The end of Napa as we know it?

Probably not. And to be totally honest I picked that title because I thought it would get your attention (gotcha!).

Around December/January the annual “Top 100 of Whatever” lists start hitting the interwebs and for some reason this one seemed to make more of a splash in the Napa area. Apparently, “…few Napa Valley wines were in the Wine Spectator’s list of top 100 wines, and this week, the report from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Bonné was hardly any better to the valley1.”

My first reaction was: When did we, as a valley, get so entitled that we deserve “x” number of spots on anyone’s list?

To be fair, as Paul Franson points out in his article in the Register, it is probably a good thing to take these lists with a grain of salt. However they do create a fair amount of buzz in the wine web-o-sphere. For the record here is how they both broke down for Napa:

  • Wine Speculator
    • Other Wine Regions – 94  
    • Napa – 4 (6 if you count Napa producers who were making California appellated wines)
  • San Francisco Chronicle
    • 800 total wines (there were 8 different top 100 lists)
    • Napa – very few apparently, though I don’t have an exact number because I didn’t want to pay for a digital subscription (sorry I’m not sorry).

So let’s put this into perspective shall we: Napa makes up 4% of California’s grape harvest2.

F O U R  percent of  C A L I F O R N I A ‘ S  grape harvest.

I would expect that if anyone is doing a top 100 list they would probably include most, if not all, of the winemaking world depending upon how specific they would like to get. Jon Bonné has the courtesy of breaking it up into some different varietals and styles at the very least. And to be totally fair if you wanted a top 100 list for every appellation and/or style in the world you probably wouldn’t finish in time for the new year so I suppose you have to draw the line some where. This year I guess that line fell before Napa wines could get through the door (I kid, I kid).

Long story short, there is really nothing to worry about.

In my honest opinion I am not surprised. Per my previous post about Napa Cab Sauv I am definitely not surprised. Over the last 15ish years I think that Napa has become more and more homogenized in terms of its style. Don’t get me wrong, there are still quite a few great unique wines that Napa produces however they are fewer and further between than ever before. Small and large producers alike have been purchased by big and bigger companies who are vying for shelf space not just in California or the United States but around the world. As a result they are trying to define a particular “Napa style” that can be mass produced and make their target consumer group happy. A quick search online will list wineries within Napa who might still be family owned or operated but it is by much MUCH larger family companies or corporations. Next in line you have folks who have recently gotten into the Napa realm of winemaking who are fighting for “cult” status and 100 point ratings (even though that means next to nothing these days but that is another discussion for another time). So they buy whatever expensive Cab Sauv fruit they can get their hands on, slap a multi-hundred dollar price point on it after is was harvested later than it probably should have been and extracted to hell and back with a metric shit ton of new French oak thrown in its general direction. To this I say: if you can sell it, more power to you – but don’t tell me your wine is a special snowflake. Let the wine and story speak for itself so that I (the consumer) can decide how cult-y the wine is.

Sorry, that got a little bit rant-y. Now where was I?

Oh right, not making top 100 lists.

So we harvest roughly 4% of California’s wine grapes. Which means we are a very small percentage of the United State’s wine grapes and a near microscopic percentage of wine grapes being harvested around the world. As a result I would think Napa would be pretty happy about any of their wines being on anyone’s top 100 list. #justsaying

There is a lot more competition out there Napa, if you want to play that game you better be ready for it. Remember, all is fair in love and wine.

One other option is that you could take a deep breath and realize that the best wines that come out of any winemaking region are rarely rated or end up on anyone’s top 100 list.


PS: I could really use a glass of Napa Picpoul right now…

1 – Franson, Paul. “The Chronicle Adds a Blow to Spectator’s Jabs.” Napa Valley Register. N.p., 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

2 – Napa Valley Vintners. “About the Napa Valley Appellation.” About the Napa Valley Appellation. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

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