Cathy Huyghe visits Coombsville, in the south east of Napa Valley, established as an AVA in 13 January 2012, where the climate makes it ideal for Bordeaux varieties.
Here in the southeastern corner of Napa Valley and just outside the historic town of Napa, maps dating back to the 1880s were already delineating Coombs family plots. A hundred years later, in 1980, the grape farmers of Coombsville were just starting to find their way. About 16ha of vines were planted, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
John Caldwell, with what was then simple logic that in hindsight we might now consider savvy prescience, ran temperature tests that indicated the area was actually warmer than Bordeaux. So that’s what he planted at Caldwell Vineyard – the five Bordeaux varieties, plus Carmenère, Tannat and Syrah – establishing the model other producers follow to this day.
There’s a blue streak running through all of the Coombsville wines which is, for me, the most distinctive feature of wines from this region: more blueberry than cherry, and more blackberry than strawberry, with an undercurrent of cinnamon and cocoa spices.
The soft tannin structure, unique to Coombsville fruit, can be attributed to the hang-time, which is the longest of any appellation in Napa. The soils help too: Coombsville is known for its uniform pattern of soils – mostly alluvial slopes of welldrained volcanic rock – throughout the designation.
See Cathy Huyghe’s wines to try – or try one of her recommended producers, Meteor Vineyard or Rocca Family Vineyards.