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Oakville AVA: A Study in Individual Differences

Situated directly in the heart of the Napa Valley wine region, Oakville experiences some of the best weather in the area with days that are warm and sunny. The soils in the area, which are comprised of gravelly loan, are particularly well drained; allowing vintners in the area to produce some of the best wines in the area. More than 90% of the land in the region is planted with vineyards ranging from a number of Bordeaux varietals as well as Sangiovese, Syrah and Zinfandel. Although the warm temperatures and sunshine of the region are common in the Northern Napa Valley, the Oakville climate is somewhat cooler than Rutherford, which is situated to the north. While Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly one of the king crops in Oakville, you will find that it receives somewhat less dominance in Oakville than in Rutherford. Opus One, one of the premier wineries in Oakville, is home to one of the most famous Cabernet blends in the entire state.

The wind and fog that comes in from San Pablo Bay only mildly affects the mornings and afternoons in Oakville. The series of hills known as the Yountville Mounts assists in blocking most of the influence from the Bay. As a result, the northern areas are warm. The warm temperatures of Rutherford have led to the growth of exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. In Oakville, the temperatures are somewhat cooler.

As a result, the fruits grown here have flavors that are somewhat softer than the Cabs grown in Rutherford. In comparison to Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabs produced in Oakville have less tannin. In addition, you will find that they do not tend to age as well. Still, Oakville Cabernets are known for their balanced and complex makeup. The great majority of the Oakville AVA, which has become famous in its own right, is situated on the Western Bench above the floor of the Napa Valley, just at the base of the Mavacamas Mountains. The great majority of the best known Cabernet production stems from Oakville Bench. The sediment that has washed down from the hills has contributed to the world famous Oakville Bench. The soils in this area are gravelly and sandy as a result. In addition, they are well-drained and quite deep, providing plenty of support for the development of large root systems. One of the most famous properties in the Oakville AVA Bench is Martha’s Vineyard.

This vineyard was planted during the 1960s and 1970s and today comprises 40 prime acres. Heitz Cellars has also received international accolades as a result of making wine that resulted from Martha’s Vineyard. Between Silverado Trail and Highway 29 you will find the valley floor. In this area, the soils tend to be a combination of sandy loam that is well drained and iron rich clay. As a result, white varietals tend to thrive in this region. In the eastern portion of the valley floor, you will notice that the soils have a decidedly reddish color. This is from trace elements of oxidized iron. Groth Vineyards and Winery is situated between Highway 29 and Silverado Trail right on Oakville Cross Road. This winery has become well known for their Cabs, which feature notes that are somewhat minty as well as dark and fruity. The soils in this particular area are a combination of sandy loam and clay loam.

The differences in the terrain in this area led to some debate when the area was first petitioned for AVA status. At the time a proposal was made that the area be established as two different AVAs; a general Oakville AVA and an Oakville Bench AVA. Naturally, vintners who would not have been included in the Oakville Bench AVA were opposed to the idea and subsequently the general Oakville AVA was established instead. Despite the fact that only one AVA was established many feel that there are still distinctive differences between the soils in the benchland and other areas of Oakville. Specifically, the Cabs that are produced in the Oakville Bench are considered to have fewer minty and herbaceous notes than those wines that are produced on the valley floor. Those wines from the valley floor tend to have the ability to develop more fully as they age in addition to their fully bodied and earthier notes. PPPPP Word Count 723 .


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