Oakville AVA Bench, Soil and Terrain
The World Famous Oakville AVA Bench
Over the ages, sediment has washed down from the hills. The soils of the Western Bench are sandy and gravelly from this process. They are also exceptionally deep and well-drained. This allows for large root systems and healthy vines.
Martha’s Vineyard is a famous property located on the Oakville AVA Bench. The vineyard was planted during the 1960s and 1970s and encompasses 40 acres. Heitz Cellars gained an international reputation from making wine from Martha’s Vineyard.
The valley floor is located between Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. The soils in this part of the AVA are a mix of iron rich clay and well drained sandy-loam that has been deposited by the Napa River over the ages. White varietals do particularly well here. Soils in the eastern part of the valley floor have a reddish hue from traces of oxidized iron.
Groth Vineyards and Winery is located on the Oakville Cross Road between Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. Groth is known for their slightly herbaceous Cabs with minty notes on top of ripe, dark fruit flavors. The winery’s Oakcross Vineyard has both clay-loam and sandy-loam soil types.
When Oakville vintners first petitioned the BATF for AVA status, it was proposed that there should be an Oakville Bench AVA as well as a general Oakville AVA. The former would have included the western benchlands from the Napa River to the Mayacamas Mountains. Vintners not included in the more exclusive Oakville Bench AVA killed the proposal and only the general Oakville AVA was established.
There is validity to the claim that benchland soils will make distinctive wines from other parts of the Oakville AVA. Cabs from the Oakville Bench are less herbaceous and minty than those from the valley floor. They are fuller bodied, earthier, and will develop more with age.
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