There's something in the dust.
Around harvest time, everyone's car is covered with a fine powder. It's annoying if you like clean automobiles. But wine people love it. After all, it's Rutherford dust.
It’s yet to be proven whether it's physical dust collecting on the grapes, getting into fermentation tanks, and flavoring wines. Regardless, Rutherford wines have this "dusty" quality to them and it's one of the highlights of this sub-region of Napa Valley.
Rutherford wines to know
Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford seems to have a little bit of everything. It's fruity, sweet, smoky, leathery, and uniquely "dusty." Like you walked into a study and dusted off an old leather book.
You'll certainly find Cabernet Sauvignon and the other Bordeaux red varieties here including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. But that's not all!
Rutherford also makes some really complex Sauvignon Blanc and even rarer Sauvignon Gris. The volcanic-based soils give these white wines a distinct schist-like texture. Occasionally, the winemaker will blend stainless steel-aged and oak-aged Sauvignon to create a rich, textured, and creamy wine. Well worth seeking out.
Another oddity that pops up in Rutherford is Muscat Canelli. This super aromatic white wine is often reserved for dessert wine blends.
Notable Wineries in Rutherford AVA
There are so many big names here, you could spend 7 days just in Rutherford, visiting three wineries a day and still only graze the surface. So, here are a few you "need" to know just for background knowledge.
Beaulieu Vineyard – One of Napa's early pioneering wineries started by Georges de Latour. De Latour started a nursery and imported thousands of French grafted vines to share with his neighbors to grow wine grapes. Later, B.V. brought in an experienced, European winemaker, André Tchelistcheff, who is now considered the most influential winemaker in Napa Valley history.
Inglenook Estate – Originally founded in 1879, Inglenook was one of the early successes that brought fame and notoriety to Napa Valley. The Inglenook estate falls upon hard times and splits up over the years. It's slowly fastened back together by Francis Coppola.
Caymus – The Wagner family's most famous winery developed a signature Cabernet Sauvignon style that's loved for its lush, soft, and opulent taste. It's a unique experience from the region.
Beckstoffer Vineyards – The Beckstoffer's are prolific wine grape growers in Napa Valley. They run viticulture programs and are the source of grapes for many wineries throughout the valley.
Grgich Hills – Miljenko "Mike" Grgich is a Croatian born, famed Napa winemaker who pioneered many high-quality practices in the region. His first claim to fame was as the winemaker at Chateau Montelena who won the Judgement of Paris blind tasting with his Chardonnay. Grgich Hills makes many incredible white wines.
Located midway in the Napa Valley at the valley’s widest points, it's considered one of the "sweet" spots for ripening Bordeaux varieties (including everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sémillon.)
Rutherford gets some fog influence from San Pablo Bay, which can cool things down a lot at night, but it’s warm enough to produce those robust styles of Cabernet Sauvignon that it’s well-known for. It’s also the sunniest part of Napa, with over 3000 hours degree-days, perfect for those late-ripening grapes.
In addition to the warm days and cooler nights, many alluvial fans contribute to the complex soil structure here. This creates well-drained, gravelly soils, a perfect home for Bordeaux varieties. The well-known Rutherford Bench is located on the western side of the AVA and has alluvial fan deposits from the Mayacamas mountains above. This 3-mile long coveted place is renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.
Rutherford AVA Facts
- Rutherford AVA was established in 1993.
- Rutherford AVA is 6,650 acres in size.
- Rutherford soils are dominated by the Franciscan marine sedimentary materials with some volcanic deposits.
- Rutherford became the first AVA association to achieve 100% participation in the Napa Green land program.