The Ultimate Guide to Essential Napa Valley Wines for Your Collection

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

As a discerning wine collector, you want the best wines for your collection. That's why you should consider adding fine wines from California's Napa Valley. The wines of this region are among the best in America, offering exquisite body, depth, and rich flavor notes. Napa Valley wines are of superior caliber and are the perfect addition to your fine wine collection.

The Rich Diversity of Napa Valley Wines

Napa Valley is California's premier wine-producing region, featuring hillside and valley floor vineyards that produce high-quality grapes. The region is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but also for its Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

Napa Valley wines range from single varietal releases, to blends similar to Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon is often the primary grape in Napa's reds, while Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay hold sway for its whites.

Napa Valley is also an area with numerous mesoclimates, which can vary among its 16 subregions (also known as American Viticultural Areas or AVAs).

The southern part of the valley is cooler, with mineral- and sediment-rich soils. This is where you'll find AVAs like Los Carneros, Oak Knoll District and Yountville. The northern part is warmer, higher in elevation and full of volcanic soils. At this end, you'll find AVAs like Calistoga, Howell Mountain and St. Helena.

This rich diversity of soils and climate leads to a corresponding diversity of wines and wineries. This is one of the reasons why the Napa Valley region has become so famous - despite having one-sixth the vine acreage of Bordeaux. Diversity and decadence go hand in hand in Napa Valley to attract wine collectors the world over.

Here are the essential wines of Napa Valley for your wine collection.

The Ultimate Guide to Essential Napa Valley Wines for Your Collection

1. Screaming Eagle

Combining high-class taste and small-scale production, Screaming Eagle wines are known for all-around excellence - and for fetching some of the highest prices paid for an American wine. Produced in the Oakville AVA, Screaming Eagle produces a full-bodied and silky Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of black cherry, licorice, currants and cassis flowers. The Sauvignon Blanc is made in select years.

2. Dominus Estate

Found in the Yountville AVA, the Dominus Estate winery focuses on rich blends with high tannins ideal for long-term aging. Vintages see a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon, often 85 percent, with Cabernet Franc and Merlot balancing out the remainder. Its red wines have a velvety texture and aromas of wild berries, spices, wildflowers, currants and chocolate. They are aged for up to 18 months in French oak barrels.

3. Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena wines are harvested and produced in the Calistoga AVA, a region with a long history of wine production. Although the winery produces several varietals, including Chardonnay and Riesling, it is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon with its softer tannins and notes of currant, cedar, pepper, minerals and ripe fruit. The wine ages in 20 to 25 percent new oak barrels for as long as 22 months.

4. Dalla Valle

Produced in the Oakville AVA, Dalla Valle wines have a bold flavor and lingering finish. The winery produces both a Cabernet Sauvignon varietal and a cult wine - Maya, which is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Sauvignon has plenty of licorice, blackberry, cedar and floral notes and is well-suited to cellaring. Dalla Valle winery ages its wine in 70 percent new oak barrels.

5. Philip Togni

Harvested and produced in the Spring Mountain District AVA, which sits at 2,000 feet in elevation, Philip Togni wines have moderate-to-high tannin levels that make them ideal for storage. As an intense wine that is aged up to 20 months before bottling, the Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon releases a bold mix of sweet and savory, with the common aromas of each vintage including pepper, cedar, spices, olives, blackberries, plums, tobacco and damp earth notes.

6. Opus One

A Bordeaux-style blend, Opus One wines have Cabernet Sauvignon grapes as a base, followed by Cabernet Franc and Merlot. These wines are produced in the Oakville AVA and have a medium-to-full body. Highly aromatic, they release scents of florals, herbs, black currants, spices, berries, tobacco and loamy earth. They do well with aging and offer a rich finish.

7. Beringer Private Reserve

One of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, Beringer Vineyards has vine acreage in both the St. Helena and Howell Mountain AVAs. They are best known for their Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a blended varietal from both the St. Helena and Howell Mountain wine harvests. The varietal is rich in spicy notes, as well as florals, berries, licorice and cedar wood.

8. Scarecrow

Found in the Rutherford AVA, the Scarecrow winery produces a rich Cabernet Sauvignon that has become known as a cult wine. The production of Scarecrow wine differs from that found in most other wineries, with the wine aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, blended to perfection, and then returned to oak barrels for 10 more months. Scarecrow wines offer up plenty of florals, herbs, spices, black currants and ripe berry notes.

9. Shafer Hillside Select

Shafer Vineyards owns vine acreage in several AVAs, including Stags Leap District and Los Carneros. While they grow Merlot and Chardonnay grapes, they're best known for their Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select wine, with grapes grown in the Stags Leap District AVA. This wine ages in 100 percent French oak barrels for as long as 32 months. It has intense aromas of berries, coffee, licorice, cassis, charcoal and oak, with a balance of tannins and acidity.

10. Caymus

Caymus wines are harvested and produced in the Rutherford AVA. Although the winery produces several wines, its Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection attracts the most attention, especially since it only appears in exceptional years. The Special Selection is high in tannins and brings forth coffee, spices, dark chocolate, oak and ripe fruit notes. It is aged in oak barrels for up to 18 months.

If you are serious about adding exceptional wines to your collection, you'll want to expand it to include Napa Valley wines. Please review our article on how to start a wine collection for more details on proper storage and wine selection.

Copyright JJ Buckley Fine Wines 2018.