Nearly a half-century ago, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department began to designate specific regions of the nation as AVAs or American Viticultural Areas. The issue was to provide consumers with greater clarity regarding the origin and characteristics of the wines they purchase.
Boundaries of each AVA are defined by a set of unique growing conditions or terroir rather than by more arbitrary county or state lines.
The first designated AVA was in Missouri in 1980. The second, Napa Valley, was in the heart of the rapidly-developing Wine Country California.
As Napa Valley wine production grew, it became clear that conditions varied significantly from location to location, even within this relatively small growing area. Napa Valley wines are sourced from a vast range of elevations, microclimates, and soil types that would demand even more specific designations.
As a result, Napa Valley now consists of sixteen “nested” AVAs from southernmost Los Carneros to Calistoga along its 30-mile corridor, each with different conditions and unique finished wine characteristics.
History of the Yountville AVA
George C. Yount was the first American settler and significant landowner in the area when he took ownership in 1836 of approximately 9,000 acres of raw land in the south-central part of Napa Valley. Yount planted his first grapevines in the 1840s and soon helped to establish the first town, then named Sebastopol. He produced wines using traditional methods by stomping grapes to separate the juice, then fermenting them in ox skins.
After Yount passed away in 1967, residents honored his contributions by changing the town name to Yountville. Furthermore, adjacent land he had gifted to his daughter and son-in-law, the Rutherfords, later became the community of Rutherford, just to the north of present-day Yountville.
Growing Conditions in the Yountville AVA
The Yountville appellation boasts almost perfect conditions for growing and producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignons. Vineyards lie at a near-sea level elevation of 20 to 200 feet and experience moderate cooling marine influences from nearby San Pablo Bay. Morning fog and strong afternoon ocean breezes offset the warm temperatures from overheating the vines.
The soils are gravelly alluvial silt with some rock and moderate fertility that allows the vines to reach deep below the surface, resulting in wines with a unique representation of the terroir or natural environment.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is the principal varietal, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc are also varietals successfully produced from the harvests of the Yountville AVA.
Wineries in the Yountville AVA
Today the Yountville AVA is home to about 3000 acres of planted vineyards managed by 100 wine growers.
Around twenty high-end wineries grace the Yountville AVA landscape producing varietals and blends that have achieved worldwide recognition for quality. Some of these Yountville-based wineries that Napa Valley wine tours companies frequently visit include:
- Handwritten Wines
- Jessup Cellars
- Hill Family Estate
- Hope and Grace Wines
- J Gregory Cellars
- Kapcsandy Family Winery
- Domaine Chandon
- Hestan Vineyards
- Bell Wine Cellars
- and more