Napa Valley, guía de entrenamiento - de los viajes de Luis Fernando Heras Portillo
Guía de entrenamiento en Napa Valley, de los viajes de Luis Fernando Heras Portillo
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Napa Valley, guía de entrenamiento - de los viajes de Luis Fernando Heras Portillo
STAFF TRAINING MODULE
Napa Valley, America’s most iconic wine region, appears saturated with the vine, yet it
only accounts for a mere 4% of California wine. 45,000 acres of vineyards carpet the
valley ﬂoor and dot surrounding hillsides and mountains. With an emphasis on luxury
wines, this small region on California’s North Coast has cemented its image as a
destination for wine tourists from around the globe, and as a world-class producer of
Cabernet Sauvignon. Every third vine in Napa is Cabernet, yet the valley’s complex soil
patterns, coupled with changing degrees of altitude, sunlight, and temperature,
provide a diversity of source material for the winemaker to sculpt into wine. Nor is
Cabernet the whole story; hundreds of varieties, from Sauvignon Blanc to Charbono to
Zinfandel, thrive somewhere in the valley’s gentle, Mediterranean climate.
As the second region nationally designated as an
“American Viticultural Area”, Napa Valley AVA dates to
1981, but the valley’s rich history of viticulture began in
the late 1830s. Spurred along by the booming days of the
1849 California Gold Rush, Napa wines achieved
occasional international notice in the latter half of the
19th century, and some of today’s houses, such as Charles
Krug, Schramsberg, and Beringer, date to the 1860s and
‘70s. In 1880 Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson
famously pronounced Napa’s wines as “bottled poetry”
during a honeymoon sojourn in the valley.
The specter of temperance and Prohibition loomed large,
and the valley’s industry was crippled with passage of the
18th Amendment. Repeal in 1933 led to a renewal;
visionaries like André Tchelistcheff (legendary winemaker
at Beaulieu Vineyard), Robert Mondavi, and Joe Heitz
forged ahead in the midcentury, raising winemaking
acumen, improving technology, and looking toward the
wines of France—then the undisputed king—as a model.
The modern Napa Valley is built on the successes of
Mondavi and his contemporaries, and through fanatical
attention to quality and winemaking the valley has earned
its spot as one of the world’s top areas for the grape.
The end of Prohibition
Napa’s climate is classiﬁed as
Mediterranean, characterized by
warm, dry summers and cool, rainy
winters. In the summertime,
afternoon temperatures in the
warmest central parts of the valley
may reach the mid-90s, whereas they
remain in the mid- to high-70s nearer
to the San Pablo Bay. Aided by the
onset of fog and cool maritime air,
nighttime temperatures on the valley
ﬂoor may plummet by as much as 40
degrees, preserving acidity in
ripening grapes. Above a certain
elevation—the fog line—sunshine
hours are greater and temperatures
remain more constant from day to
night. Overall, Napa’s climate is not
dissimilar from that of Tuscany, Sicily,
or parts of Southern Spain.
30 miles long, the Napa Valley runs parallel to the California coastline, narrowing as it trails
northward from a wide base near the San Pablo Bay. The Mayacamas Mountains and the drier
Vaca Mountains frame its western and eastern boundaries, respectively. Napa Valley AVA includes
both the valley itself and the mountainsides surrounding it, encompassing nearly half of the total
land in Napa County. Sonoma County divides Napa from the ocean, yet cool Paciﬁc breezes and
fog funnel into the valley from the San Pablo Bay in the south and breaks in the mountains near
Calistoga in the north. The fog, which settles on the valley ﬂoor in the late evening and may not
burn off until mid-morning, impacts nighttime temperatures and sunshine hours on the valley ﬂoor.
Photo courtesy of Jason Tinacci
Within the Napa Valley AVA, there are 16 separate sub-AVAs. Each smaller appellation offers
unique characteristics of soil, elevation, and/or temperature that create distinctive
grape-growing conditions and styles of wine. Some producers choose to produce wines from a
single sub-AVA, whereas others compose blends from fruit harvested throughout the valley.
The sub-, or “nested”, AVAs of Napa Valley may be broadly divided into mountain, valley ﬂoor,
and outlying appellations. The range of elevation for mountain AVAs typically spans from 600
feet above sea level to 2000 feet and more, whereas the lowest valley ﬂoor vineyards are near
sea level, and they rarely climb higher than 500 feet above it. The outlying AVAs are separated
from the main growing regions by Napa Valley’s foothills, and two span into neighboring
In the valley ﬂoor AVAs, the best sites for winegrowing are usually on the alluvial fans, or
“benchlands”—deep, fertile, sloping soil deposits composed of run-off from mountain
streams. In these alluvial fans, vines can develop deep root systems. On the other hand,
mountain growers cherish their shallow, low-nutrient soils, which promote the vines’ struggle
and produce a small yield of concentrated fruit. Berry size tends to be smaller on the
mountains, inﬂuencing color and tannin. In the mountains, daytime temperatures are cooler
than on the valley ﬂoor, but nights are warmer.
Photo courtesy of Jason Tinacci
Coombsville: The newest AVA in Napa Valley, Coombsville debuted in late 2011.
Oak Knoll of Napa Valley: Cooler than the upper valley, Oak Knoll can produce a wide
variety of red and white wines. The Dry Creek alluvial fan, the valley’s largest, dominates
Oak Knoll’s soil composition.
Rutherford: André Tchelistcheff once
proclaimed that it takes “Rutherford Dust” to
make great Cabernet in Napa. The Rutherford
Bench—which actually extends through both
the Rutherford and Oakville AVAs—is a prized
series of alluvial soils (loam, sand, gravel) and
home to some of the priciest land in the valley.
Tasters suggest dusty, spicy, brambly aromas
arise from those Cabernets produced along
the Rutherford Bench.
St. Helena: St. Helena is one of narrowest
parts of the Napa Valley, and a warmer
appellation. In 1861, Charles Krug opened his
eponymous winery here.
Calistoga: After a lengthy legal and political
battle over potential misuse of its name,
Calistoga became Napa’s 15th AVA in 2009.
Calistoga is Napa’s northernmost town, and its
vineyards are almost entirely planted with red
Yountville: Perhaps better known as Napa’s dining capital, Yountville is named after George
Yount, who planted the valley’s ﬁrst vines in the late 1830s.
Stags Leap District: Located directly east of Yountville in the foothills of the Vaca Mountains,
this is one of the warmest AVAs in the valley. 80% of the district is planted to Cabernet
Sauvignon and Merlot.
Oakville: Home to famous sites like To-Kalon and Screaming Eagle’s vineyards, Oakville AVA is
one of the valley’s top areas for winegrowing.
Photos courtesy of Jason Tinacci
Mount Veeder (Mayacamas): Mount Veeder, adjacent to Carneros, is the coolest
mountain AVA, with Napa’s longest growing season. Unlike Diamond Mountain and
the AVAs of the Vaca Mountains, Mount Veeder is composed entirely of
sedimentary, rather than volcanic, soils.
Spring Mountain District (Mayacamas): “Spring Mountain” does not refer to an
actual peak, but rather an entire mountainous area characterized by several springs
and crisscrossed by streams. Its western boundary is the Sonoma County border.
Diamond Mountain District (Mayacamas): In this warmer mountain AVA, red wines
develop a more approachable tannic structure. In the late 1970s, Diamond Creek,
one of the appellation’s most famous names, became the ﬁrst producer in Napa
Valley to release single vineyard wines, and crack the $100 mark.
Atlas Peak (Vaca Mountains): At 2,663 feet, Atlas Peak is the tallest point in the
Howell Mountain (Vaca Mountains): The oldest of Napa’s sub-AVAs and the ﬁrst to
be truly deﬁned by elevation, Howell Mountain Cabernets are among the valley’s
most regal, tannic, powerful, and ageworthy. The mountain receives warm
afternoon sun, leading to ripe ﬂavors, but it stays cooler overall than valley ﬂoor
vineyards, preserving good acidity and herbal notes. Historically, Howell Mountain
focused on Zinfandel, but this is Cabernet country today.
Photo courtesy of Jason Tinacci
Chiles Valley District: Named after Joseph Ballinger Chiles, an early pioneer from
Missouri, this is the valley's most isolated growing region.
Wild Horse Valley: Divided between Napa and Solano Counties, Wild Horse Valley is
Napa's most sparsely planted AVA.
Los Carneros (Carneros): Due to its close proximity to the San Pablo Bay, Carneros is
Napa's coolest growing region. It is equally suitable for the production of Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot. The AVA extends into Sonoma County.
Sauvignon Blanc: As in Bordeaux, Cabernet’s genetic
parent Sauvignon Blanc shares the vineyard with its
offspring in Napa Valley. Napa Sauvignon Blanc is typically
aromatic, yet it may lean in style toward Bordeaux and
incorporate oak in the winemaking process, or it may be
produced in a fresher, cleaner style. Napa Sauvignon Blanc
exhibits bright, tart acidity, translating as citrus ﬂavors on
the palate. Grassy and melon notes are frequently found.
Major Grape Varieties
Other White Grapes: In Napa Valley, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc account for more than 90% of the
total white grape plantings. Here and there, however, one can spot a few acres of Viognier, Pinot Gris,
Riesling, Muscat, Chenin Blanc, and many others.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay is Napa’s most important
white grape. The classic style of the wine is full-bodied
and lush, with generous ﬂavors of oak and cream, but
winemaking styles are diversifying and one can ﬁnd
regularly ﬁnd leaner, citrusy examples today. Producers
today approach techniques like malolactic fermenta-
tion, new oak aging, and bâtonnage with new sophisti-
cation, and some opt to avoid them all together.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Napa’s most important grape
and its signature contribution to the world of ﬁne
wines, Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in Napa’s Mediter-
ranean climate. It provides nearly 40% of the annual
harvest. On the valley ﬂoor, it produces a more
elegant and supple style of wine, with more approach-
able tannins; on the mountainsides the wines are
typically fuller in body, rich in color and tannin, and
driven by powerful black fruit. Sophisticated yet promi-
nent new oak is a nearly universal feature during aging,
and many winemakers in Napa Valley try to curtail
Major Grape Varieties
Merlot: Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften and plump its gritty, austere
frame, but it produces a high quality varietal wine in its own right. Napa Merlot is more generous and
less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon on the palate, and shows a range of ﬂavors from chocolate to red
plums to mint.
Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir is actually Napa’s third most planted red variety, behind Cabernet Sauvignon
and Merlot. It produces sparkling and still wines in the cool Carneros AVA, and grows elsewhere in the
cooler mesoclimates of the valley. Carneros and Napa Pinot Noir styles often showcase red fruits and
jam, framed by sweet spices and oak.
Zinfandel: Zinfandel is especially popular in the warmer northern sections of the valley, such as Howell
Mountain, Calistoga and St. Helena. Napa styles are usually fuller in body, with high levels of alcohol
Syrah: Napa Syrah is generally big and bold, evoking dark berry fruits and smoke. Unlike Cabernet,
Syrah tends to exhibit savory undertones of grilled meat and black pepper.
Cabernet’s inherent vegetative notes, preferring aromas of cocoa, fruit, violets and cedar to those
of green bell pepper and herb. At its best, Napa Valley Cabernet is dense, mouth-coating, and
opulent, yet it remains ﬁrmly structured and long-lived.
1. Which two mountain ranges frame the Napa Valley?
2. What is the most planted white grape in Napa Valley?
3. Which AVA is located in both Napa and Sonoma Counties?
4. Name three “mountain” AVAs in Napa Valley.
5. Deﬁne the term “benchlands”.
6. In which AVA is the To-Kalon vineyard located?
10 Photo courtesy of Jason Tinacci