Introduction

By Lisa Rowlands

Sandwiched between Yolo and Sonoma, Napa County is a name synonymous with both winemaking excellence and a thriving tourism industry. With just over eighteen thousand hectares under vine (10% of the total geographical area), Napa - perhaps surprisingly - accounts for only 5% of total Californian production, whilst simultaneously constituting almost one third of the state’s wine economy.

The first vines were planted in the county during the 1830s and from then the industry began to expand rapidly, before being thwarted by Phylloxera and Prohibition. These obstacles took some time to overcome, and even after the repeal of the latter in 1933, the county’s wine industry took decades to return to its former glory. Only during the last fifty years - following the Paris Judgement - has Napa really begun to be recognised as an area of outstanding viticultural practice and truly marvellous wines.

The climate here is classified as Mediterranean and characterised by long, warm summers with abundant sunshine and little precipitation, and contrastingly cool, wet winters. The natural topography of the area and the famous San Francisco fog help to moderate the temperatures during the growing season, affording many of the sheltered, inland plots the benefits of cooler conditions and thus making viticultural activity possible. Of course, the vastness of the area in question means that geological, climatic and topographical diversity is key, and as such a large range of grape varieties are able to thrive within the county’s bounds.

AVAs of Napa County

Atlas Peak AVA

One of Napa County’s highest points, Atlas Peak gives its name to an American Viticultural Area renowned for both its stunningly beautiful landscape and celebrated Bordeaux style wines. With around six-hundred hectares of vineyard, the AVA is a small but nonetheless integral piece of the Californian wine jigsaw.

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