Napa Valley (California) Wines

Along with Sonoma, the Napa Valley appellation, with 15 additional nested AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) over 45,000 planted acres, is one of the premier wine producing regions in America. Geographically, the Napa Valley is framed by the Vaca Mountains in the east and the Mayacamas Mountain Range in the west. Generally, soil in the north of the region consists of volcanic gravel, while the south consists of clay and silt deposits associated with historical advances of nearby San Pablo Bay. Napa has a wide range of micro-climates, largely shaped by altitude and the relative exposure to the influence of cooling fog.

Map of Napa Valley wine regions

Map of Napa Valley’s wine regions

Napa Valley Wine Grapes

Cabernet sauvignon dominates grape production in Napa. Napa’s magnificent cabernet sauvignon-based red wines come in a range of styles: in warmer environments (such as the Napa Valley floor), flavors will be dark, soft, and generous. In cooler environments (such as the mountain appellations), wines increase their structuring tannins, retain greater acidity, and take on slightly more earthy and herbal flavor characteristics. Merlot comes in swift second place, offering immediately approachable wines with generous fruit, easy tannins, and low acidity.

While cabernet dominates red wine production, chardonnay holds the leadership position in white wine production. That said, there are a range of white wine options worth exploring: sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot gris, viognier, and gewurztraminer.

Napa’s wines are world class – the only drawback generally being the high prices relative to some non-US wine-producing zones — and should be sought out by wine drinkers seeking the best experiences.


Learn about American wines with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles many American winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.