The Oakville appellation is in the center of the Napa Valley, just south of the Rutherford AVA and just north of the Yountville AVA. Its 5,200 acres (2,104 hectares) unfold across 2 miles (3 kilometers) of a unique landscape that has been the muse to some of the most critically acclaimed wines made in the United States: Opus One, Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Far Niente, Robert Mondavi Winery, Detert, MacDonald, Dalle Valle—the list goes on.
How is it that a relatively small stretch of land came to produce such enological benchmarks? The answer may lie in an ideal confluence of geography, climate, soil, and human influence—the quaternity that comes to bear on the rich identity of this appellation.
Though the Oakville region did not gain appellation status until 1993, it has enjoyed a resplendent enological reputation for decades. Ohioan Henry Walker Crabb, known as H. W. Crabb, moved to Napa in 1865. He settled near Oakville and planted Hermosa Vineyard shortly thereafter for the express purpose of producing table grapes and raisins. But in 1872, Crabb the visionary was born, and he planted the now legendary To Kalon Vineyard. Crabb could not have known at the time that his vineyard would go on to become one of the most hallowed of vineyard designates, not only in the United States but in the world—though perhaps he knew he was onto something special when he called it To Kalon, Greek for “the call of beauty.”
Robert Mondavi, whose unparalleled vision for Napa Valley helped shape its identity further, founded his eponymous and historic winery in Oakville in 1966, conferring a level of commitment to this appellation that helped to shape the contours of its reputation for warm, gracious, and elegant hospitality.
Oakville’s viticultural virtues include the ability for fruit to ripen to full maturation, producing luxuriant, many-faceted wines of profound fruit character and a regal tannic structure. Because of dramatic diurnal swings resulting in cool nights followed by warm days, a vibrant note of acidity courses through wines emblematic of this small region. The appellation itself runs east to west, with the east side producing primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot in low-pH soils. This hinders growth, which leads to fruit of deep concentration. The soils on the east side are iron rich, extremely rocky, and reddish in color. The signature profile of many of the east side’s greatest wines can be best described as aromatic, brooding, and balanced, with the red wines emerging nearly opaque. It is on the east side of the Oakville appellation that the Peter Michael Oakville Estate resides.
Culturally, the Oakville appellation is diverse and abundant. The Oakville Grocery Store, originally established in 1881, still provides weary travelers with gentle repasts. Their “West Coast–inspired pantry” features a broad array of mindfully prepared foods to enjoy on-site or to take home. And in 1983, esteemed chef Cindy Pawlcyn established Mustards Grill, named for the wild mustard that carpets the valley floor each spring. Forty years later, it is still considered a culinary destination.