For a region that’s only 30 miles long and a few miles wide, California’s Napa Valley has an iconic reputation for producing some of the finest wines in the world.
Photo: Courtesy Napa Valley Vintners
The Napa Valley AVA is located in Northern California, just 50 miles northeast of San Francisco and tucked away between the Mayacamas Mountains to the west and the Vaca mountains to the east. The Napa Valley is celebrated for consistently producing wines of the highest quality as vintners are committed to a culture of excellence, environmental leadership, and careful winemaking practices. For a region that’s only 30 miles long and a few miles wide, California’s Napa Valley has an iconic reputation for producing some of the finest wines in the world.
One of the reasons for Napa’s high quality wines is its rare Mediterranean climate, which only 2 per cent of the world has. The Valley’s generous climate allows for a long growing season that assists in the grape’s complexity and flavour. The sunny, dry, and warm days, followed by cool evenings, is the ultimate combination for allowing grapes to ripen slowly and evenly.
Another contributor to Napa’s wine quality and delicious freshness is its proximity to the ocean. As hot air in California’s interior valley rises, it creates a vacuum effect which draws in moist, cool air from the ocean, forming fog. This pattern repeats most days during the warmer months of the year. Except on rare days, summer fog will burn off by mid-morning and essentially help retain acidity in grapes.
The climate, in combination with an incredible diversity of soil, allows for the production of a wide variety of grapes like Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and perhaps most famously, Cabernet Sauvignon, which has found quite a comfortable home in the area.
Napa Valley certainly has a long history of grape growing, but it was George Yount who planted the first grapes and in 1861 Charles Krug was credited with creating the first commercial winery. Not long after that, other producers, like Beringer, followed suit. Napa has had its fair share of challenges with phylloxera destroying vineyards in the 19th Century and of course Prohibition in the 1930s. It wasn’t until 1950s and 60s that the Napa Valley started get back on track when producers like Andre Tchelistcheff, of Beaulieu Vineyards, and Louis H. Martini started to invest in recovery of the region.
We can’t talk about Napa Pioneers without talking about Robert Mondavi. He established his winery in 1966 with a clear vision to creates Napa Valley wines that would stand up to the world’s finest. He coined the term “Fume Blanc”, worked hard to improve the quality of Cabernet Sauvignon, and with a fierce determination and drive, became an advocate for the region and produced incredible wine that the rest of the world would eventually fall in love with.
Another important point in Napa’s history was the Judgment of Paris of 1976. Top wine critics and journalists were tasting top French wines against wines from California. To everyone’s amazement, the winning wines were from Napa Valley. This pinned Napa and California on the international stage for top quality wine production.
Since then, winemakers in Napa Valley collectively aim to do one thing — consistently improve and produce hauntingly delicious, high quality wines that are brimming with elegance and finesse.
A contributing factor to the Napa’s success is their efforts in investing into their community, winemaking technology as well as their dedication to the environment and health of their vineyards. They have been investing in environmental leadership with its Napa Green Certification whereby producers are certified sustainable and are constantly improving soil health and increasing efficiency with energy and water use, for example. Napa Valley truly stands out a leader in exemplifying sustainability, but also as trailblazers given the high standards of winemaking and consistent, top quality wines
It’s my firm belief that Napa Valley is an affordable luxury that should be constantly gracing the tables of Quebec. Montreal is a gastronomic city and we love and appreciate good food and wine. We have refined palates that values unique, quality driven and elegant wine.
The wines of Napa Valley comfortably fit into our budget and lifestyle more than we realize. When it comes to accessibility at the SAQ, these wines often sell themselves so once they are available for purchase it would be wise to grab them while you can. In no particular order, here are but a few of my personal favourites that close to my heart.