Ten years ago, on April 26, 2004, the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley (OKD) received its official recognition as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s then-Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“Traditionally 10 years is celebrated with gifts of tin or aluminum … we’re thinking wine. It’s time to pull some corks and raise a toast — and our growers and vintners will be doing just that throughout the remainder of the year,” said OKD Association Board President John Wilkinson of Wilkinson Family Vineyards. “This past decade has really brought the esteem of Oak Knoll District’s vineyards and wine front and center.”
Janet Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards and founding OKD board member said, “I cannot believe how 10 years have passed, or that it took nearly 10 years previous to that to work through the challenges of keeping our historic place name intact, but here we are and I am delighted to see the district thriving. The vineyards are better than ever, the wines are varied, distinctive and outstanding across the board. It’s a great time to be in the OKD.”
The recognition of an AVA is based largely on its uniqueness of soils and geology, geography, climate and, to a lesser degree, its historical significance. The OKD is one of the oldest grape-growing areas in Napa Valley beginning with Capt. JW Osborne’s purchase of land 3 miles south of Yountville, which he named Oak Knoll around 1850.
His 1,600-acre farm was the first in the region to be planted with higher-quality classic vinifera varieties rather than the ubiquitous Mission varieties planted before. The property was a model farm and ranked Best in California by the state Horticultural Society.
Historian Charles Sullivan writes that had he not been shot to death by a disgruntled former employee in 1863, Osborne might well have been known as the father of the Napa Valley fine wine industry. Later the district brought notice to Napa Valley as an ultra-premium wine region with its top-ranked wines at the 1888 state viticultural convention.
Today in the district
Most of the district is contained within the Napa Valley Ag Preserve, America’s first ag land protection preserve, which was established in 1968. Producers from Opus One, Caymus, Joseph Phelps, Beringer, Merryvale, Rombauer, Duckhorn, Whitehall Lane, HdV and scores more grow or buy grapes from the mostly small, family-owned growers. Wineries in the district include Trefethen Family, Monticello, Robert Biale, Blackbird, Matthiasson, Lewis, Laird and Black Stallion, among others.
The district leads in farming innovation with large tracts of land, some of the first enrolled, in the industry-leading Napa Green Certified Land Program. Today, the OKD has more vineyard acreage than any other wholly contained appellation of the Napa Valley. Of its 8,300 total acreage, nearly 4,200 are planted to wine grapes. There are more than 18 varieties planted.
Top varieties by acreage are merlot (1,113 acres), chardonnay (1,108 acres), cabernet sauvignon (926 acres), pinot noir (291 acres), syrah (166 acres), and sauvignon blanc (142 acres). Additionally, all the other classic Bordeaux-style red varieties are planted, as well as riesling and zinfandel.
Learn more at OakKnollDistrictOfNapaValley.com.