- By Morgan Harris MS
- 16 Oct 2020
- 5 MIN
- Level 201
Learn about the Oakville AVA, located at the very heart of the Napa Valley. Wedged between Yountville to the south and Rutherford to the north, Oakville is the very heart of the Napa Valley. An American Viticultural Area since 1993, Oakville spans a two mile stretch across the Valley with approximately a mile from top to bottom and can broadly be divided between the western and eastern sides of the valley. The western side is principally alluvial benchland of sandstone and gravels and the eastern soils are derivatives of the volcanic hillsides of the Vacas, principally from Pritchard Hill and the bottom side of Atlas Peak. Oakville is essentially the terminus of direct marine influence in the valley. While fog comes up this far, Oakville’s climate is more similarly warm to Rutherford in the North, than it is to Yountville, Oak Knoll, and Stag’s Leap to the south.
The western alluvial benchland at the foot of the Mayacamas contains the bulk of the original 359 acre To Kalon (“highest beauty” in ancient Greek) property, one of the most historical vineyards in Napa. Originally planted in the late 1860s by the entrepreneurial visionary H.W. Crabb, the vineyard name has been the subject of much legal wrangling between the various modern-day owners of the historical property. Andy Beckstoffer, Opus One, and Robert Mondavi winery own much of the property today. Other notable vineyards in western Oakville include Martha’s (made famous by Heitz’ bottling), Vine Hill Ranch, and MacDonald. While the appellation continues up to 500 feet of elevation on the western side, only a few properties are planted at elevation, including Harlan, Bond, and Futo.
On the eastern side of the valley, in the rich volcanic soils from the Vacas, the vineyards move to considerably more elevation with plantations allowed up to 1350 feet. Arguably the most famous resident of the eastern side of the Oakville is the eye-wateringly expensive Screaming Eagle, but Gargiulo, Rudd, Harbison, Groth, O’Shaughnessy, Plumpjack, and Accendo (the new Araujo project) are all on the eastern valley floor as well. Off the valley floor, at elevation, Dalla Valle and Peter Michael’s Au Paradis property are some of the most recognizable names.
It goes without saying that Oakville is almost entirely planted to Cabernet Sauvignon; given the storied history of the grape in this appellation and its ability to fetch top dollar, it’s the clear choice from an economic standpoint. With nearly the entirety of the appellation planted, it’s unlikely we’ll see many more new producers in the coming years, but with the way fruit is bought and sold in the valley, it’s possible that other producers will start making new Oakville bottlings.