Located in the heart of Napa Valley, the Oakville AVA is an officially demarcated two-mile-wide swath of Napa Valley that extends to 1,000 feet in elevation up the base of the Vaca Mountains to the east and 500 feet in elevation in the Mayacamas Mountains to the west. Within this small district you will find the greatest concentration of Napa Valley’s preeminent producers of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Oakville district of Napa Valley is so influential that a simple recitation of prominent Oakville winegrowers, from pioneers Robert Mondavi and Joseph Heitz to powerhouse brands Groth, Far Niente, Opus One and Joseph Phelps, through “cult Cabernet” producers Dalla Valle, Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle, tells the condensed story of Napa Valley wine.
The excellent publicity of Oakville’s wines can in part be attributed to the unique quality of its soils and enviable climate, but the story doesn’t end there. Oakville is distinguished by more than its terroir. Here you will find family-owned vineyards tended by meticulous growers, visionary wine marketers and some of the world’s foremost winemakers, all working together to craft unique, spectacular wines.
Napa Valley’s diverse, well-drained soils, sun-drenched summers and cool, dry falls make much of Napa Valley a superior place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. All wine grapes are finicky in their own quirky ways, and minute differences can be the reason between good wines and great ones. When it comes to growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville isn’t too hot; it isn’t too cold. It’s just right. That’s why Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville so perfectly expresses the essential qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon in deep, complex wines with the structural integrity of acid and tannin that preserves the best wines for decades.
Although Cabernet Sauvignon is the most renowned variety grown in Oakville, and by far the most widely planted, other grapes also fare well here. Red grapes, such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel and Sangiovese, and white varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, grow well in Oakville too.
Visitors to Oakville are drawn not only by the wine, but by the year-round beauty of Napa Valley. The vineyards and hillsides reflect the cycle of the seasons, and each season has its own scenic charm.
In winter, the pruned, dormant vines look naked under gray skies, often shrouded by a blanket of white fog. In spring, the valley explodes with life. Alternating showers and sun spark wildflowers and the brilliant yellow mustard often planted as a cover crop between vine rows. When the frosts seem over, the vines awaken, break fresh buds and flower. In summer, the verdant foliage of sun-loving grapevines takes center stage, and bunches of grapes slowly expand. Even in summer, Oakville’s mornings are cool and foggy, but give way to warm, dry afternoons. September brings cooler days and nights, and tense anticipation gives way to feverish activity during harvest. Exhausted, the leaves of the vines flush yellow, orange and red before they dry and scatter against winter winds.
The Oakville district was one of the first distinctive wine growing regions within Napa Valley to be officially recognized when it was granted AVA (American Viticultural Area) status in 1993. Today, the Oakville Winegrowers’ Association boasts more than 60 growers and wineries. Each spring, the Oakville Winegrowers welcome distinguished members of the international wine trade and press to the Taste of Oakville, where tastemakers and wine merchants are offered a sneak peak at soon-to-be-released vintages.
While Taste of Oakville is not open to the public, the tasting rooms of numerous Oakville producers are open to the public year round. Many others offer tours and wine tasting by appointment only. Visitors planning a trip to Oakville are urged to call ahead or check their favorite winery’s web site for visiting hours and policies.