Established as an official sub-appellation of Napa Valley AVA in 1993, Oakville’s viticultural journey began in the late 1860s when the first vines were planted here by pioneer H.W. Crabb. And since the emergence of California as a premier force of New World wine in the 1960s and 1970s, Oakville has consistently been hailed as one of the state’s most prestigious regions.
The success of Oakville as a wine region owes in no small part to its near perfect climate and diverse, often gravelly, soils which offer exceptional drainage. Abundant sunshine during the growing season is tempered by bay breezes and persistent morning / night-time fog, resulting in temperatures that are neither too warm nor too cool. Indeed here in Oakville, Goldilocks has found her ‘just right’ for producing world class, terroir expressive Cabernet Sauvignon varietals.
The topographical diversity of the appellation means vineyards are sited at various elevations from the valley floor to around two-hundred metres above sea level. The area is also notable for its east-west orientation; vineyards at the eastern edge of the appellation receive more sunshine during the afternoon when compared with their western counterparts, leading to two distinct styles of wine.
Representing approximately three quarters of all the wine produced in Oakville, Cabernet Sauvignon is the chief variety here and the grape on which the reputation of the AVA - and the wider state - has been established. Other Bordeaux varieties, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are also important, both as blending partners with the principal and as mono-varietal wines in their own right. Zinfandel is the other dark-skinned grape of note and some celebrated white wines are produced too, in particular from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.
Whilst Napa Valley as a whole is renowned as one of the world’s great wine growing regions, Oakville is one of a handful of sub-appellations which have raised the bar another level. The Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced here are characterised by complex flavours, exquisite balance and superb potential to age; they command huge respect on both the domestic and international stage, as well as high prices from collectors. Amongst the many high profile producers operating in Oakville, Screaming Eagle is perhaps the most well known.