Napa Valley American Viticultural Area and Sub-AVAs

The wines from Napa Valley are wines of the highest quality and excellence and are grown and produced in one of the world’s most extraordinary places. Napa Valley was California’s first AVA, or American Viticultural Area, and was established in 1981. 

You might be wondering, what exactly is an AVA? An AVA is a legally designated grape growing area possessing distinguishable characteristics such as climate, terrain, soils and cultural and historic significance. In addition, if a winery wants their wine to be labeled from a specific AVA, at least 85% of the grapes must come from within that specific AVA. 

Within the larger Napa Valley AVA, there are 16 distinct sub-AVAs. The large number of AVAs within the greater Napa Valley AVA shows just how diverse Napa Valley truly is and this allows winemakers to be creative with the types of wine and styles of wine they make. 

Now that we have an understanding of what an AVA is, lets dive into each of the 16 sub-AVAs, moving from South to North through Napa Valley, and discuss the climate, elevations and what the prominent wine varieties are from each region.

Related: Sparkling Wine vs Champagne

LOS CARNEROS

  • Climate: Marine winds from San Pablo Bay as well as the Petaluma gap to the West keep the AVA cool with high temperatures rarely exceeding 80°. 
  • Elevation: sea level-700 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot

Want to taste some delicious wine, see what WineTravel4U has to offer!

COOMBSVILLE

  • Climate: The weather in the AVA is tempered by its proximity to San Pablo Bay with daily high temperatures being as much 10 degrees cooler during hot months than most of the other AVAs and heat spikes tend to be less severe. 
  • Elevation: 100-1000 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir

WILD HORSE VALLEY

  • Climate: This is the coolest of Napa Valley’s AVAs due to its elevation and proximity to San Pablo Bay. The air that passes over Carneros cools as much as 10 degrees by the time it rises to the AVA. 
  • Elevation: 850-2130 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Related: The Etiquette of Wine Tasting

MOUNT VEEDER

  • Climate: Cool to moderate, with most vineyards above the fog line. This means that nights are warmer, and the days are cooler than those AVAs on the valley floor. Typical summer highs are near 85°. 
  • Elevation: 500-2600 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay

Want to taste some delicious wine, see what WineTravel4U has to offer!

OAK KNOLL DISTRICT

  • Climate: Cool to moderate with cool air and fog often lasting until late morning. Breezes that often come in the afternoon keep the AVA slightly cooler than the AVAs to the North. Summer high temperatures can reach the low 90s° and nightly temperatures can drop as low as 50°.
  • Elevation: sea level-800 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling

YOUNTVILLE

  • Climate: Moderate, with fog and marine winds contributing to cooler mornings. Afternoon breezes also help keep the AVA slightly cooler than the AVAs to the North. Summer high temps can reach low 90s° and overnight temps dropping into the 50s°.
  • Elevation: 20-200 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Want to taste some delicious wine, see what WineTravel4U has to offer!

STAGS LEAP DISTRICT

  • Climate: Moderately warm with afternoon winds helping to cool the warmer air that radiates off the bare rocks of the surrounding hillside. Summer temperatures can reach as high as 100°.
  • Elevation: sea level-400 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

ATLAS PEAK

  • Climate: Cool as the mountain influences temperatures to be about 10-15° cooler than the valley floor AVAs in summer. The AVA sits above the fog line and there are low day-to-night temperature fluctuations. Summer highs rarely rise above 90°. 
  • Elevation: 760-2600 feet 
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay

Want to taste some delicious wine, see what WineTravel4U has to offer!

OAKVILLE

  • Climate: Moderately warm with summer highs usually in the mid-90s°. There is night and early morning fog which helps create a significant day-to-night temperature difference. The east side hills receive the warm afternoon sun while the west side cools as the sun sets behind the Mayacamas range. 
  • Elevation: 130-1000 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc

RUTHERFORD

  • Climate: Moderately warm with a slight influence from early morning fog. Summer temperatures usually top out in the mid-90° range. 
  • Elevation: 155-500 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc

Want to taste some delicious wine, see what WineTravel4U has to offer!

ST. HELENA

  • Climate: Warm, due to the surrounding hills and less fog and wind. The narrowing of the valley floor as you more move more North provides for more heat reflection off the surrounding hills. Summer temperatures often reach the high 90s°. 
  • Elevation: 200-475 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier

SPRING MOUNTAIN DISTRICT

  • Climate: Cool to moderate depending on the elevation and the direction the vineyard is facing. Most of the AVA sits above the fog line which provides for warmer nights and cooler days than the valley floor. Typical summer days reach a high around 85°. 
  • Elevation: 600-2600 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Chardonnay

Related: 10 Great Food Pairings With Wine

CHILES VALLEY DISTRICT

  • Climate: Summer temperatures often reach the mid-80s° and with higher elevation and fog common, lows can reach 50° or even cooler in summer. 
  • Elevation: 600-1200 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel

Want to taste some delicious wine, see what WineTravel4U has to offer!

HOWELL MOUNTAIN

  • Climate: On the eastern side of the valley and above the fog line, the AVA is warmer and drier than other AVAs with more hours of sunshine and almost no marine influence. 
  • Elevation: 1400-2600 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Viognier

DIAMOND MOUNTAIN DISTRICT

  • Climate: Moderately warm temperatures with less fluctuations than the northern valley floor. Highs are generally 90° or less with lows in the 50s°. 
  • Elevation: 400-2200 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc

CALISTOGA

  • Climate: One of the hottest areas of the valley, summertime temperatures can often peak above 100°. Lows can dip into the 40s° at night due to the afternoon and evening breezes brought from the Pacific by the Chalk Hill Gap.
  • Elevation:  300-1200 feet
  • Prominent Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel

Whew, what a list! These are some remarkable AVAs producing fantastic wines from all over Napa Valley. These AVAs are spread out over an area encompassing almost 800 miles² so having a plan of attack when going tasting is vital. Here at Wine Country Travel we have been tasting great wines, and have partners in 15 of the 16 AVAs (Wild Horse AVA has no wineries). We look forward to putting our knowledge of the local wineries and AVAs to work for you and planning your perfect Napa Valley wine tour!     

Want to taste some delicious wine, see what WineTravel4U has to offer!