Wine is grown all over the world and in all fifty states in the US. Why is the Napa Valley so terrific? Sonoma is bigger and produces more wine. The central valley of California certainly produces more grapes. There are awesome wines made all over California. So, why is Napa special? Of all the wineries in California, over 400 of them are in the Napa Valley. There’s a clue! Also, the Napa Valley is the second largest tourist destination in California behind Disneyland. Wow!
What makes the Napa Valley so special is its geography.
If you have ever been to the Napa Valley you will immediately relate to this. Napa Valley starts on the north end of San Pablo Bay just off of the San Francisco Bay. Just inland from the bay start two low mountain ranges about 5 miles apart that proceed north. The valley in between those two sets of hills is the Napa Valley. And, as the hills go north, the two ranges get closer together. So, on the southern end they are wide apart and on the northern end, in Calistoga, they are only about a mile apart. This is the key.
Because of this geography, you get a wide range of climate and soil.
This is why the Napa Valley is so special. In the Carneros region at the southern end, the climate is cooler with more overcast or fog. This is great for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. As you travel up valley, the climate is progressively warmer with more sun. So, at the north end, Calistoga is much hotter and dryer and is great for Zinfandel and other warm varietals.
The Napa Valley is only 38 miles long, yet contains a full spectrum of growing regions called appellations. That is the key to Napa Valley’s greatness. In a relatively short distance you can effectively grow a wide variety of excellent grapes that turn into terrific wine. In this one valley you can find Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malbec, Petite Syrah and several other varietals. That is a lot for such a small area.
And it isn’t just the valley floor that makes for great fruit. The surrounding hills provide incredible growing regions for hardy varietals. The Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howel Mountain region of the Eastern range is intense and wonderful. The same can be said for the Western hills with the Diamond Mountain and Spring Mountain regions.
Robert Mondavi realized the fantastic potential of the Napa Valley when he began growing grapes in Oakville. Today, his winery produces excellent wines and his Opus One winery produces outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are over 400 wineries in the valley and they all have their own, unique wines and wine making philosophies. Some wineries and wine makers produce good wine, while others produce fabulous wines. And, many of the fabulous wines are very reasonably priced… but we’ll cover that in another article.
The Napa Valley is a terrific destination for wine lovers and those wanting to learn about wine. The large number of wineries in this beautiful valley enable you to see, taste and learn a great deal in a short stay.
Why not plan your next vacation to go to the Napa Valley?