December 2, 2023
Rutherford Wineries Climate

The Effect of the Climate and Terrain on Rutherford Wineries

Rutherford Wineries have become known in the last few years in international circles. The number of accolades they have received have brought a great amount of respect and admiration to Napa Valley. In fact, Rutherford Wineries has come to be associated with some of the best wineries in the entire state.

In particular, Rutherford Wineries are known for their vast production of excellent red wines. The well drained soils and warm climate in the Rutherford region have created an area that is ideal for growing red Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. As a result of the award winning wines produced in this region, Rutherford has also become one of the most popular wine tour destinations in the Napa Valley region.

Due to Rutherford’s close proximity to Oakville, one might at first assume that the two are identical. Although they are somewhat alike, they are also different. The climate in Rutherford is similar to the climate in other neighboring regions. There are also some very subtle differences; however. The main reason that the climate in Rutherford is different from neighboring AVAs is the fact that Rutherford tends to be less affected by the fog and wind that sweeps in from San Pablo Bay.

You will find that the climate in Rutherford tends to be warmer. The weather here is often warm, dry and sunny. The terrain also has its own distinct nature. The soils close to the valley walls are deep and well drained. This area is referred to as the Rutherford Bench. The terrain in Rutherford climbs some four hundred feet up into the hills. More than 6,500 acres span the Rutherford region, with most of the terrain planted in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The heat and dryness in the Rutherford region allows the grapes here to mature more than in other regions; which results in tannin that are more deeply developed. As a result, the Cabs produced in Rutherford have the ability to stand up to decades long aging. There are also varietals planted; however, including Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

As a result of the climate and terrain differences in Rutherford, the Cabernet Sauvignon produced in this region tends to have a flavor that is somewhat earthier. Because of this, the excellent wines produced in this region often require addition bottling time in order to fully develop its character. The time is well worth it; however, as wines produced in Rutherford are considered to be first class. Some of the most complex and superb wines in the state are produced in Rutherford.

Rutherford Dust is often given credit for the fine grapes that are grown in the region. Three alluvial fans dominate the terrain in Rutherford. These fans are comprised of marine sedimentary debris as well as volcanic debris. Over the years, the mountains have been eroded. You will notice as you move north that the soil in Rutherford tends to become far rockier. The warmer climate and the elevations that increase gradually allow the grapes in the region to produce wines that are fuller bodied than in many other regions.

In fact, more than two thousand of the most highly prized vineyards in the entire state are located right in Rutherford. The well drained soils in these areas allow the vineyard roots the freedom to grow quite deeply as they search for water. Interestingly, it has been noted that some of these root systems are able to extend as much as 50 feet deep.

While Sauvignon Blanc is widely planted in valley floor area, Chardonnay also does quite well. Frog’s Leap Winery, in particular, has become well known for its production of Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, they earned a reputation for fine Sauvignon Blanc even before this wine became fashionable.

Most growers in the area find that the soils located near the Napa River are more fertile than the bench soils. As a result, the vineyards in these specific areas are able to use canopy management in order to ensure the quality of their wines.