The transformation that has occurred in this small rift of land above San Francisco bay that is barely 30 miles long is intense, from a quiet farming community with stands of nut trees and plum orchards to a giant in terms of wine quality, power, tourism and fame. Napa is now synonymous with the great wine regions of the world, a player on the world stage with real estate values soaring past tens of thousands of dollars per acre. The most amazing part is how quickly all this has happened. Only 40 years ago Robert Mondavi joined pioneers such as Inglenook and Chateau Montelena in harvesting grapes in Napa. Quite a short period of time when compared to the fame that Bordeaux, Burgundy, et al. built over the centuries.
By both size and volume, Napa cannot compete with other regions in California. Smaller in size than Sonoma to the west, Napa produces less than 5% of all the grapes in California. But the quality is where she really shines. The combination of warm days tempered by high elevations and the cooling winds that travel up the valley from San Francisco Bay has created a Garden of Eden for grape growing. Numerous soil types exist, but overall the valley has been a hotbed for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and to a lesser extent Italian varietals, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and the other noble Bordeaux grapes.
Napa Valley is divided into many sub-appellations, including: Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley, Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros, Oak Knoll District, Oakville, Rutherford, Spring Mountain, Stags' Leap, Wild Horse Valley and Yountville.