Napa Valley: A Tiny Wine Region with a Big Reputation (Video)

On CTV News, Leanne and I chat about how Californian wines are among the popular at the liquor store. Today we’re going to focus on two of its most famous regions: Napa Valley and Sonoma.


How the wildfires impacted California wineries?


  • California wine country is vast, stretching from the Oregon border in the north, down to Mexico in the south: wine grapes grown in 49 of the California’s 58 counties. The majority of these other regions were not impacted by fires.
  • Only 11 wineries of the 475 in Napa had damage, plus the vineyards are naturally resistant to burning with their green foliage
  • Despite the wildfires, California vintners and growers are pleased with the 2020 vintage and 80% of wineries will be moving ahead with it though it’ll be smaller than average
  •  It’s too early to predict the impact of the fires on the 2020 vintage from smoke exposure.  Wineries are testing the grapes in laboratories, using micro-fermentations, small batches of trial wines, to determine smoke exposure


Let’s first take a look at the map and where these two wine regions are.



  •  Just an hour north of San Francisco – I used to drive up there on Fridays
  • You can see that they’re side-by-side, with Sonoma a touch more northerly and hugging the Pacific Ocean, while Napa is inland and a little more southern.


What would surprise us about Napa Valley?

  • It’s the most famous winegrowing region in the U.S. but it’s actually tiny, producing just 4% of Californian wine and only 0.4% of the world’s wine production
  • The valley floor is just 30 miles long and just 5 miles at its widest point




What grapes is Napa famous for?

  • Cabernet Sauvignon is king like these 3 wines I have with me here (I’ll describe them):






Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 









Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017







Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016





  • Plus, I have a Petit Sirah and a blend:







Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2016









Orin Swift Papillon 2017





  • Merlot, Pinot Noir Petite Sirah Zinfandel, more than 30 red varieties


What about white wines?

  • Chardonnay is the flagship white grape like this one:





Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay 2017






So how many wineries are there?

  • There are approximately 700 grape growers in Napa County
  • There are approximately 475 physical wineries in Napa County producing more than 1,000 different wine brands
  • 95% of Napa Valley’s wineries are family-owned and nearly 80% produce fewer than 10,000 cases annually – that’s small in the wine industry



How long has Napa been making wine?

  • Grapes first planted in 1839
  • 1970s quality leap
  • 1976 Judgment of Paris: wins head to head blind tasting


What are the growing conditions like?

According to the Napa Valley Vintners Association:


  • Typical summer daytime high temperatures are 80ºF (27ºC) in the southern part of the valley and 95ºF (35ºC) in the northern part of the valley
  • Fog moderates summer overnight temperatures to an average of 53ºF (12ºC) throughout the valley
  • Varied topography: Vineyards range in elevation from sea level to 2,600 feet (800 meters)
  • Diverse soils: Half of the world’s 12 recognized soil orders
  • Ideal climate: Dry Mediterranean climate, which covers only 2% of the Earth’s surface
  • There are 16 approved AVAs within the Napa Valley AVA
  • Grape varieties (from 2018 Napa County Crop Report):



– More than 34 different wine grape varieties grow in Napa County

– 21% of vineyard acreage is planted to white wine grapes and 79% to red

wine grapes

– Top varieties:

Cabernet Sauvignon – 24,045 acres/9,730 hectares (51%)

Chardonnay – 6,130 acres/2,480 hectares (13%)

Merlot – 4,294 acres/1,737 hectares (9%)

Sauvignon Blanc – 2,812 acres/1,138 hectares (6%)

Pinot Noir – 2,821 acres/1,141 hectares (6%)

Zinfandel – 1,293 acres/523 hectares (3%)



Environmental Leadership


  • The Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, established in 1968, was the first of

its kind in the United States to set land aside specifically for agriculture

  • Today, nearly 90% of Napa County is under permanent or high levels of

protection from development

  • In 2015, the Napa Valley Vintners established the goal that all its eligible

members will be in the Napa Green environmental certification program

by the end of 2020

  • As of 2019, NVV is 70% of the way towards achieving this goal
  • 40% of all sustainable winery certifications statewide



Economic Impact


  • The local wine industry and related businesses:

– Provide an annual economic impact of more than $9.4 billion locally

and nearly $34 billion in the U.S.

– Create 44,000 jobs in Napa County and nearly 190,000 nationwide








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