Napa Valley, an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, California, is one of the most famous wine regions in the world with over 450 wineries and tasting rooms. Although a number of grape varieties are grown in the valley’s vineyards, the area is particularly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon.
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The classic “Napa Cab”, the typical Napa Valley wine, is a rich, oak-aged red with aromas of blackcurrant, boysenberry, liquorice, vanilla and smoky, bittersweet chocolate.
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There are several reasons for Napa Valley’s global renown as a wine region. The first reason is that the wines are produced to high standards, in a popular style, and are very well marketed. The second one is the region’s proximity with San Francisco which draws millions of wine tourists to the valley each year.Wine has been made in Napa Valley since the 19th Century, but it is only since the 1960s that wine of any particular quality has been produced.
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The range of grape varieties grown in the Napa Valley has evolved steadily over the 150 years. Cabernet Sauvignon has risen gradually to become Napa’s top performer, and is the most widely planted grape in almost all of the valley. The notable exception to this rule is Carneros area, who’s cool, breezy climate is better suited to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Although it represents only a small proportion of the valley’s vineyard area, Zinfandel, California’s signature variety, remains significant in the Napa wine portfolio.
White wines are strongly outnumbered here, but they bring an element of diversity to the valley. In the past, Riesling was the first variety in Napa, but has now been replaced almost completely by Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
The Secret of Californian Wines
Climate, geology and topography are three essential components that make Napa Valley such an exceptional viticultural area. The combined influences of San Pablo Bay and the hills of the North Coast Ranges are responsible for the valley’s very particular climate.
Here are four of the best wineries in Napa Valley
Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa is an authentically-styled 13th century Tuscan Castle winery. Fourth generation winemaker Dario Sattui built this castle winery to honor his Italian heritage and deep love for medieval architecture. Dario began construction of Castello di Amorosa winery in 1994. The castle is 121,000 square feet with 107 rooms, four underground levels, and four above-ground levels.
Raymond Vineyards has over 300 acres of estate vineyards in the Napa Valley. Raymond Vineyards, founded in 1970, is one of the Napa Valley’s pioneers and great estates. At Raymond Vineyards, visitors can be a “Winemaker for a Day” and learn the winemaker’s art while blending their own red wine from Napa’s esteemed appellations. At the end of the blending session, you take home a bottle of your own special blend featuring your own custom label.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards
Robert Sinskey Vineyards produce some of the most prized Pinot Noirs in California wine country. Robert Sinskey and his wife Chef Maria Helm Sinskey bring food and wine together, celebrating the connection to the land and creating a unique culinary experience. The winery offers a farm-to-table food tasting where you can drink some of their wines and eat food from the gardens and local producers.
Caldwell Vineyards is a 123-acre estate located in the southern part of Napa Valley. The location of the estate makes it an exceptional place to grow Bordeaux wine varieties. The estate hosts private tasting experiences inside its 20,000-square-foot cave. The cave is located ninety feet under the ground and is surrounded by volcanic ash that provides natural insulation.
Best Wines of Napa Valley
Opus One, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux – Blend Red
Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA – Cabernet Sauvignon
Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA – Cabernet Sauvignon
Dominus Estate Christian Moueix, Napa Valley, USA – Bordeaux Blend Red
Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Napa Valley, USA – Bordeaux Blend Red
Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA – Bordeaux Blend Red
Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA – Cabernet Sauvignon
Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, USA – Cabernet Sauvignon
Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA – Bordeaux Blend Red
Beaulieu Vineyard BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA – Cabernet Sauvignon