In 1836, George Yount became a blessed man when he received the generous grant from Mexican commandant Mariano Vallejo for 18 square miles of property, between the small growing communities of Napa City and Oakville, in Napa Valley. After becoming the original white settler in the region, Yount planted the first grapes in Napa Valley at his Caymus Rancho from 1838-1839. By the mid-1850s, he was producing a few hundred gallons per year and later went on to win awards for his flavorful creations of wine and brandy at the Napa County Fair.
During this historic period, Yount’s impact on the valley was strong. And following his death in 1865, the name of the nearby village of Sebastopol was changed to Yountville in his honor. In the 1870s, Gottlieb Groezinger built a large wine production facility in what is now downtown Yountville. And as the interest in wine began to grow, more people started realizing the promise of their area. As a result, the amount of vineyards planted around the town increased to 500 acres in the 1880s and to 1,700 by the late 1890s.
Unfortunately, most of these historic vineyards vanished during Prohibition and the focus switched to other agricultural crops. But that started to change in the early 1970s, when new vineyard investors came into the area. Among them was Moet & Chandon, the famous French-owned Champagne house, which went on to establish Domaine Chandon near the historic Veterans Home of California west of the city.
Today, the region is known for its moderate maritime-influenced climate and its unique mixture of volcanic, sedimentary, gravely and alluvial soils which are spread throughout the 8,000 acres that are incorporated inside the boundaries of the Yountville appellation granted in 1999.
Currently, there are 4,000 acres of vineyards planted in the Yountville AVA and more than 20 wineries with significant holdings inside the boundaries of the appellation.
Beyond producing world-class wines, Yountville has also earned a reputation as a global culinary destination for food lovers thanks to the success of fine local restaurants, including The French Laundry, Etoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon, Bottega, Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, Hurley’s, Redd, R&D, and Lucy at Bardassono. www.yountvillewines.com.
Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc.
Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir.
White Wines: Thanks to cool breezes and fog cover blowing in from the nearby San Pablo Bay, the temperature around Yountville is warm, not hot, during the growing season. This allows Chardonnay clusters to develop complex aromas and flavors that appear in the finished wines. Trademark characteristics from the region include: spring flowers, brioche, citrus, ripe peach, pear, apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and roasted almond; vibrant acidity; and elegant texture. For Chablis fans, there are also nice examples of Chardonnays made in stainless steel tanks instead of barrels, with the intent of preserving notes of golden delicious apple, grapefruit, lemon verbena and other fresh fruity flavors.
Yountville is also a great appellation for aromatic white wines. The Sauvignon Blancs typically feature fragrant aromas and bright flavors of honeysuckle, green herbs, citrus, apple, and ripe melon. As a counterpoint, the Gewürztraminers tend to be tangy and playful with notes of pineapple, mango, papaya, and a spicy finish. And Pinot Blanc is often more elegant with an oily texture, vibrant acidity, and flavors of poached pear and ripe stone fruits.
Red Wines: Cabernet Sauvignons in the Yountville appellation are elegant and complex with concentrated flavors of ripe berries, cherry, plum, cocoa, fresh herbs, roasted nuts, and silky texture. The Bordeaux blends are also very sophisticated with aromas of blue fruits, violets, lavender, and accents of fine French oak; flavors of ripe berries, blueberries, cassis and chocolate; chewy tannins; and silky texture.
For more limited selections, the Syrah and Grenache-based wines are elegant, refined and marked by notes of violets, blueberry, boysenberry, blackberry, and velvety texture; the Sangiovese is more Tuscan in style, with more emphasis on ripe red fruits, black olive, licorice, and fresh herbs; and the Zinfandels are medium to full-bodied with vibrant notes of ripe red fruits, briary blackberry, dried herbs, and layers of spice.
With appetizers and starting dishes, the bright and expressive styles of Sauvignon Blanc are delightful to pair with oysters, ceviche, goat cheese, chilled soups, fresh salads, fish tacos and grilled chicken. With Gewürztraminers, try tangy cheeses, aromatic soups, and spicy Asian or Indian cuisine. And to match the richer texture of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, try elegant sheep and cows milk cheeses, rich soups, stuffed mushrooms, seared scallops, pasta with white sauce, roasted chicken, and pork tenderloin with fruit chutney.
In general, the flavorful Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Bordeaux-based blends from the region pair nicely with complex appetizers, gourmet Mac & Cheese, pork chops, duck breast, rack of lamb, and filet mignon. Other tasty suggestions include: tangy cheeses, pork and gamey meats with Syrah and Grenache; flavorful soups, grilled vegetables, complex pasta dishes, and Osso Buco with Sangiovese; and Charcuterie plates, smoked fish, barbecued meats and chocolate with Zinfandel.