Social Links and Banner Link

Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

What Makes Napa So Special?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Napa is a name that everyone recognizes in California and around the world. What may surprise you is that of all the wine grapes cultivated in California, less than 5% are grown in the Napa Valley. So, how did Napa Valley become known as one of the world’s premier wine producing regions even though it is only 1/8 the size of Bordeaux? Napa is ideal for grape growing and wine production because of its climate and its soil. Napa’s climate zone is classified as “Mediterranean”, which comprises only 2% of the earth’s surface! Napa's warm summers and mild winters allow grapes a long growing season, which enables to hang long enough on the vines to ripen to perfection. Napa weather is warm enough in the spring and summer that there is little danger of frost or freezing after the grapes appear on the vine. While the days get hot enough for the grapes to ripen and produce plenty of sugar, the summer evenings, blanketed by the marine fog that gets sucked into the Napa Valley by the Humbolt Current, allow the grapes to retain their acidity, leading to perfectly balanced wines.
Napa Valley also relies on its rich and varied soil for its grape growing forte. With over 100 soil varieties in Napa, Napa soil is so desired that it supplies half of the world’s wine soil orders each year. Napa Valley is only 4 miles wide and bordered by two mountain ranges: the Vaca Mountains to the east and the Mayacama Mountains to the west. The temperature varies greatly from one edge of the valley to the next. The Mayacama Mountains are lush and green with a plethora of varied foliage, ashy, volcanic soil and cooler weather. The Vacas are dryer and arid with Franciscan formation soils that are derived from the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular varietals grown in the Napa Valley, making up 37% of Napa’s harvest, despite the fact that only 12% of California’s wines are Cab. Cabs love the well-drained alluvial soils found in the Napa Valley produced by the alluvial fans that drain soil from the tops of the mountains down to the valley floor. THese alluvial fans lead to significant differences in cabs grown on the hillside versus on the valley floor, where rich mineral deposits end up. One can also taste a significant difference in Cabs that are grown near the Mayacamas (cooler, earthier wines with more acidity and complexity) and Cabs that are grown closer to the Vacas (the warm, dry sun gives more cooked fruit flavors, and leads to wine with more sugar and higher alcohol levels).

Napa has become one of the world’s great wine capitals and has recently become the first Non-European country to receive its Geographical Indication status. Despite Napa’s perfect wine-growing climate and soil, Napa wines are internationally farmed to produce low yields. The Napa Valley Vintners 400 wineries produce only 10,000 cases of wine a year altogether! But the low yield creates a quality and demand that allows Napa to bring in $11 billion a year and provide 40,000 jobs! And Napa Vintners care enough about their workers that they voted instate a tax on themselves that goes towards providing affordable housing for their workers. As the second largest tourist attraction in California, following Disneyland, I’d argue that Napa is sure to prosper no matter what the economy does from year to year. So hop in your car, head north (only an hour from SF) and discover why Napa rocks!

Copyright © 2010 • Decantress Wine Diary • All rights reserved