Exploring Napa’s AVA Less Traveled

There are 16 American Viticultural Areas within the Napa Valley, and you’ve probably heard of at least a dozen of them.

Names such as Los Carneros, Rutherford, St. Helena, Yountville and Calistoga are among the more famous “appellations within an appellation.”

But there’s one that tends to draw blank stares when its name is brought up: Coombsville.

There are two reasons for its low profile:

  1. It is the newest of Napa’s AVAs, established 11 days before Christmas in 2011.
  2. It has no tasting rooms with regular hours; to visit a winery, one must call for an appointment.

That probably will change with time, but for now, each Coombsville winery is family owned and a very small producer.

The AVA is located just 10 minutes from downtown Napa, tucked up against the foothills of the Vacas Range in the southeastern corner of the valley. Like Los Carneros, its climate is influenced by San Pablo Bay. But because it is farther inland, the average air temperature is higher, which means that Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals can be grown successfully.

Growers and winemakers also are having success with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, and the reds typically exhibit soft but significant tannins—which means they are accessible in their youth, but also capable of mid- to long-term aging.

Geologists describe Coombsville as “a bowl-shaped depression, cradled by a crescent-shaped section of the foothills of the Vacas Range.” The soil mix in various parts of the AVA includes volcanic ash, cobblestone and gravelly loams. It’s an ideal environment for grapevines, as rainfall drains easily, yet is retained in the sub-soils for access by the vines during the dry season.

With heat spikes few and far between, the grapes are dependably able to attain full ripeness, a key to balanced flavors and richness in the finished wines.

It may not be as famous as Yountville… yet… but don’t be surprised to hear more about Coombsville within a few years.

Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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