By Lisa Rowlands

Five years before it received its official AVA designation, Napa Valley’s wines were catapulted to international stardom by the Judgement of Paris - a competition of May 1976 which resulted in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay varietals from Napa out-scoring their French counterparts in a series of blind tastings. But whilst this was the event that first placed the region’s wines on the world map, viticulture has been an integral part of the landscape and the culture here for almost two-hundred years. Beginning in the 1830s and accelerating rapidly after the gold rush, Napa Valley’s winemakers have faced various setbacks throughout their history - notably Phylloxera and Prohibition - but over the last fifty years have emerged as the undisputed leaders of New World wine, producing award winning varietals from a range of red and white grapes.

Although relatively small when compared to a number of other acclaimed wine regions (forty-five kilometres long and just eight across at its widest point), Napa Valley boasts a remarkably diverse range of topography and soil compositions, and a host of climatic conditions within its bounds. Such is the diversity of terroir here, the appellation houses no fewer than sixteen sub-AVAs and is itself contained entirely within the Napa County and North Coast appellations.

Overall the climate can be considered Mediterranean: warm, dry summers with plenty of sunshine and mild winters with varying degrees of precipitation. Most of the sub-appellations also experience significant diurnal temperature variation resulting in grapes that are well-balanced and rich in flavour, and the cooling effects of the fog that rolls in from San Pablo Bay is another key factor of Napa’s climate.