Scroll To Top


Apr 22
Apr 23

Visiting Napa’s Sub-Appellations? What You Need to Know

August 28, 2019
Category: Wine Tasting

Wine enthusiasts know that the taste of the grape reflects the climate and weather of the area where vines grow. When temperatures are too cool, grapes are tart. If temperatures rise, grapes can overripen or dry out. Too much rain can dilute the flavor and change the sugar/acid balance of the fruit. Too little moisture reduces the yield of grapes, which means less wine!

Fortunately, the U.S. is home to Napa Valley and its sub-appellations, where conditions for winemaking are optimal. An appellation is a defined region where grapes are grown. Napa’s diverse landscape creates smaller areas or sub-appellations with unique climates (and exceptional wines). Sub-appellations are also known as American Viticultural Areas or AVAs.

Read on to learn about each of the 16 sub-appellations and choose the areas that match your wine preferences.

  • Atlas Peak. Cool and rugged with drier soil, the Atlas Peak sub-appellation produces bright Cabernet Sauvignon and crisp Chardonnay.
  • Calistoga.The highs and lows of Calistoga’s temperatures help produce balance in the AVA’s Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
  • Chiles Valley District. Cooler temperatures and higher elevations lead to later harvests, but the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel from this AVA are worth the wait.
  • Coombsville. The moderate climate of Coombsville helps deliver the soft and earthy flavors in the region’s Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
  • Diamond Mountain District. Altitude and a temperate climate produce fruit with a delicate balance of sugar and acidity. This AVA is known for Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
  • Howell Mountain. You’ll be ‘above the fog’ when you visit this AVA and enjoy a sunnier, warmer, and drier climate than other areas. Enjoy its Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Zinfandel wines.
  • Los Carneros. In this sub-appellation, you’ll feel the cool breeze and moderate temperatures that help winemakers create flavorful, juicy Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
  • Mount Veeder. The rough terrain of this AVA means wineries do more work by hand. The area produces robust Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.
  • Oak Knoll District. This area’s almost perfect climate and weather results in a long growing season for an extensive range of elegant wines. Look for Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.
  • Oakville. The heavier soil and moderate climate in this AVA help winemakers produce award-winning varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Rutherford. Warmer temperatures and sandier soil result in full and sophisticated Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel.
  • Spring Mountain District. The range of altitudes and loamy soil in this AVA delivers grapes that are diverse and complex. Try a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel or Chardonnay.
  • St. Helena. The warm and dry conditions of this well-known AVA contribute to the fruity flavor profiles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel.
  • Stags Leap District. Rocky hillsides, cool breezes, and low altitude deliver lush Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc wines.
  • Wild Horse Valley. The coolest of the AVAs, Wild Horse Valley, is known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
  • Yountville. Proximity to the San Pablo Bay makes Yountville a cooler, foggier AVA and a region that produces rich, ripe Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Whichever regions of Napa you visit, start your journey with a stay at Napa Valley Hotel and Suites. We’re located in the center of Napa, with easy proximity to all the sub-appellations. Ask our friendly team for winery recommendations and travel tips. 

Ready to explore the unique wines in Napa’s sub-appellations? Call us at 707-226-1871 to book a room or use our online reservation system.