Sandwiched between Oakville to the southeast and St Helena to the northwest, Rutherford occupies a prime location at the heart of California’s Napa Valley. Covering an area of three-thousand hectares at an average elevation of sixty metres above sea level, the appellation offers a unique wine growing terroir conducive to producing low yields of high quality, flavoursome grapes and subsequent well-structured, age worthy wines.
The climate of Rutherford AVA is characterised by warm summer days of intense sunshine (temperatures peaking at around thirty-five degrees Celsius), tempered by the cooling Pacific fog coming off San Pablo Bay which lies around thirty kilometres to the south. Like many of Napa’s sub-appellations, the vineyards here experience a significant diurnal temperature range resulting in wonderfully aromatic, fully ripened grapes which retain their fresh acidity. Soils are fairly consistent across the appellation’s seven-hundred or so planted hectares - consisting of deep sandy loam / gravel with a few areas of more fertile volcanic soils and a heavier clay component the closer you get to the Napa river.
Red Bordeaux grapes, led by the emblematic Cabernet Sauvignon variety, dominate the vineyards of Rutherford, however a minuscule amount of the white varieties Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is also grown here producing fresh, earthy wines which are little known and generally offer good value to the consumer. By contrast, many of Rutherford’s premium wines attract a huge amount of press attention, high scores from critics and subsequent high prices. Amongst the most renowned producers in the appellation are Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook and the curiously named Scarecrow estate.