Main image: View from the terraces at Round Pond Estate, a winery in Napa's Rutherford AVA and Kuvée wine partner. 

Part of California’s North Coast wine region, the Napa AVA (American Viticultural Area) has 43,000 vineyard acres, which include some of the most famous vines in the country. A few of these Napa “cult status” producers include Chateau Montelena, Stag’s Leap, Screaming Eagle and Opus One.

Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Napa, where the wines are often described as bold and opulent. While fruit-driven, Napa Cabs often have interesting smoky, peppery or mocha notes, making for memorable and sought-after wines. Beyond Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir round out the other most planted and popular grapes grown in Napa.

What is grown not only depends on consumer interest and demand, but also largely depends on the location of the vineyards. While named Napa Valley, the region has fairly diverse topography and weather patterns, including a mix of valley and hillside terrains. In addition, there are diverse and distinct soil types, thanks to volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. As such, the Napa AVA is broken up into 16 sub-AVAs.

Spotlight on Rutherford AVA: The Rutherford AVA, which is only six miles long, showcases valley terrains, warm (but not hot), sunny days, with gravelly and sandy clay soils. Rutherford is known for producing some of the best, bold, yet unique Cabs in Napa, and why the grapes and wines from Rutherford are so highly valued.

If you are a fan of Kuvée wine partner, Round Pond Estate, you are already familiar with a Rutherford Cab and the prestige wines produced in the AVA. Round Pond is a second-generation family owned and operated Estate in Rutherford, making limited-production wines.

Spotlight on Calistoga AVA: Calistoga is the northernmost sub AVA in Napa, where the Mayacamus Mountains and the Vaca Mountains meet. It also features volcanic soils, but more variable weather of hotter daytime temperatures, transitioning to colder nighttime temperatures. These temperature swings lead to bolder and more structured wines in an AVA known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  

The stunning architectural marvel at Calistoga-based Clos Pegase Winery, including the modern estate and wine caves, is perhaps only matched by their elegant wines. Two of the Clos Pegase vineyards are located in Calistoga, while the other two are located in St. Helena and Carneros.

The history:

Napa’s history is over 150 years in the making. The first vines in Napa were planted in the 1850s. Charles Krug was an early pioneer, who established his winery in 1861. However, Napa almost was the region that wasn’t. Between phylloxera (a grape root eating louse) and Prohibition, the now-famous vineyards were nearly wiped out. It wasn’t until the 1940s when the Mondavi family bought Charles Krug winery and a lot of investment into the region that things turned around. Napa still wasn’t the famous region it is now, that began in the 1970s.

At the 1976 Judgement of Paris, Napa wines were put in a blind taste test against top French wines, and judged by French wine experts. The judges, and later, the rest of the world, were shocked to see two Napa wines, Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, awarded the top spot in their category. Napa, and the rest of California’s AVAs, have only grown in notoriety since then.

Give it a swirl:

Napa Cab: Round Pond Kith & Kin Cab 

An earthy and bold Cabernet, this wine is produced with grapes from a few Napa locations, with the majority from the estate’s Rutherford vineyard.

Napa Merlot: Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Merlot

A single vineyard Merlot, from the estate’s Carneros-based vineyard, this wine features notes of Cherries, cinnamon and musk.  

Napa Sauvignon Blanc: Girard Sauvignon Blanc

Zesty and tropical, this wine is produced from a few of Napa’s top Sauvignon Blanc vineyard locations.

Wineries with Tasting Rooms in Napa:

Planning a Napa trip? These Kuvée wine partners all have tasting rooms in Napa.

Note: The wines they serve may not all be exclusively grown in the same AVA as their winery and tasting room. Many of the wineries have vineyards in other AVAs, or contracts with top farmers in those locations. Visiting the tasting room gives you the opportunity to try their wines from various vineyard locations to better learn what you really love!