Napa’s Oak Knoll District marks 10 years

Ten years ago this week, the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley received its official recognition as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) from the US Department of Treasury’s then-named Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

OKD sign in 2004

It is one of sixteen sub-appellations of the Napa Valley. While it didn’t become official until April 26th, 2004, the region has a long history in Napa Valley. Oak Knoll’s wine story began in 1850 with Captain J.W. Osborne’s purchase of land three miles south of Yountville. Naming the area Oak Knoll, his 1,600 acre farm was the first in the region to be planted with premium vinifera varieties rather than the more common Mission grape. The farm was ranked Best in California by the State Horticultural Society, and his fifty acre vineyard was the largest and arguably most prestigious in Napa Valley. Tragically, Osborne was shot to death by a disgruntled former employee in 1863. If he had lived, historian Charles Sullivan believes Osborne might well have been known as the father of the Napa Valley fine wine industry.

“Traditionally ten years is celebrated with gifts of tin or aluminum…we’re thinking wine. It’s time to pull some corks and raise a toast—and our growers and vintners will be doing just that throughout the remainder of the year,” said Oak Knoll District Association board president John Wilkinson, of Wilkinson Family Vineyards. “This past decade has really brought the esteem of Oak Knoll District’s vineyards and wine front and center.”

The climate is cooler than the upper valley, yet warmer than windswept Carneros to the south. The area is considered a sweet spot for both Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet and cooler climate grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Warmer, drier winters and cooler growing seasons with more morning and evening fog provide for a long growing season. Winemakers prize this winning combination as it allows for bright fruit flavors with excellent, balanced acidity and structure. The winning Chardonnays from the Judgment of Paris and the Gault Millau World Wine Olympics were sourced from the Oak Knoll District and these grapes have a long reputation for their elegant style.

OKD-Anniversary-Sign-01x

Wineries in the district include Trefethen Family, Monticello, Robert Biale, Blackbird, Matthiasson, Lewis, Laird, and Black Stallion among others. Many prestigious producers grow or buy grapes from the area including Opus One, Caymus, Joseph Phelps, Beringer, Merryvale, Rombauer, Duckhorn, Whitehall Lane, HdV. There is a prevalence of small, family-owned growers in Oak Knoll.

Of Oak Knoll District’s 8,300 acres, nearly 4,200 are planted to wine grapes. There are more than 18 varieties, making it one of the most diverse sub-appellations. Top varieties by acreage are Merlot (1,113 acres), Chardonnay (1108 acres), Cabernet Sauvignon (926 acres), Pinot Noir (291 acres), Syrah (166 acres), and Sauvignon Blanc (142 acres). Additionally, all the other classic Bordeaux-style red varieties are planted, as well as Riesling and Zinfandel.

The vintners and growers worked for many years to have the area recognized as the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. A lengthy challenge from an out-of-state winery named Oak Knoll delayed its formal AVA status. In the end, the 150-year history of the region played an important role in the granting of the AVA.

“I cannot believe how ten years have passed, or that it took nearly ten years previous to that to work through the challenges of keeping our historic place name intact, but here we are and I am delighted to see the district thriving. The vineyards are better than ever, the wines are varied, distinctive and outstanding across the board. It’s a great time to be in the Oak Knoll District,” said Janet Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards, founding district board member.

Learn more visit oakknolldistrictofnapavalley.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Brand Manager - Key Wine Partners

MMI Dubai
Dubai - United Arab Emirates

Business Development Manager

Bashall Spirits
Lancashire, UK

Territory Manager - Edinburgh

Cadrona Distillery
Edinburgh, UK

Territory Manager - London​

Cadrona Distillery
London, UK

Business Development Manager

Lucozade Ribena Suntory
UK

Customer Marketing Manager

Bibendum
London NW1, UK

Export Assistant Co-ordinator - Maternity Cover

Speciality Drinks
Whitby Avenue, London NW10 7SF, UK

Customer Services Administrator - On Trade

Speciality Drinks
Whitby Avenue, London NW10 7SF, UK

Fruit Focus 2019

East Malling,United Kingdom
17th Jul 2019

International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show

San Francisco,USA
23rd Jul 2019

The Wine Show Chelsea 2019

London,United Kingdom
18th Oct 2019
Click to view more

The Global Riesling Masters 2018

View Results

Global Chardonnay Masters 2018

View Results

Click to view more