Best Napa Valley Appellation

As I look at the piles of snow outside my window, I am ruminating on and looking forward to my Napa Valley trip this June. I’m looking at my Napa Valley map and thinking about visits I’d like to make. I checked my CT inventory to see if I have favored producers or appellations I’d like to target. I have some ideas for producers.

I enjoy Burgundy and Bordeaux, among other areas. Over the years I look back at what I’ve collected or enjoyed and see myself having more Chambolle, Vosne and Volnay. In Bordeaux I have more wine from Paulliac and St. Julien than other areas. As usual, a combination of factors led me there - producer, regional style, price, etc. I can plot the pattern. Not so for Napa Valley, so I thought this might be a worthy topic.

There is mountain fruit, Rutherford dust, and the “iron fist in a velvet glove wines” of Stag’s leap. The map features 17 areas. This may be a may be a matter of personal preference or it may be that this is also a producer driven question, but which Napa Valley appellation produces the best wine? Is there a geographic area that gives the wine makers a distinct edge?



I have to ask why these areas are being called appellations. An appellation is something which defines a certain product coming from a certain area, not just a piece of land. If Stags Leap District has been shown to make a particulalry good Cabernet, I can understand wanting to call that Cabernet an appellation, but it shouldn’t really be applied to all varietals and blends grown in the district.

Sorry for being all pedantic and European.

Howell Moutain & Pritchard Hill for me.

Howell Mountain, a pretty easy pick for me.

Valley floor: Oakville
Mountains: Spring Mountain

Although I’m interested to see what the Coombsville designation will offer. Maybe some good Cab Franc?

Let us know what you would prefer

For me: Howell Mountain

Most widely considered: probably Oakville

Honestly, ask 100 people, you’ll probably get 16 answers (I think there is 16 AVAs)…

Start a poll?

A bit dated, but with useful descriptions: Best Napa Valley Wineries - Vineyards & Tours

More up-to-date, with lots of technical information:

Howell Mountain

Home of To Kalon.

Robert, thank you. Good stuff.

I think it’s tougher proposition in Napa than Farnce because the wines within an appellation here can be more varied in style and even variety. If you love Cab, you’re not going to choose Carneros, but might if you really preferred red & white burgs. I tend to think that within the Cab/Bord varietals the Mountain Apps (Howell, Spring, Veeder) might appeal more to a Eurocentric palate. But there are some great wines made in many of the appellations. Oakville is relatively large and historically quite a few producers set up shop there, so while I don’t know that it is the best climate on average, there are quite a few great wines from that App.
On the basis of what is produced I would have to say Howell Mt and Oakville. Personally I find something very appealing about cab from Stags Leap, though there are not a lot of great producers.


Lot of big time vino coming out of Coombsville. More and more each year it seems.

I’m a fan of Oakville, Spring Mountain, Pritchard Hill (and everything else).

Ok, here we go…

Napa Valley. Period. The AVA lines are arbitrary, and I, for one, have refused to attach the Calistoga AVA to my label. I just don’t think the AVAs as they exist are meaningful. Some people are not happy with my thoughts.

Roy Piper had a gorgeous set of maps and thoughts and re-drawn lines of the AVAs as he sees them, with the vineyards notated within. I don’t think he ever posted them here, but only over on the Parker Board. I’ll give him a call and see if I can get him to post them here. They might not be perfect, but they make tons more sense than what we have. He actually pays attention to soils and micro-climates in his stuff.

And I personally, as a farmer, find it a lot more interesting than who is in and who is out in the latest wine publication.

The best appellation is… TRB!

Please make it happen! Those maps sound killer! Exclamation point!

We spoke. I think we will see them. They represent a lot of thoughtful work. I’ll keep the pressure on. [cheers.gif]


If these maps are without copyright, I can reproduce large format versions good enough to frame.