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Napa Valley

napa-valley.jpgThe Napa Valley's 18,000 hectares, contained within a cigar-like strip running about 50 kilometers or so, more-or-less south to north, generally around five kilometers in width, and containing nearly 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) of vineyards and 400 or so wineries.  Many of these vineyards are on the valley floor (around 75m altitude) yet some of Napa's finest wines come from mountainside vineyards on either side of the valley.

Many of the wines are created in small quantities, and Napa has given rise to the concept of the 'cult' wine, produced in miniscule quantities, often from purchased grapes or a leased vineyard, with a high-profile viticulturalist and winemaker and high, often extremely high prices.  This notwithstanding, many such wines are of exceptional quality, even if unaffordable and unattainable!

it is an undisputable fact that Cabernet Sauvignon is king in the Napa Valley.  Merlot and Chardonnay are each important, and many other grape varieties are grown here, but it is Cabernet Sauvignon that has forged the Napa's illustrious reputation.

At its best, Napa Cabernet is rich, powerful and extremely complex, with layers and layers of fruits and spice anf fine-grained, persistent tannins - as well as often substantial alcohols.  In purely qualitative terms, the best Napa Cabernets are in fact as good as anything from Bordeaux or anywhere else in the world, although they are somewhat different stylistically.

napa-view.jpgThere are numerous, distinct regions or AVAs (American Viticultural Area) such as Oakville, Pritchard's Hill, Spring Mountain, Calistoga, Stags Leap, Rutherford and St Helena, which all have individual identities and characteristics they impart on their wines (although the hand of the winemaker can be just as evident as the site in some cases).