Vintners, viticulturists spend a day exploring Oakville AVA

As the group of vintners and viticulturalists looked out at the great expanse from 900 feet at Oakville Ranch, with a high western ridge behind them, David Howell swept his hand towards surrounding properties (Screaming Eagle, B Cellars, Vine Cliff and Dalla Valle) and said, “This is all one rock – not a series of rocks.”

One massive rock of andesite, created from volcanic activity not too many millions of years ago. What explained the flat landing the group stood upon, and a series of successive wide, flat steps that drop eastward towards the valley floor? An uplift in land – in grand style – that folded and thrust older rock over younger; an uplifting so high that huge pieces broke away, collapsing in a series of landslides toward what is now the center of the valley floor. Standing on the valley floor and looking up, one might envision a series of humongous steps made for a giant. Stagecoach and Atlas Peak vineyards lie on the uppermost surface; Oakville Ranch on the next lower step; and Dalla Valle, Vine Cliff and upper Backus vineyards on a lower step, and then the hills in the valley itself.

It is hard to imagine, looking across the valley at the western Mayacamas mountain range on that sunny morning at Oakville Ranch, but at the time of this turbulent lift on what is now the eastern Vaca hills of the Napa Valley, the Mayacamas mountain range did not yet exist at all.


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