[Photo Credit: Atlas Peak Appellation has used this image, with photo credit given to Stagecoach Vineyard]

I’ve driven through the Atlas Peak American Viticultural Area (AVA) many times, but I haven’t ascended the Vaca Mountain range.

I had one insightful visit, when invited to my friend Dr. Sondra Barrett‘s art exhibit at Black Stallion Winery. I was really impressed, and with only one day in the Atlas Peak AVA, the thoughts for the area were pretty fleeting. Not fleeting, though, were treasured moments with our friend Sondra. She is always worth being around. Black Stallion is also on the valley floor.

My recent second visit also just brought me to the valley floor. Our new client is next to the Silverado County Club. I need to write about this client’s very special Atlas Peak vineyard. The vineyard itself is being managed by our friends at Robert Biale. The big question for me is, “What makes the Atlas Peak AVA so special?”

As I searched, I came across a bit of history, written by Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast Magazine:

“Those pioneers—Jacob Schram, the Beringers, Charles Lemme and the Christian Brothers—gave way by the 1950s to a new generation. Such innovators as the McCreas, Al and Boots Brounstein, Dr. Jan Krupp, Piero Antinori, the Smith brothers, Bob Travers, Sir Peter Newton and others believed there should be distinct appellations for five of the Napa Valley’s highest mountains: Howell, Diamond, Spring, Mount Veeder and Atlas Peak.”

Since I know nada about it, except what I’ve now learned from Virginie and Wine Enthusiast. I’m still pretty much at ground zero.

Points of interest on the forefathers, and those five mountainous regions play key roles in these sub-AVA of Napa Valley:

  • Atlas Peak
  • Diamond
  • Howell
  • Mount Veeder
  • Spring

Let’s Explore Atlas Peak Details

    • Atlas Peak, located in Napa County, has been producing wines, since 1870.
    • In the 1950s, innovators in Napa Valley decided that there were five distinct mountain ranges, and should be so noted.
    • The first winery was constructed in 1980.
    • William Hill, in the 1980s, began planting in the AVA.
    • By 1992, Atlas Peak was designated as an AVA.
    • There are now 11,400 acres that make up this AVA, with only 1,500 being planted to wine grape vines.
    • First planted wine grapes:
      • Burgundy (Pinot Noir)
      • Chasselas
      • Flaming Tokay
      • Malvoisie
      • Mission
      • Muscat
      • Riesling
      • Zinfandel
    • Just northeast of the town of Napa, the Atlas Peak Appellation is located primarily within the Soda Canyon and Foss Valley areas, along the Vaca Mountain Range.
    • It’s northeast of the town of Napa, east of Yountville, and above the foothills of the Stags Leap District.
    • SOIL
      • The soil is rocky, volcanic (very porous as a result of being volcanic), rich in iron from volcanic ash, shallow, and well drained.
        • This allows for it to cool down quickly, despite increased sunlight.
        • How can we tell volcanic soil? It’s brick red.
      • The diurnal temperature variation is upwards of 30°F, between daytime and nighttime.
      • This is what contributes to the perfect balance of acidity that Atlas Peak vineyards are known for having.
      • This region has the distinction of being Napa Valley’s highest elevation, of 2,663 feet.
      • So the views must be breathtaking landscapes of mountains, vineyards, and lakes.
      • It’s enticing enough that I now need to go for a ride, to actually have lived it.
      • It’s a well known area for Atlas Peak Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
      • BORDEAUX: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc.
      • SMATTERING: Syrah, Marsanne, Sangiovese, Chardonnay.
      • Annual rain fall is usually 38 inches a year.
      • One of Napa Valley’s coolest regions, with wet winters and warm, dry summers.
      • Mountainside, temps are 10 degrees cooler than Napa Valley’s floor.
      • It receives full sunlight throughout the day, and nighttime temperatures drop into sweater weather.
      • At an elevation of 1,600 feet, many mornings in the Atlas Peak area are well above the fog line.
    • I keep reading about a gorilla, but can’t get anything well defined.
    • Adventure!?
  5. BRANDS in this AVA
    • Acumen
    • Alpha Omega
    • Antica Napa Valley
    • Bianchini Family Vineyard
    • Black Stallion Winery
    • Dos Lagos Vineyard
    • Hall Wines
    • Krupp Brothers Estates
    • Lagniappe Peak Vineyards
    • Lischewski Family Vineyards
    • Lobos Wines
    • Sill Family Vineyard
    • Soda Vineyard Camp Vineyards
    • Stagecoach Vineyards
    • Stonum Vineyards
    • Tjiam Family Vineyards
    • Vinrock Wine Caves
  6. CRITICAL ACCLAIM ~ 100 points ~ Atlas Peak
    • 2012 Acumen Red Wine Mountainside Napa Valley, crafted by the late winemaker Denis Malbec
    • 2013 Corvalle Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak Napa Valley
    • Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Atlas Peak … expensive and prestigious wines and rated these on his 100 point winescoring scale.
    • The fruit for this monster [Cameron Hughes] Napa Cab comes from three of Napa’s most prestigious sub appellations: Stag’s Leap, Rutherford and Oakville. On his website Cameron gives just a glimpse of who’s juice this may be.  He had to sign a 3 page Non-Disclosure Agreement which left very little to say except that the people he acquired this wine from do not sell a bottle of wine for under $200 and have multiple 100 point scores under their belts.  This wine was available for $27 on the Chwine.com website but sold out in a matter of weeks when Costco bought almost ALL of the 4,000 cases produced!
    • Groth 1985 was the first 100-point wine.

I’ve gathered enough to continue, for creating copy. From here it’s going to be interviews, as I construct the Atlas Peak story for our client’s story. Once the Website is fully constructed, I’ll be able to have a link. For now, this is great fodder for anyone else needing Atlas Peak’s info.