St. Helena: Heart of the Napa Valley

Located towards the north of the valley at one of its narrowest points [see map below], St. Helena is not the geographic center of the Napa Valley. But it is the historical heart of the valley, where Charles Krug and Jacob and Frederik Beringer established their wineries in the mid-19th century. Today, St. Helena continues to be home to many of Napa’s most famous and historic wineries.  In this article we review a tiny sampling of the large number of world class wines being produced in the St. Helena appellation.

Granted AVA status in 1995, the region covers 12 thousand acres. Located in the upper Napa Valley, protected by the western hills, and with little fog incursion, St. Helena is a warm growing region with an average 3600 Growing Degree Days well suited to fully ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and other big reds.  But it’s also a region where the Sauvignon Blanc grape produces an especially attractive, crisp wine of tropical nuances. One of Napa’s 16 sub-AVAs, today St Helena is where one finds some of Napa’s most celebrated wineries. It is home to about 80 wineries, 400 vineyards, and 6,800 acres of vines.

The Wines

Ehlers 2018 Sauvignon Blanc St Helena Napa Valley  ($32) 91  The Ehlers Sauvignon Blanc is always a joy to drink, and the 2018 vintage follows suit. It offers hints of elderflowers, lemon curd and grapefruit pith on an expressive bouquet followed by a crisp, mineral-inflected attack, a densely packed and vibrant palate, and a lingering finish featuring citrus and mineral notes. Sourced from the 42 acre estate vineyard in Saint Helena, fermented in stainless steel and aged sur lie for 6 months with weekly battonage.  The winemaker is Laura Diaz Muñoz, who studied enology and viticulture at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid and previously made wine in Spain and New Zealand.  Alc 13.6%

Corison 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena Napa Valley ($100) 95 Cathy Corison’s 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon evokes crème de cassis and dark cherry fruit with tobacco leaf and cedar nuances. It’s well-proportioned on the palate with a deep, focused core, impressive mid-palate breadth, and tongue-coating tannins. Super impressive in its youth, it should age beautifully.

MC4 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena Napa Valley ($75) 93 An outstanding Napa Cab! The nose is perfumed with notes of rose petals and dark currants that are mirrored on a velvet-textured palate.  This is an elegant, finely textured wine of outstanding depth and length. Victoria Coleman is the winemaker. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1 acre, organically cultivated Martin Crowshaw Vineyard and matured in 20% new French oak.  Alc 14.2%


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