Napa Valley is an area of astounding beauty and winegrowing heritage and the US wine region every serious wine lover has on their bucket list.
Although it only accounts for around 4% of California’s grape harvest, it is the must-see region in California and where you can find some of the state’s very best vineyards. Napa Valley was also the first AVA (American Viticultural Area) to be designated in California in 1981.
Napa Valley has some of the most diverse soils on earth and is home to half of the world’s soil orders. Its unique geology, climate, topography and weather help to create some of the world’s most prestigious and distinctive wines. Nap’s range of terroirs enables the production of unique wines from specific areas within the Valley, thus sixteen sub-AVAs have also been designated to help the best vineyards in Napa Valley better showcase the specific characteristics of their wines.
Although top vineyards in Napa are scattered throughout the Valley, many of the best Napa vineyards can be found in some of the key sub-AVAs.
Oakville AVA – Home to some of the best vineyards in Napa
One of the Valley’s most prestigious wine-growing districts in the US, the Oakville AVA is home to some of Napa’s most historic vineyards, which count among the best vineyards to visit in Napa, as well as producing some of its cult Cabs.
Calistoga AVA – One of California’s oldest wine-growing regions
Situated in one of the warmest parts of the Valley, Calistoga AVA is noted for its big reds produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, yet it was a Chardonnay from this area that triumphed in 1976 Judgement of Paris, the blind tasting competition that helped propel Napa to its prominent position on the world wine map.
Rutherford AVA – Source of many of the best Napa Valley vineyards for Cabernet Sauvignon
This moderately warm AVA, immediately north of Oakville, ranks amongst Napa’s finest and is home to many of California’s premier blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabs from here, like those from neighbouring Oakville AVA, show hints of eucalyptus and mint.
Stags Leap District AVA – One of the top vineyards in Napa steals the show
One Stags Leap District vineyard scooped up the honours for its Cabernet Sauvignon in Paris in 1976, the second Napa Valley vineyard to shine over its top French counterparts from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Some of the best Napa Valley vineyards are now located in this AVA, yet at only 1100 hectares, it also also one of America’s smallest.
Yountville AVA – Marriage of California and France
Yountville AVA, enviably located at the very heart of Napa Valley is home to some of California’s best traditional method sparklers. Its moderate climate, with cooling fog and marine influence mean it’s perfect for growing balanced Chardonnay with ripe Californian fruit which is then turned into the perfect sparkling wine by one of France’s top Champagne houses
Mount Veeder AVA – Rugged, sun-drenched vineyards winning acclaim for their Cabs
Mount Veeder AVA’s rugged hillsides make viticulture difficult, yet more than one hundred producers bearing the Mount Veeder name persevere, producing fine Cabernet Sauvignon with fresh acidity, firm tannic structure and concentrated earthy, berry aromas from some of the best Napa vineyards, which benefit from both elevation and brisk afternoon winds from nearby San Pablo Bay. One vineyard’s produce has become a local mini cult brand and wines from here demonstrate great ageing potential.
At Wine Paths, our team of local experts can help you to discover some of Napa’s top AVAs and build a programme for you to discover the best vineyards to visit in Napa Valley.