A modern utopia for fine wines and the country’s renowned wine-making region, the Napa Valley is often referred to as the Mediterranean of the US. It is home to more than 500 wineries with 3.3 million visitors as reported in 2014.
For visitors and residents alike, the Napa Valley region also has an abundance of attractions, boutiques, nightlife, festivals and more to enjoy. Fine dining is ubiquitous; Napa Valley is internationally recognized as having more restaurants with Michelin Stars per capita than any other wine region in the world. There is also a plethora of world class luxury lodging, wellness retreats, art galleries, mineral spas and natural hot springs.Just an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Valley is a must-see destination for anyone visiting or residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Napa Valley is in the northern-most region of the Bay Area and is roughly 30 miles long and 5 miles wide near Napa, and tappers in width gradually to the northen end of the valley in Calistoga. The main communities include Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga.
Napa Valley History
The Napa Valley is rich in winemaking history. The first commercial grapes were planted in 1839 by George Yount, the founder of Yountville. In 1861, Charles Krug established the first commercial winery in St. Helena, which is still producing top quality wines to this day. By 1889, the number of wineries had grown to 140.
By the turn of the 20th century, much of the wine industry suffered massive setbacks in part by Prohibition and the Great Depression. However, with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Valley’s wine industry began to recover and grew steadily over the next several decades.
Cesare Mondavi took ownership of the Charles Krug Winery in 1943, then left control of the business to his wife and two sons, Robert and Peter, 16 years later. In 1966, Robert founded the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville - the first major winery built in the post-Prohibition era. Mondavi was a marketing genius and led the campaign around the globe to prove to wine lovers that the US had finally excelled in the area of premium wines.The Napa Valley arrived on the global wine making scene in 1976, when a Stag’s Leap Cabernet beat the best French Bordeaux in a blind tasting at the Judgment of Paris wine tasting competition. In addition, Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay reaped the highest overall score at the event. The world took notice when Time Magazine wrote an article about the tasting, and The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. now proudly displays both winning bottles from the competition.
Location, Climate, and Weather in Napa Valley
Napa Valley is a unique grape growing region that produces world class wines because of its Mediterranean climate. Only 2% of the earth has this type of climate—cooler marine air at night and sunny warm days, with summer temperatures averaging 85 degrees and winters averaging in the 50s. There are three major climate zones in the Valley with temperature variations, allowing vintners to grow a variety of grapes that thrive in each specific zone.