The Napa Valley AVA is considered one of the premier new world wine growing regions. This quick Napa Valley wine guide will give you an overview of the region, its grape varieties, terroir, regional maps and a run down of vineyards and best Napa Valley wineries worth visiting.
Napa Valley Wine Guide
When you think of Napa Valley, California, what’s the first grape variety that comes to mind? If you’re a red wine drinker, I hope your mind ran to Cabernet Sauvignon! If you favor white wine, it was probably Chardonnay. While these varieties are the most popular in Napa, this region is also prime real estate for Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc (There are others, we’ll list those out later).
Overtime, since around 1960, the Napa Valley wine region has begun to become associated with a sense of exclusivity. For me, this is unfortunate, as it’s difficult to find fairly priced hotel rooms and tasting costs have gone up to the not uncommon rate of $25. Wine should be available to the masses, and luckily there are some vineyards that remain detached from the traveling LA vibe. Napa Valley plays host to over 400 wineries, and is now visited by over 5 million people every year. There are over 43,000 acres of vineyard plot throughout Napa Valley currently.
No matter how you look at the region, you can’t deny that gorgeous, big fruit forward, relatively young wines are being cranked out of Napa. Vintners here are at the top of their game, often employing cutting edge technology and evolving biodynamic viticultural methods.
Related: Want to skip the details about Napa Valley and find out which wineries and vineyards are worth visiting? Check out our recommended Napa Valley Wineries with Maps.
The Grape Varieties of Napa Valley, California
While there are a select few Vintners producing grape varieties outside of the spectrum mentioned below (click on a grape for a guide), these are the dominant grape varieties currently present in Napa Valley.
Click here to see a detailed infographic / map of Napa Valley wineries and their tasting policies
Napa Valley Terroir and Climate
Napa Valley is characterized climate wise as being predominantly mediterranean. This means that weather patterns can be more predictable, and typically adhere to being warm to moderately hot in the summer, and conversely cool (but not excessively) in the winter. Because of Southern Napa’s proximity to the San Pablo Bay, temperatures are cooler during the summer, while the Northern, insulated corner is characteristically hotter.
Napa Valley in general is a bit warmer in the summer than sister AVA Sonoma County. ‘Cooler’ varietals such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay can still grow here, though are often touted as performing better in Sonoma.
In terms of soil composition, ground towards the Northern end of Napa Valley show evidence of a volcanic past with ash and lava deposits. Contrastingly, dirt in Southern Napa Valley consists largely inland sea deposits.
Napa Valley wine map courtesy WineFolly.com.