The Oakville AVA – Home of the Biggest Names in Wine

map of Oakville AVA


In the very heart of the Napa Valley lies the town of Oakville. Once a steam train stop in the late 1800s, Oakville owes its name to the dense groves of native oak which once blanketed the area. One hundred years later, the Oakville name is synonymous with excellence in winemaking. A unique combination of soil, topography and climate join together here, creating an environment that makes Oakville a viticultural treasure.

The real proof of Oakville’s status as a world-class grape-growing region is the number of great Napa Valley wineries that have planted their vineyards here. This district of Napa Valley is so influential that a simple recitation of prominent Oakville winegrowers, from pioneers Robert Mondavi and Joseph Heitz to powerhouse brands Groth, Far Niente, Opus One and Joseph Phelps, through “cult Cabernet” producers Dalla Valle, Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle, tells the condensed story of Napa Valley wine.


Located in the heart of Napa Valley, the Oakville AVA is an officially demarcated two-mile-wide swath of Napa Valley that extends to 600 feet in elevation up the base of the Vaca Mountains to the east and the Mayacamas Mountains to the west. Within this small district you will find the greatest concentration of Napa Valley’s preeminent producers of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Oakville Vineyard Map

appellation oakville

The excellent publicity of Oakville’s wines can in part be attributed to the unique quality of its soils and enviable climate, but the story doesn’t end there. Oakville is distinguished by more than its terroir. Here you will find family-owned vineyards tended by meticulous growers, visionary wine marketers and some of the world’s foremost winemakers, all working together to craft unique, spectacular wines.

Napa Valley’s diverse, well-drained soils, sun-drenched summers and cool, dry falls make much of Napa Valley a superior place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. All wine grapes are finicky in their own quirky ways, and minute differences can be the reason between good wines and great ones. When it comes to growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville isn’t too hot; it isn’t too cold. It’s just right. That’s why Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville so perfectly expresses the essential qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon in deep, complex wines with the structural integrity of acid and tannin that preserves the best wines for decades.


Year Established: 1993
Vineyards: 52 
Total Area: 5,700 acres

Planted Area: 5,000 acres
Most Common Grape Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel. All told there are more than a dozen different varietals planted in the Oakville AVA. 


When America’s economic conditions improved in the late 1870’s, the idea that Napa Valley was wine country caught on and the Oakville area was transformed. Between 1878 and 1889 the little village along the tracks became the center of one of California’s most important wine districts, part of a valley whose honors in wine would become legion.

H.W. Crabb was the first man who made Oakville a premium wine district. In 1868, Crabb purchased a 240-acre parcel in Oakville. By 1877, Crabb had 130 acres of the best vines available and was producing 50,000 gallons of wine. He called the place To Kalon, Greek for “most beautiful.” Crabb was solidly in place to enjoy the great wine boom that dominated California viticulture after 1879. By 1880, Oakville had become a bustling little village, and there were 430 acres of wine grapes in the area.

Others were also in place when wine became a growth industry. One was John Benson, who bought 400 acres of Oakville land in 1873 and planted an 84- acre vineyard. In 1876 he made his first wine, 15,000 gallons—and dubbed the estate Far Niente, Italian for “without a care.” In 1885, his great winery was built from plans by H.W. McIntyre, whose other masterpieces would include Inglenook (now Niebaum-Coppola) and Greystone (now the West Coast headquarters of the Culinary Institute of America). A wonderfully restored Far Niente still graces the western foothills of Oakville.

1857 Post Office established in Oakville.
1867 Oakville established as a stop on Napa Valley’s north/south railway line.
1868 H.W. Crabb purchases 240 acre ranch in Oakville.
1873 John Benson purchases 400 acres, plants 84 to vineyards.
1877 Crabb produces 50,000 gallons of wine from To Kalon Winery.
1880 Oakville area includes 430 acres of vineyards.
1885 John Benson builds Far Niente Winery.
1887 Surveys report 1,085 acres under vine in Oakville.
1893 Crabb’s To Kalon wines garner 8 awards at Columbia Exposition.
1903 Oakville Experimental Station established by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
1965 Heitz Cellars produces “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon
1966 Robert Mondavi Winery is founded in Oakville by Bob Mondavi, with partners Ivan Schoch and Fred Holmes.
1993 Oakville is officially recognized as a distinct appellation.Oakville Winegrowers forms with Vintners and Growers to preserve, promote and protect the appellation.

All information garnered from Oakville Winegrowers.


The Oakville AVA has over 80 wineries with either an estate owned vineyard or produciton facility, and dozens more that produce wine that is sourced and labeled as an Oakville wine. Here is just a small sampling of the most popular and famous of this prestigous group. 

  • Bevan Cellars
  • Bond
  •  Cakebread
  • Cardinale
  • Carter Cellars
  • Chateau Boswell 
  • Dalla Valle
  • Far Niente
  • Futo Wine
  • Groth
  • Harlan Estate
  • Heitz
  • JP Harbison
  • Maybach
  • Merryvale
  • Nickel & Nickel
  • Opus One
  • Pahlmeyer
  • Paradigm
  • Plumpjack
  • Robert Mondavi
  • Rudd
  • Saddleback Cellars
  • Screaming Eagle
  • Showket Vineyards
  • Silver Oak
  • Stanton Vineyards
  • Tamber Bey
  • Tor Kenward Wines 
  • Venge Vineyards


Ronin Label Oakville East Exposure Label  Oakville Winegrowers Cuvee label

2012 Courtesan ‘Ronin’ Red Blend, Oakville

Wine Spectrum 93+: A masculine styled red wine consisting of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. At first sip, the merlot shines though with big dark cherry and cranberry dominating the palate. The finish though is all Cab. Bold tannin and dark fruit surprise you and offer a finish that goes on for over a minute. This small production (200 cases) blend from the heart of Oakville is ages 29 months in new French oak barrels.

2012 Oakville East ‘Exposure’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville

Wine Spectrum 95+: Blue and red fruits, a lot of spice and a mellow finish. Medium to full-bodied, pure, ripe and reassuringly good, this wine quickly grew on me. It should drink nicely for 10-15 years.

2013 Meyer Family ‘Fluffy Billows’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville

Wine Spectrum 94: As we’d expect from a warmer vintage this wine is bursting with ripe fruit aromas from the moment the cork is popped. Blackberry and ripe currant intermingle with anise, cardamom, and a hint of miso. Toasted wood comes wafting through with each sip but is it oak or cedar. Two years in oak coupled with a warm season have made this wine immediately approachable and smooth. 2013 is a standout vintage drinking well upon release but will age well into the future. 

2013 Oakville Winegrowers ‘Oakville Cuvee’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville

Wine Spectrum 95+: For the serious collector, this is a rare gift to be treasured for years to come. On first pour you see a beautiful dark purple color that gives you a glimpse of the pleasures to follow. Aromas of dark cherry, spices and a hint of chocolate dance from your glass. As you taste it you get a hint of what is to come. Although young, this wine shows wonderfully. Plum, cherry and blackberries dominate your tastebuds with a hint of chocolate on the long finish. This wine was built to last and finishes with smooth yet bold tannins. The winemaker for this special Cuvee rotates avery three years and the 2013 vintage was made by Kristof Anderson of Gargiulo Vineyards.

One thought on “The Oakville AVA – Home of the Biggest Names in Wine

  1. Bruce Ferry says:

    I’m President of the Golden Gate Wine Society based in San Francisco. Every year we pick a wine region or varietal and invite speakers to speak about the region or varietal. In 2020, we’ve chosen Napa Valley. In March 2020 our event will focus on the Oakville AVA. I was wondering if you would know anyone who would wish to speak to our group about the Oakville AVA?

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