In our last article, we looked at the northern section of the Napa growing area, focusing on the AVA’s of Calistoga, Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Chiles Valley, and Spring Mountain. We looked at the locations, elevations and varietal diversity of these Districts.
Today we venture further south, moving to St Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Atlas Peak, and Stags Leap. Once again, we will point out the diversity of the growing areas and the varietals planted in these areas.
St Helena is just to the east of Spring Mountain. Inland, it is protected by the hills of Spring Mountain, and as such, it is a warmer location. It is not unusual in the summer to encounter temperatures in the mid 90’s, and because of the western hills there is little fog and the humidity is much lower than its western neighbor.
The valley is lower in elevation than some of the surrounding areas and with an elevation ranging from 100’ to 700’; the plantings are the Cabs (Sauvignon and Cab Franc), Viognier, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot.
Immediately south of St Helena is Rutherford. A warm area, influenced by the fogs from the Bay Area, its lower elevations (sea level to 600’) is conducive to the plantings of significant reds. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Merlot are the prime varieties in the District. The area is definitely influenced by afternoon winds off the Bay, bringing in cooler marine air.
Further south is Oakville District. Warmed in the summer afternoons, particularly on the east side, this near sea level District has mid-90’s in the afternoons. Like its northern neighbor, the Bay fog plays a role on almost a daily basis. Oakville District has the reds of Cabernet and Merlot, but has a significant Sauvignon Blanc presence.
Moving to the east of Oakville is the Atlas Peak District. Separated by the Vaca mountain Range from its western neighbor, its higher elevations (800’ to 2600’) makes it cooler in the summer and it has less fog than its neighbors closer to the sea influence.
Atlas Peak is a white growing area, with the prime varieties Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay highlighting the primary grape varieties found in the area.
Stags Leap District is back over the Vaca Range to the west. Stags Leap has an interesting climate, warm summer and fall days, but with a marine wind blowing across the land. It is not unusual to have temperatures of 100 degrees during the summer, and almost always mid-90’s on a normal day.
Elevations in the area are near sea level, with 500’ being the highest area elevations. This climate allows the District to grow both reds and whites successfully. Prime reds are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Whites include Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
So, with this information you can plan your trip, seeking the varieties you want to try.
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