As we approach Thanksgiving and the holidays, we're looking forward to sharing some of our favorite Napa Valley AVA releases. Wine Blogger and Certified Specialist of Wine, Raquel Royers (a.k.a. @watchmesip on Instagram), is helping us celebrate these new releases by taking us on a virtual tour of the Napa Valley region of California. So pour yourself a glass and sip along!
If you call yourself a Napa Valley Cabernet lover, you probably have an affinity to a certain AVA (American Viticulture Area). For myself, I know that I have a soft spot for mountain wines in particular, especially Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain. Now grab a glass and let's take a virtual road trip through the Napa Valley together.
Picture this– it’s a cool, fall morning, the vineyards are changing from green to yellow, and you’re driving through the world-famous Napa Valley. Ahhh, nowhere else you’d rather be. First stop, Oakville, an AVA situated in the center of the valley with the slopes of the Mayacamas on the West and Vaca Mountains on the East. The valley floor can see very high temperatures, but the oceanic air influences from the San Pablo Bay provide relief to the vines. Soils here vary from volcanic to sedimentary, where cabernet thrives. In fact, some of the most famous vineyards in the valley call this AVA home.
Now I know what you’ve been waiting for. Let’s get to the wine!
This beautiful wine welcomes you with a vibrant nose of pomegranate, cherry, dustiness, and invigorating florals. On the palate you’ll find a bright, inviting wine with grippy tannins and high mouth-watering acidity.
You snuggle back into your car and decide to head into the western hills outside of St. Helena. As you climb the windy backroad, you emerge above the fog line. Your ears pop. You pull over to admire the view at a lookout point and see nothing but vineyards. The sun is shining, but there’s a slight breeze carrying the calming scent of forest floor. This is Spring Mountain District.
Spring Mountain is full of small, hidden vineyards in between the lush, forested land that sit on high terraced slopes. It’s above St. Helena and below the Mayacamas Mountain range, which separates Napa Valley from Sonoma. Elevations run from 400 to 2,600 feet, which has a huge influence on the grapes. Spring Mountain has many different microclimates in itself due to the terraced vineyards, which results in structured and complex wines.
One dip of your nose into this glass and you’re immediately drawn in by the notes of bright red fruits, cedar, wet leaves and spice. Equally as alluring on the palate, you’ll discover a rush of strawberry jam, chocolate dusted raspberries and well integrated tannins. This is a beautifully structured wine with so much to be discovered.
After soaking in your views, you get back into your car and type Howell Mountain into your navigation (about a 20-minute drive). Heading down the hill and East, you cut through the valley floor and begin your climb again. While close, these two areas have vastly different microclimates. Howell Mountain vineyard sites span from 1,400-2,500 feet above sea level and like Spring Mountain, is surrounded by forest. The soil here is a mix of clay and volcanic ash called “tufa” (impress your friends with that knowledge next time you have a wine night), which creates deep, concentrated wines.
The nose on this wine is decadent and full of candied cherries, licorice and graphite. On the first sip you’re greeted with rich, luscious black fruit and a long, soft and luscious finish. This Cabernet is like a nice big hug in a glass and truly reflective of everything that is to love about a Howell Mountain Cabernet.
As your road trip continues, you start to get hungry, and stop into the little town of Calistoga. As you may already know, Calistoga is located in the most northern part of the Napa Valley and is home to some of the world’s most famous vineyards and wineries. Given Calistoga is the farthest north, it's also is one of the hottest points in the valley. Vineyards here see a lot of sun and higher temperatures during prime growing season.The soil type ranges depending on the exact vineyard location and can see anywhere from volcanic to rocky, gravelly and even clay soil. If you like ripe, juicy, fruit-forward Cabs, you’ll love our Cabernet from Calistoga.
Notes of ripe and juicy blackberries and cherries jump from the glass, followed by thirst quenching acidity and grippy tannins. There’s something about this wine that leaves you wanting more and more after each sip.
What a tour of the Napa Valley! I don’t know about you, but that left me very thirsty. I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I do and can virtually imagine yourself in each different region as your taste through these stunners.