Groth became one of the most renowned winery names in California, when famed critic Robert Parker gave their 1985 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 100 pts - the first time a Californian wine had ever received that accolade. Since then they’ve been a name synonymous with the Napa Valley and its place at the top table of global wine regions. Their estate in the AVA of Oakville between the Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges is in a truly prime location.
What is an AVA?
AVA stands for American Viticultural Area, and refers to a defined area of land where winemakers can print the name of the AVA on their labels, thus signposting their quality. Within AVA’s there are often sub-AVA’s - smaller parcels of land with more specific climatic or geological characteristics. So in this case Napa is the AVA and Oakville the sub-AVA.
What makes Oakville so special?
Oakville sits right in the heart of the Napa Valley, and is home to iconic vineyards To Kalon and Martha’s Vineyard, as well as many superstar wineries, like Robert Mondavi, Heitz Cellars, Screaming Eagle, Far Niente, and Groth themselves. There are a couple of influences that affect the terroir in Napa.
- Fog. The whole region is sunny and hot, but each AVA has varying degrees of fog influence. Each morning the fog gets sucked up the valley from San Francisco Bay, with sub-AVA’s in the south of Napa, like Carneros, Coombesville and Oak Knoll getting greater volumes of fog and therefore greater cooling influence. The more northerly sub-AVA’s such as Calistoga and St Helena get less, and therefore see more of that heat and sunlight.
- Elevation. There are two types of sub-AVA in Napa with regards elevation. Those on the valley floor and those on or in the mountains. Most of the hillside areas are named as such - Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Atlas Peak to name a few. These sites are cooler due to elevation.
Oakville is a Valley floor AVA right in the middle, so it gets moderate and some may say ideal cooling from the fog in order to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon perfectly.
What kind of wines are made there?
While Oakville is most famous for sumptuous, spectacular, age worthy (and very expensive) Cabernet Sauvignon, there are also some top class Chardonnay and Sauvignon wines made there, albeit in pretty small quantities. The very nature of the land (exceptional and incredibly valuable) means most of the winemakers there are hugely impressive, so while Cabernet is King, the whites are also some of the best in California.
Sometimes Napa Sauvignon feels like an afterthought, a way of making use of the slithers of land not quite right for the Cabernet. But not with this wine from Groth. You get the sense tasting this wine that a lot of thought, care and attention has gone into it, the array of fruit character ranging from zesty citrus right through to tropical is quite something, and the acidity in contrast has been judged to perfection, making this a palate-jolting treat.