Napa Valley

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Napa Valley

The winemaking tradition of California originated in the 18th century. Everything started with the Spanish missionaries, who brought the technology of wine production to that state. 250 years of tradition and experience, innovation and improvement of technology, and the ideal climate for growing grapes - all these factors make California one of the best places on earth for the production of high quality wines. 

By and large, California is one of the most diverse wine regions on the planet. There are more than 100 varieties of grapes and more than 100 viticultural areas. The different soil types and microclimates, together with the large number of wineries, make this region even more diverse. Napa Valley is considered to be one of the most successful viticultural areas in California.

In the language of the Wappo Indians, the word “napa” means “land of plenty” (Napa Valley Winery Guide). The first explorers planted vines there in 1840. In 1861, Charles Krug founded the first winery. Later, in 1889, the number of wineries increased to 140. Most of them were closed during the Prohibition Era. Nevertheless, after its cancellation in 1933, the beginning of the Napa wine industry revives. From 1960 to 2000, the number of wineries has grown from 25 to 240.

Napa Valley is located in a half-hour drive from San Francisco. It is surrounded by mountains on two sides and stretches for 45 km to the north. The valley is located on the banks of the Napa River and is planted with 16,300 hectares of vineyards.

It should be mentioned that California lies on the same latitude as northern Africa. One may declare that it is not possible to produce quality and expensive wines because of the hot climate. However, the mountain ridges extending parallel to the coast create a favorable climate in some valleys. For example, the proximity of the San Francisco Bay provides nearly ideal conditions for growing grapes in Napa Valley. What is more, the Napa region contains more than 32 different soil types (Napa Valley Winery Guide).

The golden ages of the valley were 1860-1899 and 1966-1988. At the end of the last century, vineyards used to occupy over 18,000 acres in Napa Valley. However, in 1900, only 3000 acres managed to survive phylloxera. The aphid is called Viteus vitifolii, and it is extremely harmful to plants (Smith).

The next golden age is directly linked with the name of Robert Mondavi. In 1966, he founded his firs winery in Napa Valley. Mondavi dedicated his life to the creation of superior wine and managed to move to greater heights. Nowadays, the Robert Mondavi Winery is known in the whole world (Mondavi).

The main quality of Robert Mondavi was an extraordinary generosity. On the one hand, this can be proved by the fact that he spared no expense to develop production and innovation. On the other hand, Mondavi always shared new findings with the others. For example, in the late 70s, his winery has conducted very difficult and incredibly expensive computer research. One examined the impact of different species of oak trees for wine barrels on different types of grapes. The research was conducted using various fumigation techniques and different storage temperatures. The results were impressive. Nevertheless, instead of hiding the findings of the research, Mondavi shared them with everybody (Mondavi).

Mondavi also had the significant achievements related to the individual varieties of grapes. For example, one has to mention his work at Pinot noir. In California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America, many wine producers have virtually abandoned this sort. Only due to the fact that this variety is used for making sparkling wines, it is not utterly destroyed.  According to Mondavi, one used too warm ground for planting it. The American winemaker proved that Pinot noir required extra care and constant attention in comparison with other brand. As a result, in 1985, the wine Reserve Pinot Noir appeared. It became the best of these wines (Mondavi).

It should be noted that the United States adopted a law on controlled appellations (appellation vine areas - AVA). By the beginning of 1997, there were over fifty AVAs, nine of them - in the Napa Valley. In 2009, the number increased to193 AVAs (Appellations).

Nowadays, Napa is considered to be the oldest and most eminent wine region of California. It stretches the largest vineyard in the United States, which is called Sterling. It was founded in 1973 on an area of 160 hectares. Sterling is known for its red wines.

The most popular wines of Napa Valley are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlo, Sangiovese, etc.

Cabernet Sauvignon

It is often called the king of red varieties. During the last 100 years, the words “cabernet” and “quality” became the synonyms. The wine that is produced in California has a rich and strong aroma with hintts of blackberry, black cherry, and other fruits. Many of these wines have an extremely dense structure, prominent tannins, and excellent acidity. The color is deep-inky. Cabernet Sauvignon can be maintained for 10-15 years or even more. It harmonizes well with roasted lamb, game, or traditional turkey (Grape Varietals).

Sauvignon Blanc

It was Robert Mondavi, who opened this type of wine. The thing is that, before Mondavi, winemakers used to add a lot of sugar in the wine made from this grape variety. Therefore, one could taste nothing but sugar in that wine. Mondavi removed sugar, mixed the wine with Sauvignon Semillon, and got an excellent type - Fume Blanc (Mondavi).

Chardonnay

It is a very aromatic wine with notes of figs, pineapple, ripe apple, honey melon, and citrus. It becomes especially good after the exposure. There appear a predominance of golden brown tones, nuts, and vanilla. The wineries of Napa Valley produce several types of Chardonnay. The wine can be enjoyed both with red meat and fish (Grape Varietals).

Merlo

It is remarkably similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but this type of wine is much softer. It does not require such a significant exposure. It harmonizes well with red meat dishes. It has a rich fruit aroma with hints of meadow herbs, currants, and cherries. This wine became popular since 1970 (Grape Varietals).

Pinot Noir

This wine has the flavors and aromas of black currant, cherry, and raspberry with a hint of spice and vanilla. The concentration of tannins gives Pinot Noir a special tenderness. It harmonizes with any dish that features mushrooms. This lovely wine has a sensual aroma and is less tannic than Merlo or Cabernet (Grape Varietals).

California can be seen in the quality of every bottle, whether exclusive or regular table wine for everyday use, which may be bought in every supermarket. There is not the slightest doubt that Napa Valley can easily compete with the best wine regions of the world in all price categories. The main conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that the suitable location, good soil, and favorable microclimate helped create the ideal place for growing wine grape – Napa Valley.  If one wants to taste an excellent wine, this region can propose Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlo, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and many other quality wines. Napa Valley is a paradise for wine lovers. 

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