images for wine consumers across the country. Following the Second World War, the wine industry in Napa began to thrive again.

Opus One Vineyard

In 1965, Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi broke away from his family's Charles Krug estate to found his own winemaking operation in Oakville. It was the first new large scale winery to be established in the valley since prohibition and included the original To Kalon land. After this, the number of wineries in the valley grew rapidly, as did the region's reputation.

Napa Valley as a top wine region[edit]

A Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Mature Napa vines

In 1976, the region got a boost from the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, which featured a Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon besting several famous French labels in a blind tasting format. The story of the wine competition, termed the "Judgment of Paris", was made into a Hollywood movie in 2008, called Bottle Shock. The results of this tasting cemented the region's reputation as a producer of world class wines.

A modern outbreak of phylloxera was discovered in the valley in 1983 in a vineyard planted with AxR1 rootstock.[16] Many growers seized upon this outbreak as an opportunity to switch to varieties that were better suited to the climate and soil. By the late 1990s about 75% of the affected vineyards had been replanted with phylloxera resistant rootstock.[17] The growers in the region have since channeled their energy to battle the Glassy-winged sharpshooter, a non-native pest that carries Pierce's disease.[18]

A trend of larger national and international companies like E & J Gallo Winery, Diageo and Constellation Brands buying smaller wineries, vineyards and brands began to gain momentum in the early part of the 21st century.[19] Today Napa Valley features more than 450 wineries that grow grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, among others. While winemakers may produce wines from specific AVAs within the valley, many wines are made as a blend from grapes grown on the valley floor and the surrounding hillsides.


More than 4.5 million people visit Napa Valley each year, making it a very popular tourist destination in California.[20]

American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) of Napa Valley[edit]

A Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.

Within the Napa Valley AVA, there are sixteen sub-AVAs:[1][2]

Area Date created
Los Carneros AVA 1983-08-18
Howell Mountain AVA 1983-12-30
Wild Horse Valley AVA 1988-11-30
Stags Leap District AVA 1989-01-27
Mt. Veeder AVA 1990-02-20
Atlas Peak AVA 1992-01-22
Spring Mountain District AVA 1993-05-13
Oakville AVA 1993-07-02
Rutherford AVA 1993-07-02
St. Helena AVA 1995-09-11
Chiles Valley AVA 1999-02-17
Yountville AVA 1999-03-19
Diamond Mountain District AVA 2001-06-01
Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA 2004-02-25
Calistoga AVA 2009-12-08
Coombsville AVA 2011-12-14

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "§9.23 Napa Valley" (Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Part 9 – American Viticultural Areas; Subpart C – Approved American Viticultural Areas). Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Napa Valley Appellations and Wine Grape Growing Regions". Napa Valley Vintners. Archived from the original on September 14, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  3. ^ "Napa Valley (AVA): Appellation Profile". Appellation America. 2007. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  4. ^ a b Robinson, Jancis (September 6, 2008). "California - Tasting Notes & Wine Reviews from Jancis Robinson". Retrieved January 2, 2011.
  5. ^ A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co. 1891. Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved January 2, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d Brennan, Nancy (November 21, 2010). "John Patchett: Introducing one of Napa's pioneers". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved January 2, 2011.
  7. ^ "Have Napa Valley's mountains ever "peaked" your interest?". Napa Valley Register. June 9, 2018. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Rutherford and Oakville AVAs - Early Days". September 13, 2006. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  9. ^ "Napa Valley Climate". Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  10. ^ "Rutherford". Archived from the original on September 14, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2011. In 1846, one of Yount's granddaughters married Thomas Rutherford and Yount gave the newlyweds the very generous gift of about 1,000 acres at the northern edge of Rancho Caymus. Following Yount's lead, Rutherford planted grapes and began investing in winemaking in Napa. By the 1880s, the Rutherford area was well established as one of Napa Valley's premium wine districts.
  11. ^ "About the Winery - Charles Krug - Napa Valley Winery". Charles Krug. Retrieved January 2, 2011. The Charles Krug Winery, first in the Napa Valley and established in 1861, is owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Family.
  12. ^ A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co. 1891. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved January 2, 2011.
  13. ^ Burnham, Kelsey (April 18, 2010). "Prohibition in Wine Country". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved April 18, 2010.
  14. ^ "Andre Tchelistcheff, 92, Authority on Wine". New York Times. April 7, 1994. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  15. ^ Courtney, Kevin (May 26, 2005). "New park named for 'father of wine tourism'". Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises. Retrieved August 8, 2011. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Prial, Frank J. (May 5, 1999). "WINE TALK; After Phylloxera, The First Taste Of a Better Grape". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  17. ^ Napa Valley AVA: the in's & out's,, August 9, 2017, retrieved August 3, 2021
  18. ^ Eberling, Barry (December 20, 2014). "Bug wars: Napa's fight to keep out glassy-winged sharpshooters". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  19. ^ Lutz, Henry (June 19, 2017). "Big wine companies are snapping up Napa Valley producers and vineyards". Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises. Retrieved July 5, 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ "Community & Corporate Partnerships". Lincoln Theatre. Retrieved August 3, 2021.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°23′12″N 122°21′00″W / 38.3867°N 122.3500°W / 38.3867; -122.3500