Several distinct growing areas lie within the comparatively small agricultural region of Napa Valley’s Wine Country California. Challenged by the diversity of microclimates, soils, moisture levels, elevations, and other conditions, vintners successfully produce a full range of world-class wine grape varieties.

In 1981, Napa Valley was officially designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) based on its potential to produce grapes that possessed unique, distinguishable characteristics.

However, experts recognized that the region, approximately 30 miles long and only 5 miles wide at the broadest point, was made up of many growing areas where specific varieties could prosper. As a result, Napa Valley now boasts 16 “nested” AVAs, each with unique characteristics ideal for growing specific grape varieties. The AVAs run the entire length of the Valley from the very southern to the most northern sections. High-quality vineyards exist along the Valley floor and even up the bordering slopes of the mountains.

The diversity of elevations of the vineyards causes manageable variations in sun exposure, soil chemistry, average temperatures, harvest times, and precipitation levels that create conditions best suited for specific grape varieties.

Yields also differ between vineyards at higher elevations than those on the Valley floor.

Another defining condition with the higher-level appellations is that these are generally situated above the fog level that exists most mornings with vineyards closer to sea level. This condition adds to the direct sunlight the vineyards receive. And higher elevations experience naturally cooler temperatures throughout the growing season.

Napa AVAs at Higher Elevations

The 16 Napa Valley nested AVAs range in elevation from sea level to up to 2600 feet or more. The five AVAs situated on the mountain slopes bordering Napa Valley range in elevation up to 2600 feet, according to Napa Vintners, include:

Atlas Peak

At 10° to 15° cooler average temperatures compared to the valley floor, Atlas peak vineyards produce Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that produce wines with berry and cherry flavors with higher acidity. The Chardonnays from the appellation have crisp, distinctive flavors with bright acidity.

Diamond Mountain District

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produced here are less fleshy than those from the Valley floor vineyards but have rich, mineral, and cedary flavors with good aging potential.

Howell Mountain

Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Zinfandels produce firm, blackberry-currant flavors with balanced acidity, perfect for aging. The Chardonnay and Viognier are less fruity with more citrus and stone flavors than grapes from the Valley floor.

Mount Veeder AVA

Warmer nights and cooler days produce lower yields, but the conditions produce red varietals that age beautifully and carry strong earth and berry aromas and flavors. Chardonnays offer apple and citrus flavors with good acidity.

Spring Mountain

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel grapes from Spring Mountain AVA offer richly tannic, blackberry, and currant flavors that are also excellent for aging. The Chardonnays are less fruity with some citrus and stone flavors.


Enhancing Your Wine Country California Experience with Platypus Wine Tours

The safest, most enjoyable, and educational way to visit the wineries in Napa Valley is with a Wine Country California wine tour with Platypus Wine Tours. With an expert guide to lead the way, Platypus guests will learn some basics of vineyard management and the magnificent art of winemaking.

And, of course, visitors will taste the wines and develop a greater appreciation for the subtle characteristics of each one. Detect the differences between wines from grapes grown at sea level and those from wineries in Napa Valley that produce wines from grapes grown on the mountain slopes.

Visit the Platypus Wine Tours website to learn about your options for join-in or custom wine tours and tastings for wine tours of wineries in Napa Valley or nearby Sonoma County.

To schedule your professionally curated and memorable tour of Wine Country California, make your reservations online or phone Platypus Wine Tours at (707)-253-2723.