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Oakville & Rutherford, California

Napa Valley Wine Tours, Winery Map, History

Oakville and Rutherford in California's Napa Valley are known primarily for the nearby wineries and—among Northern California vintners—for the high quality of the area's soil, sometimes referred to as ‘Rutherford dust’.

Oakville, California

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Napa Valley Wine Train passing Robert Mondavi WineryPassengers riding Samuel Brannan's Napa Valley Railroad Company steam train from the ferry boat dock in Vallejo to the resort town of Calistoga in the 1860s probably gave little thought to a water stop among dark green oak trees.
The Napa Valley Wine Train still follows along that route but, today the unincorporated community of Oakville, California is home to some of the best know and highest regarded wineries in the Napa Valley.
Napa Valley view from Oakville GradeGranted AVA (American Viticultural Area) status in1993, Oakville was one of the first wine growing regions in the Napa Valley to be so designated.
The sandy, rocky soil of the Oakville Bench, enhanced with nutrient rich sediment from the volcanic ash covered Mayacamas Mountains and warmed by the sun—thanks to the fog blocking Yountville Hills to the south—is ideal for producing premier Bordeaux blends and varietals, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon.

Oakville Wineries

To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville, CAH.W. Crabb's To Kalon Vineyard—Greek for "most beautiful," established in 1868—was the first to take advantage of the ideal soil and climate here eventually totaling 130 acres. Portions of the To Kalon Vineyard are now part of the Robert Mondavi Winery acreage.
John Benson purchased land in Oakville in 1873, planted 84 acres and made his first wine in 1876. Benson named his estate Far Niente—Italian for "without a care."
Oakvill and Rutherford wineries mapFollow the links in the sidebar to the right, or on our interactive winery map, for pictures, history, visiting times and other details of these and other Oakville wineries.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture established an experimental vineyard in Oakville in 1903. The University of California, Davis operates the vineyard known as "Oakville Station."

Oakville Grocery

Oakville GroceryThe Oakville Grocery, and little Oakville Post Office next door, are likely the only non-winery business most people passing through town will notice. The store is a popular stop for tourists seeking supplies for a picnic lunch which can be consumed at tables behind the store while enjoying Napa Valley vineyard views.
Inside Oakville GroceryEstablished in 1881 this little country store at the corner of Highway 29 and Oakville Crossroad is stocked with made-to-order sandwiches, cheeses and locally produced olive oil, mustards, marinades and preserves.
If the building looks familiar it’s because Oakville Grocery has been featured in a variety of media over the years.
Oakville Grocery will ship anywhere.

Rutherford, CaliforniaRutherford, California entry sign

1,040 acres at the northern end of Yountville founder George C. Yount's Rancho Caymus land grant was given as a wedding present to his granddaughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Rutherford In 1864. By investing in grape production and wine making Rutherford established himself as a serious grower and producer of high-quality wines in the Napa Valley.

Rutherford Wineries

Finnish Sea Captain Gustave Niebaum, having achieved financial success in the Alaska fur trade, founded Inglenook Winery in Rutherford in 1879. Now Rubicon Estate Winery it is owned by Francis Ford Coppola.
Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) was established by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande in 1903. "Beau lieu." (beautiful place in French) is said to be Fernande's comment when she first saw, in 1900, what would later become their vineyard.
Fred Ewer winery building at BVIt is now the longest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley. The core of the present winery is a stone building dating back to 1885 purchased from the Fred Ewer winery about 1915.
Follow the links in the sidebar to the above right, or on our interactive winery map, for pictures, history, visiting times and other details of these and other Rutherford wineries.

Rutherford Dust

Terroir is the word for “soil” in French, but it means much more when used in reference to wine. Soil composition, drainage, exposure to the sun and other aspects of microclimate, geographic location — all contribute to what is meant by terroir. It's the unique environment of each vineyard.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author who visited the Napa Valley in 1880, described terroir (though he didn't use the word) in his book Silverado Squatters:
“Wine in California is still in the experimental stage; and when you taste a vintage, grave economical questions are involved. The beginning of vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for the precious metals: the wine-grower also "prospects." One corner of land after another is tried with one kind of grape after another. This is a failure; that is better; third is best. So, bit by bit, they grope about for their Clos Vougeot and Lafite. Those lodes and pockets of earth, more precious than the precious ores, that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire, those virtuous Bonanzas where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something finer, and the wine is bottled poetry.”
Any discussion of terroir in the Napa Valley inevitably includes mention of the famous Rutherford Dust.
Rutherford Grill sculpture & outdoor diningLocated at the widest part of the Napa Valley, the approximate 6 square mile Rutherford AVA spends more time in the sun than other parts of the valley.

Rutherford Food & Lodging

Larger than Oakville, smaller than Yountville, Rutherford has a few dining and lodging options including the Rutherford Grill at the corner of Highway 29 and Rutherford Road, nearby Rancho Caymus Inn and Auberge Du Soleil across the valley in the hills on the east side of the Silverado Trail.
Follow the links below for profiles of Oakville and Rutherford wineries (in alphabetical order) or click a winery name on the interactive map or sidebar above.

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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2015 Lee W. Nelson