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Napa Valley

 

The Napa Valley in Napa County, California in the US is a popular wine producing area. The region recognized around the globe for its premium wines is quite small compared to most wine producing regions. The valley has been producing wine for more than a century, however it only gained popularity as a premium wine production region in the 1960s. Though Napa wine region is the most prestigious wine area in the US, only about 4 percent of California’s wine are from the valley. This is because most of Napa’s wineries are small operations; however there are several large wineries such as Sutter Home, Beringer and Robert Mondavi Winery.

Background

George C. Yount, an early pioneer is said to have been the 1st person to cultivate grapes in the valley region. When Thomas Rutherford married one of his granddaughters, George offered the couple about 1,000 acres. Rutherford used this land for wine making.

H.W. Crabb in 1868 acquired land near Oakville on the banks of Napa River. He started a vineyard and a winery which was known as To Kalon. By 1877, he had planted 130 acres and was producing about 50,000 gallons of wine annually.

In1879, John Patchet began producing wine commercially near the village of Rutherford. His wine was the 1st Bordeaux style in the US. By the end of the 19th century, Napa had more than 140 wineries.

Why is Napa Valley so popular?

The Napa wine region is famous the world over for a number of reasons. First the wines produced in the valley are high quality and marketed all over the world. Secondly, the accessibility of the area from the city of San Francisco works wonders for the region. Every year millions of locals and foreigners flock here to sample wines as well as Napa’s world-class gastronomy .In addition when Napa wines beat their competitors from Burgundy and Bordeaux in the 1976 Paris Judgment, the win helped a lot in making this region highly popular.

Topography, climate and geology seem to have conspired to make the Napa Valley a first rate wine region. The combined influence of the hills of the North Coast and San Pablo Bay contribute to the valley’s mesoclimate. The Pablo bay generates morning fog while the hills conduct the fog inland, into the valley. Without the fog generated by the bays, the valley’s climate would be warmer than it is. This would make it hard to balance and structure the wines. The fog does not reach the higher regions of the valley; however these areas tap the cooling effects of the altitude to balance their wines.

Since the first grapes were planted by Yount, the range of grape varieties have grown widely to make Napa wine region a truly historic place. Cabernet Sauvignon has risen steadily to become Napa’s star performer and is among the widely cultivated grape in the valley’s sub-region. The only exception to this rule is Carneros. Here the cool mesoclimate is more suited to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Merlot is also popular, however since it was dethroned in the 90s; it is mostly used for blending Napa’s Meritage and Bordeaux wines.

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  • kristin June 8, 2015, 1:59 pm

    Thank you so much for this great article on the Napa Valley region. I live in California but prefer wines from Europe. The history is very interesting and I never thought about it. It makes me want to know more about my own “backyard.” I did not know any of Napa’s star performing grapes either. I am interested in giving them a taste. 🙂 Thanks again for an informative article.

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