Regions and Appellations USA California North Coast Napa County

Napa County Wine

Napa County is the best known county (in wine terms, at least) in the larger North Coast AVA of California, largely because it includes the world-famous Napa Valley AVA, which covers most of the region. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon in particular is famed around the world.

Napa County lies between Yolo County to the east and Sonoma County to the west. Napa township, the county seat, is located in the southern quarter of the county, just 35 miles (55km) from downtown San Francisco.

Yellow mustard blooming in a Napa County vineyard

All local wine producers have the right to use the Napa County AVA on their wine labels but few do, opting instead to use more location-specific appellations such as the prestigious Napa Valley, Carneros, Yountville, Mount Veeder or Howell Mountain. Naturally, the options open to them depend on the location of their vineyards.

The first grape vines in Napa County were planted in the late 1830s by an early settler, George Calvert Yount (from whom the wine town of Yountville takes its name). The Napa Valley is home to Beringer Vineyards, the county's oldest continuously operated winery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Mediterranean climate prevails here, with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters; the average temperature in August is 92F/27.8C, falling to 37F/2.8C in winter. As one of California's smaller counties, Napa County covers a total of 485,000 acres (196,275ha) with less than 10% of the land under vine. Perhaps surprisingly, despite its formidable reputation, the Napa Valley represents just 4% of California's total wine production – but it accounts for 30% of the state's wine economy.

Napa County's latitude of 38°N places it parallel with such southerly European vineyard areas as Portugal's Setubal Peninsula, Alicante in Spain, Italy's Calabria and the Greek Ionian Islands. While latitude is far from the defining factor of climatology, this does give some indication of how warm Napa Valley summer afternoons can be.

A key factor in Napa County's success as a viticultural region is the famous Bay Area fog and its interactions with the Napa Valley. As the sun warms the land on summer mornings, a blanket of cool, moist air rises from San Pablo Bay and is sucked inland by warm air currents moving up the valley sides.

At its northern tip, as the Napa river approaches Calistoga, the valley floor measures just one mile (1.6km) across and sits at an altitude of roughly 500ft (150m). As it drops steadily towards San Pablo Bay it widens substantially, spanning almost nine miles (14km) east to west around Napa town. This funnel shape draws the refreshing, cooling fog far further inland than it would otherwise reach, influencing sites which would otherwise be too hot and dry to support quality viticulture.

In October 2017, various AVAs within Napa County suffered extensive damage from the wildfires which raged across northern California's wine country.

For more specific information on each of the AVAs within Napa County, please see Napa Valley and its sub-regions.

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Most Popular Napa County Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Opus One, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 7th 94 $415
Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 26th 91 $92
Dominus Estate Christian Moueix, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 39th 95 $276
Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 51st 96 $3,879
Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 62nd 92 $192
Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 64th 94 $260
Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 66th 96 $1,263
Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 91st 89 $140
Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 156th 95 $334
Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 165th 93 $159
Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 169th 93 $146
Beaulieu Vineyard BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 204th 93 $136
Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 206th 95 $838
Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 222nd 91 $148
The Prisoner Wine Co. 'The Prisoner', Napa Valley, USA Cabernet - Syrah - Zinfandel 227th 90 $49
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 'Artemis' Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 229th 89 $66
Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 249th 89 $36
Chateau Montelena The Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 268th 92 $157
Stags' Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 278th 90 $49
Spottswoode Family Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 284th 95 $225
Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 290th 93 $262
Quintessa Red, Rutherford, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 318th 93 $192
Opus One Overture, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 333rd 91 $144
Far Niente Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 335th 92 $159
Duckhorn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 359th 89 $67
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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