Admittedly, the Napa Valley is well known for its big, bold Cabernet Sauvignons and for good reason. These are among the top wines in the world, beautifully expressing the complex characteristics of this grape variety. However, if that is all you know about the Napa Valley, you have a lot more to explore.
In fact, while those rich, full-bodied Cabs are probably not the most welcome wines in the dog days of summer, there are lots of other Napa Valley wines that really do beat the heat.
Among the most refreshing options are sparkling wines. While many Napa wineries include a sparkling wine in their line-up, Napa is home to several wineries that specialize in sparkling wines, namely Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa and Schramsberg Vineyards. These wineries all apply the Traditional Method to the production of sparkling wines, crafting quality sparklers that offer crisp acidity, good fruit and well-integrated effervescence.
Another great selection for summer-time imbibing is Sauvignon Blanc. Those hailing from the Napa Valley generally offer up good fruit character, often with melon and tropical fruit notes. In addition, some Sauvignon Blanc will be fermented or aged in oak, adding a depth and complexity to the wines, and will frequently be labeled as Fumé Blanc to denote this approach.
The second most planted variety in the Valley, Chardonnay is available in a wide range of styles, making it a terrific choice for enjoying by the glass or at the table during the summer season. Grapes sourced from Napa’s cooler areas are generally more elegant and restrained, while the wines from warmer areas are fuller-bodied and richer in character. Similarly to Sauvignon Blanc, many Chardonnays are produced in oak vessels, adding woody, toasty, vanilla aromas and flavors to the finished wine, although conversely, those produced without oak are usually labeled as such to distinguish themselves from their wooded companions.
Not surprisingly, another refreshing wine selection is rosé. More than 50 Napa wineries produce at least one pink-hued wine, made from a wide range of grape varieties including, but not limited to, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah. A range of styles is also produced, from pale Provencal-style rosés to deeper-hued wines with rich fruit flavors.
Finally, if only a red wine will satisfy, now is the perfect time to turn to lighter-bodied reds. Although Pinot Noir is more typically associated with other areas of California, high quality Pinot Noir is produced in Napa, especially in the Carneros sub-appellation. Further, if you search them out, you’ll even find some more unusual varieties such as Heitz Cellars’ Grignolino.
Of course, the best way to discover the diversity of Napa Valley’s wines is to taste them for yourself. Join me this Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 67 Wines (179 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10023) from 4:00 – 7:00pm.