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A Beginner’s Guide to Napa Valley Wines

The Napa Valley wine region is blessed with rare climate, rich soils, and terrain of various elevations—making it one of the most renowned wine regions in the world. Napa is also much smaller than most of the world’s well-known wine regions. In fact, it is just one-eighth the size of Bordeaux. Napa’s first commercial vineyard wasn’t planted until the 1830s, and by 1889 there were more than 140 wineries operating in Napa Valley. In 1981, the U.S. government designated Napa Valley as California’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA) because of its unique climate, terrain, culture, and history. Napa Valley has a Mediterranean climate, which is found in just 2% of the world. That’s part of why Napa Valley produces some of the most delicious and ultra-premium wines in the world.

If you want to purchase wine from Napa Valley but don’t know where to start, the wine experts at Theorem Vineyards have put together a beginner’s guide to Napa Valley wines to help you make well-informed purchases, according to your palate.

Popular Red Wines in Napa Valley

Napa Valley is best known for producing excellent-quality red wines across the world. The unique climate makes it an ideal location to produce luxury red wines that can age for years.

Some of the most renown red wine varieties produced in Napa Valley include:

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet blends. Due to the warm, dry climate, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes thrive in this region, and they make up 40% of the overall harvest and 55% of the overall crop value. Cabernet Sauvignon became “king” of Napa Valley after the 1976 “Judgment of Paris,” where Napa Valley Cabernets rated better than the top vintages from Bordeaux in a blind taste test. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons have distinct qualities that make them unparalleled among other Cabernets produced around the world.

Qualities that make Napa Valley Cabernets unique include:

  • Fruit quality
  • Duration of tasting experience
  • Flavor depth
  • Enhanced freshness (acidity)
  • Great structure (tannin)
  • Balance
  • Age-worthiness

Theorem Vineyards produces three Cabernet Sauvignons: Voir Dire, Hawk’s Prey, and Moon Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Voir Dire and Hawk’s Prey were produced from our Diamond Mountain estate. These two wines reflect what makes Napa Valley ideal for producing world-class wines. Theorem Vineyard’s Hawk’s Prey is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made from our Diamond Mountain estate. Hawk’s Prey has an opaque purple core out to a ruby red rim. On the nose, there are elegant and complex aromas of ripe plums, milk chocolate, wild blackberries, cassis, violets, warm freshly tilled earth, and baking spice. Our Moon Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon will be released in 2020.


With so many acres planted in Napa Valley, it is no surprise that our valley produces great Merlot. There are 4,294 acres of Merlot planted in Napa Valley—nearly 9% of the farmland. If not made into a varietal wine, Merlot grapes are typically blended into a Cabernet Sauvignon. When winemakers use Merlot to blend wines, it softens the flavors of more tannic wines and makes them lush, velvety, and earthy. Although merlot can do well in cool climates, it thrives off the warm and dry environment of Napa Valley. Theorem Vineyards' Diamond Mountain Merlot is from a one-acre block that we planted back in 2014. It is a bold wine with a beautiful mix of black cherries, plums, milk chocolate, and roasted espresso.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the third most popular red wine produced in Napa Valley—with more than 2,821 acres grown in this region. This wine variety is primarily grown in Napa's coolest region, Los Carneros AVA. Los Carneros AVA includes parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties, and it’s located north of San Pablo Bay. This area receives cool fog and breezes from the bay, making Los Carneros cooler and more moderate than other wine regions in Napa Valley.


With 1,293 acres, Zinfandel is the fourth most common red varietal wine produced in Napa Valley. Zinfandel is known for being a versatile grape variety that was the mainstay of 19th-century winemaking in California. This wine variety was originally crafted into a dry, complex red wine. This wine is typically rich, dark, and unctuous.

Popular White Wines in Napa Valley

Napa Valley also produces delicious white wines that are enjoyed across the globe. Napa Valley is home to a variety of terrains, including mountains, valley floors, and benchlands that make it a perfect location to produce unique and high-quality white wines.

Some of the most popular white wine varieties produced in Napa Valley include:


This white wine variety is the most popular in Napa Valley. There are 6,130 acres of Chardonnay grapes produced in Napa Valley. That’s 13% of all wine products in the valley. Chardonnay grapes thrive in calcium-rich soils and cooler climates, like mountain terrains. Barrel fermentation, lees stirring, and malolactic fermentation are the main winery techniques used to create complex aromas and flavors in this wine. Due to the unique winemaking process, Napa Valley Chardonnay can range in style, from fresh, crisp, and lively, to round and buttery.

Theorem Vineyard’s 2018 Chardonnay is bright and fresh, with notes of freshly squeezed lemon, tart pineapple, lime blossom, honeysuckle, and crushed rocks. On the palate, the bright citrus notes meld with a creamy texture reminiscent of lemon meringue, with a similar ethereal lift. Just as the flavors envelop your palate, a beam of vibrant acidity slices through the creamy texture and creates a finish that is refreshingly bright and lingering.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the second most-produced white wine in Napa Valley. There are more than 2,800 acres of Sauvignon Blanc produced in Napa Valley. Napa’s cool morning fogs and warm days make it the ideal place to produce Sauvignon Blanc. These unique characteristics make it easy for people to appreciate Napa Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc on a global scale.

Our 2018 Sauvignon Blanc has a perfect balance of fresh acidity and rich fruit flavors. Strikingly aromatic, the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc has a beautiful array of citrus, stone fruit, flowers, herbs, and minerals. Everything translates through to the glass, with fleshy peach and ripe melon exploding on the palate. Lime zest and rocks tangle with jasmine, adding verve and complexity as it rides the long, crisp beam of acidity.

Schedule Your Visit to Napa Valley Today!

Theorem Vineyards is nestled on the northern slopes of Diamond Mountain and is filled with breathtaking views. From the redwoods framing the vineyard to the lush vines that crawl over the soil, there are so many views to admire. Theorem Vineyards is an enchanting place, and we would love to share it with you. Join us for a tour and an unparalleled wine tasting experience with our team at Theorem Vineyards. With us, you can learn more about Napa Valley wines and what makes them different from other wines around the world.

Contact Theorem Vineyards today at (707) 942-4254!