Napa Valley is the wine Mecca of America. This may not be the place where wine began in America, but the Napa Valley is the place that put America on the wine map. And while 90% of wine made in the United States is made in California, only 4% of that comes from the Napa Valley. With the small amount of wine, they do produce here has gained international recognition and made sure America always has a place at the international wine table.
Small size, big impact
This young, new world wine region has been growing grapes for less than 200 years. Napa Valley is North America’s great wine capital. One of the most treasured, yet also one of the smallest one regions in the world. Despite its large reputation, the Napa Valley is relatively small in size at its widest point. It’s just five miles across the Valley floor and 30 miles long. Napa Valley vineyards produce only 4% of California’s total wine grape harvest, and just 9% of Napa County is planted to grapes. That’s about one eighth the size of Bordeaux’s planted acreage.
In spite of its small size, the Napa Valley wine industry has a big impact generating 46,000 jobs locally and more than 300,000 in the United States and it contributes more than $53 billion annually to America’s economy.
Napa Valley is located about 55 miles northeast of San Francisco tucked east of Sonoma County and south of Lake County. The valley itself is framed by mountains on either side, which helped moderate the temperature and protect from wind and rain. Only 2% of the world has a dry Mediterranean climate like Napa.
95% of Napa wineries are family-owned and nearly 80% make less than 10,000 cases of wine per year.
Its Mediterranean climate provides near-perfect growing conditions during the peak growing season. It comes with little rainfall and warm summer days but cool nights. Cool evenings and dry summers allow Napa Valley’s wine grapes to ripen slowly and evenly at night. The rain only comes during the winter months. This allows grapes to grow in an ideal environment without a lot of risk of mold and other types of diseases brought down by the rain. Napa has all the stars aligned. It has the geography, the right place in California. It has the right soils, the right geology, and the perfect climate for making world-class wine.
Red wines in Napa Valley
Today’s featured grapes in Napa Valley are Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. These grapes are most famously made in Bordeaux, France. Bordeaux makes some of the most highly sought-after famed and consequently expensive wines on the planet. Names like Petrus, Haut-Brion Margaux, Latour may not mean anything to you, but for some winos, it’s all they think about.
And while white Bordeaux wines are great in their own right, it’s the red Bordeaux wines that everybody loves. What exactly is a Bordeaux blend? Well, it’s any combination of five grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot). However, 90% of the time it’s mostly Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot that dominates the blend.
Well, the reality is most Napa Cabernet Sauvignons are actually Bordeaux blends. The law says that only 75% of what’s listed on the label has to be in the wine. So a lot of winemakers make Bordeaux blends, but they label them Cabernet Sauvignon mostly for a selling point. Americans are more comfortable buying Cabernet Sauvignon than something that has a blend listed on the label.