What Sets Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll District Apart

Grapes in Wine CountryWith fewer than 25 active wineries in the entire Napa Valley in 1968, the Trefethen family rehabilitated a “ghost winery” and began replanting the vineyards.

That year, residents established the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve to permanently protect more than 38,000 acres of prime valley floor farmland.

The Corley family followed the next year, building a winery and planting vineyards near the Napa River in Oak Knoll. Nearby, the Jaeger family planted its vineyards and the district, along with the entire valley, was embracing a bright new wine culture.

Success came early in this renaissance when grapes from the district’s vineyards were in the top-placing Chardonnay wines of the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” and Gault Millau Magazine’s World Wine Olympics. In the 1980s, red varieties took top honors, with Oak Knoll District Cabernet Sauvignon ranked best in the state at the California State Fair Wine Competition.

The federal government formally recognized the Oak Knoll District as the 14th American Viticultural Area of Napa Valley in 2004.

Today, the district’s 8,300 acres find nearly 4,200 acres under vine — the most grapevines of any wholly contained sub-appellation of the valley. The AVA is located north of the city of Napa and south of Yountville. Mt. Veeder is the western border and the Silverado Trail defines its eastern boundary.

The Oak Knoll District’s growing season is longer — cooler in summer than the warmer Upper Valley and drier in winter, allowing soils to warm earlier in the spring. The marine influence from San Pablo Bay is strong, with foggy mornings and cool summer nights. Summer daytime temperatures average 10 degrees cooler than in St. Helena.

This creates the longest growing season in the valley, one that can last up to eight months, providing early bud break and long, leisurely grape development for optimal, balanced ripeness. The cooler nights and slowly rising daytime temperatures of the growing season create a naturally long hang time for the fruit to achieve bright acidity, great texture, fruit-forward aromas and elegant flavors.

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Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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