When it comes to New World wines, and especially wines from the United States of America, Napa Valley is something of a standard bearer. Over its relatively short history, it has managed to transform itself from being a fairly insignificant region, to becoming one of the most important and highly regarding wine locations on earth. With an ideal climate for viticulture, blazing sunshine and a low level of rainfall, this valley is shielded on many sides by mountain ranges which help it maintain a consistent level of heat, light and moisture throughout the year. Today, Napa Valley is a home of innovation and quality, with dozens of grape varietals thriving in the fertile soils. However, the main varietals grown there have always been Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel, and the wines they produce are constantly lauded by critics and competitions across the globe.
Whether you believe that Zinfandel traces its origins to the Italian Primitivo or the Croatian Plavac Mali, we can still consider this America's own. With rare exceptions, the U.S. is the only growing region in the world to explore its "noble" potential. It is grown through California as one of the most widely planted varietals, and can be "white", red, rose, fortified, late harvest or even sparkling. Even as a dry red table wine, it is made in a myriad of styles and varies greatly as the growing conditions and climate changes from region to region. It is generally full-bodied and potent, with a burly, brambly quality, and can provide a veritable fruit basket of raspberries, blackberries, dark cherries and plums. It can be made claret-like and intensely powerful and structured, with high alcohol, or more refined and elegant. It always maintains a modicum of acidity, making it wonderfully adaptable to food. The finest Zinfandel appellations include the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Howell Mountain, Alexander Valley, Amador County, Napa Valley, Paso Robles and the Central Coast.