Everyone knows Napa Valley and chances are you have been there. Napa has long been one of the world’s great wine-producing regions and it is simultaneously one of America’s most visited wine-tourist destinations.
Napa wineries are also great innovators and regional trends are frequently imitated in other parts of the globe. So even if you think you know Napa, it is a region that is continually evolving.
During a conversation with Karen Rowley, co-founder of Curated Journey’s, we discovered five reasons to begin planning our next Napa visit.
For many years Napa wineries have been sourcing fruit from Coombsville, but the growing region remained largely undiscovered. As a result, Coombsville has retained a quaint, rural charm that is largely absent from some highly-trafficked parts of Napa Valley.
Following its AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation in 2011, Coombsville attained an appellation status and the region’s wines began to gain notoriety. Because of its unique microclimates and the ability to grow valley, mountain and coastal grapes, it is safe to say that Coombsville is poised to become the next great Napa AVA.
Heritage Vineyard Preservation
The overarching goal of the heritage vineyard preservation project is to provide superior varietal selections to growers from historic old vine plantings. Many of these dry-farmed vineyards date back more than 50 years and many survived the phylloxera aphid that did widespread damage in the 1960s. More importantly, they avoided the fate of many old vineyards that are more often replaced with with younger vines to increase yields.
The Historic Vineyard Society is spearheading this movement and certifies the vineyards with scientific dating. Pictures are available on the Society website, but you simply have to see these old, gnarled vines for yourself.
Napa winemakers are increasingly applying some part of their production energy and winemaking skill to creation of very small batches of wine. This will not replace the larger production projects aimed at larger markets, but allows winemakers a degree of experimentation and freedom to practice their craft in a less scripted manner. Such “micro production” can range from a few cases to a couple of barrels.
One example of this approach can be found at Handwritten Wines, where small production wines are made from the same Cabernet clones planted in 2 acre plots in 5 different Napa appellations. You can taste and compare these wines for a particular vintage at their tasting room in Yountville.
Native Wild Yeast Fermentation
Native wild yeast is the white “powder” found covering grapes as they hang on the vine. Many winemakers avoid use of wild yeast, because it is difficult to control during fermentation. When done right, however, the benefits can outweigh the risks and can provide a level of complexity unattainable with commercial yeast.
Wines made from wild yeast can be found throughout the winemaking world, but large numbers of Napa producers are beginning to embrace it as a tool for “natural” fermentation. A belief that naturally occurring yeast helps identify wine with terroir is at the heart of the movement.
By definition, a “cult wine” is one that uses only the highest quality grapes to produce wines of nearly unparalleled superiority. While Bordeaux estates like Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour may be some of the earliest examples, Napa has taken cult wine to the next level.
The low-production, high-quality wines produced in Napa have gathered an enthusiastic audience. Cabernet Sauvignon is the primary variety and some are also commanding record prices. VGS Chateau Potelle recently sold a 10-case lot of their cult Napa Cab at auction for $114,300.
Planning Your Trip
Curated Journeys takes Napa Valley visitors to exclusive wineries, private estates, vineyards, and caves and gives them personal interaction with chefs, winemakers, vintners, and culinary luminaries for an unparalleled experience in wine country.