Napa Valley: The New World’s Premier Wine Center
The name Napa Valley is known in the world when it comes to wine lifestyle and top class tipple. The Californian valley has gained popularity over the years and earned its image as the most celebrated wine region in the new world. The mere mention of Napa Valley makes wine aficionados quiver in delight.
Napa Valley comes with a storied past and a wide variety of quality wines served, thanks to the abundance of varietals growing in the region. Its wineries didn’t reap the fruits of their labor overnight. Truthfully, the entire region had to go through a series of challenges before it became today’s foremost wine producer in the world.
Napa History: Pioneering a Powerhouse
Wine production was made possible in the valley by settler George C. Yount. He was the first to plant grapes in Napa more than 150 years ago. When his granddaughter got married to Thomas Rutherford in 1864, Yount gave them around 1,000 acres of land, which encouraged Rutherford to pursue winemaking. Since then, Rutherford followed Yount’s footsteps and dedicated his time and effort producing wines.
John Patchett, on the other hand, was the pioneer in commercial production. He built his own wine cellar in 1859 as he sold wine for $2 per gallon. Though Patchett was credited for commercial production, it was Charles Krug who was commonly known to have built the first winery in Napa Valley.
Other winemakers, including H. W. Crabb and Captain Gustave Niebaum, started tapping the valley’s potential as well, and the number of wineries continued to grow. As a matter of fact, an increase to 140 wineries was recorded in Napa Valley by the end of the 19th century.
However, winemaking was not easy for local winemakers as difficulties shook the industry. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, viticulture in Napa was greatly affected by the Phylloxera louse, a pest that destroyed grapevines across different countries. Many vines in the valley were killed during the calamity, sending the local production reeling.
Another hurdle faced by the Napa wine production was the 1920 Prohibition that banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. This affected wine storage and warehousing all throughout the valley, with many wineries forced to shut down. Also, the Great Depression did not spare the wine industry in Napa. Due to the United States’ economic crisis, the growth of the local wine industry was halted for years.
Though the Napa wine industry dwindled, it was revived with the arrival of modern techniques brought in by Andre Tchelistcheff after the Prohibition ended. With his leadership, viticulture techniques such as cold fermentation, the use of more modern facilities for wine aging, malolactic fermentation, and vineyard frost prevention were applied.
Since then, the wine industry slowly recovered and eventually produced some of the best wines in the world. The wineries found a way to consistently produce goods with streamlined quality, which preserved the taste, aroma and astringency of the wines in spite of producing massive amounts of tipple. Before long, some of the wines received awards internationally and pushed the reputation of the valley to the peak of the global wine trade.
Today, Napa Valley is an internationally recognized wine region, with more than 450 wineries producing famous grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfandel.
Top 3 Grape Varieties
Napa Valley’s capacity to grow high-quality grapes is due to its climate, geology, and topography. Located in the north of San Pablo Bay and sitting between the Vacas and the Mayacamas mountain ranges, Napa Valley enjoys a particular mesoclimate that makes it possible to grow high-standard grapes.
Taking full advantage of the climate, the wineries applied sound winegrowing techniques and an effective marketing campaign. As a result, Napa Valley grapes have gained fame internationally and became the benchmark for quality wines worldwide.
There is a wide range of varieties found in the valley. Here are the top three:
Cabernet Sauvignon – Considered the “king of red grapes”, this variety makes up 40% of the local production in the valley. With its flavour improving as it ages, a multitude of variants is produced regularly. Currant, cherry, and plum are among the variety of black fruit notes found in Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chardonnay – This variety mostly grows in the Los Cameros AVA, where soils are rich in calcium and the climate is cool. This combination allows Chardonnay, the second most planted variety in the valley, to ripen slowly. Chardonnay produced in Napa is known for its varying qualities that range from fresh, crisp and lively to rich, round, and buttery.
Merlot – This variety is responsible for Napa Valley’s light and full-bodied wines. It has become one of the most fascinating wines with its ripe cherry scent and rich earthy notes that enchant wine lover. Merlot has been a popular variety in Napa Valley for around 45 years.
With its comprehensive winemaking practices and bountiful yields, it is no wonder that Napa Valley managed to turn itself into a premium wine hub. Each year, it attracts visitors from all over the world to sample wines and to see how the beverages are produced. The valley is one of the biggest tourist attractions in California.
Every prominent wine vault in the world carries a slew of Napa Valley wines, most of which gaining favourable attention from wine critics, wine lovers and casual consumers. Singapore’s renowned wine cellar, Singapore Wine Vault, boasts of a wide variety of wines from Napa Valley as well as those coming from other wine regions.