History of the Oak Knoll Wine Region in Napa Valley

Oak Knoll has had a reputation as a fine wine producing region for many generations. You will find Oak Knoll in the southern part of Napa Valley. When you visit this region you will discover that it is typically less crowded than many other regions in the area. One of the reasons for this is the fact that most of the wineries in the region are located off of Highway 29 rather than directly on the highway. This can be a tremendous advantage for the tourist; however, as it typically means that the tasting rooms will be less crowded.

The climate in this region is somewhat transitional due to the fact that it receives the cooler winds from San Pablo Bay in addition to the warmer air coming from the North. This area has often been described as a ‘sweet spot,’ a term that was coined by John Trefethen. As a result of the transitional climate a wide variety of different grapes can be grown in this region.

One of the most interesting aspects of this region is the terrain of the Oak Knoll wine region. Each individual vineyard plot can be somewhat unique and different and contain a different soil composition. This is the reason you will find a tremendous amount of variation in this region.

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Prior to 1968, most of the region was actually not used for growing grapes at all. There had been some wine production but certainly not to the point that it has reached today in Oak Knoll. Eugenio Trefethen was the first to realize how much untapped resource this region might hold. He purchased 600 acres in the region and the rest is now history. In 2004, Oak Hill was designated as an AVA.

The first winery built in Oak Knoll was Eshcol Winery, built in 1886. Gravity flow technology was used in this winery in order to make production more streamlined. Some of the earliest wines produced in this winery became highly acclaimed. Cabernet Sauvignon was particularly well known.

In the 1920s the Biale family moved to area and began producing wine. Eventually they opened a winery as well as a tasting room on Big Ranch Road. In order to visit this winery you need to make an appointment.

When Treffethen purchased his 600 acres in 1968, part of the land he purchased encompassed the old Eshcol property.

Several years later, in 1973, Trefethen Winery was established by John Trefethen. It was a long and difficult process; however, he set about restoring the once historic property. Today, his winery is still a fine example of gravity flow technology in use in a winery.

The 1970s proved to be a tremendously vital time period in the development of Oak Knoll as a premier wine region. In 1970s, Jeff Corley arrived and began to establish a number of vineyards. In the beginning he planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; however, since that time he has shifted his attention to planted many varietals that are much fuller bodied.

For a number of years, Corley sold his grapes to other wineries; however, beginning in the 1980s he began his own wine production. His winery now produces a highly acclaimed Pinot Noir.

Other well known wineries in the Oak Knoll region include Darioush Winery, Andretti Wineery, Laird Family Estate, Koves Newlan, Sedna and Broodale Vineyards. Robert Biale Vineyards and Trefethen Vineyards continue to stand out among the vineyards in this region.

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