Appellation St. Helena


Where: Situated approximately 20 miles north of the San Pablo Bay, nestled between the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges, north of Rutherford, south of Calistoga. It is defined by Zinfandel Lane to the south, Bale Lane to the north, the intersection of Howell Mountain and Conn Valley Road to the east, and the 400-foot elevation line in the Mayacamas on the west. Appellation St. Helena is comprised of roughly 12,000 acres, of which approximately 6,800 are planted to grapes – more than any other AVA in Napa Valley.

Members: More than 400 different vineyards are located within the appellation; a complete list is here:

Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc

Soils: Vineyards are located on mountain bench-lands, ancient alluvial fans, and on the Valley floor that sweeps toward the Napa River.  Centuries of mountain runoff on both sides of the Valley have created numerous active and retired waterways that are the basis for the 21 different soil types that define the AVA.  These geographical features have formed a diverse soil composition which is unique to the St. Helena AVA.

Climate: Consistent sunshine and the unique hourglass shape of the region contribute to a wide fluctuation of temperature during the growing season. Heat is locked in during the day and is amplified by the hillsides, and at night, that same slender width funnels moderating breezes to dramatically cool the vines by 40 to 50 degrees. Temperatures during the summer growing season typically reach the mid-90s during the day and drop to the 40s or 50s at night, creating a 40 to 50 degree spread.  The appellation receives an average of 40 inches of rain per year. The appellation’s boundaries form an hourglass shape, and the middle section represents the narrowest width in the Napa Valley, where the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges nearly meet. This shape locks in heat during the day, amplifying the heat off the narrow hillsides, and funnels cool breezes at night, dropping temperatures dramatically.

History: The St. Helena AVA was officially approved in 1995. More than a century earlier, St. Helena had the distinction of being the birthplace of Napa Valley’s commercial wine industry with Dr. Crane’s cellar founded in 1859, David Fulton’s in 1860 and Charles Krug’s in 1861. In 1875 Charles Krug, Henry Pellet and Seneca Ewer organized the expanding group of local vintners and grape growers with the mission of working together to improve the quality of the wines coming from St. Helena, and in turn improving the reputation and demand for the wines.  The group called themselves the St. Helena Viticultural Club, later to be changed to the St. Helena Viticultural Society, and worked together with great success until around 1912. In 2004, a group of St. Helena vintners revived the organization and later changed the name to Appellation St. Helena. More details:

Mission: To promote the quality of grapes grown and wines produced from the St. Helena AVA

Board: Lesley Keffer Russell (St. Helena Winery), Seth Goldfarb (Anomaly Vineyards), Patrick Egan (Boisset Family Estates), Claire Hobday (Charles Krug), Shannon Salvestrin (Salvestrin Winery), Myriah Mutrux (Hall), Jack Pagendarm (Korte Ranch Vineyards), Katie Simpson (Chase Cellars ), Torey Battuello (Battuello Vineyards), Eric Risch (Pellet Estate), George Watson (ONE Vineyard), Dave Yewell (grower) and Fulton Mather.

Proprietary Event: BASH is a wine tasting and food pairing competition which takes place every year. In 2020, the event will be on April 4 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at The CIA in St. Helena.