LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. . . .
In Napa Valley, at the corner of Silverado Trail and Zinfandel
Lane is the estate of one of the Valley's
smallest family-owned wineries: William Harrison Winery. Founded in
1985 by Bill Harrison, our estate vineyards are located in the northeastern
corner of Napa's famed Rutherford Appellation (growing district): ten beautiful acres of
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Merlot.
These vineyards produce all of the grapes used in our William Harrison Estate
Cabernet lovers are often looking for wines which can be traced to a specific plot of
land, and the limited production William Harrison Estate wines make them a
true find for the wine enthusiast. Our wines exhibit characteristics directly
resulting from our unique vineyards and location. So what is special
about our location?
Napa Valley is a slender 30 mile stretch of California landscape,
bristling with pristine vineyards and picturesque wineries. A drive
north on Silverado Trail from the city of Napa to the town of Calistoga,
takes in thousands of acres of vines and dozens of wineries, including our
own. Our winery is located in the upper-mid point of the valley.
Few places on earth are capable of delivering so many tremendous Cabernets of
such variety as is Napa Valley. Indeed, when you consider how small
Napa Valley is (producing just four percent of California's wine
grapes), you begin to realize just how important an area this is to wine
lovers. The valley's climate changes subtly but significantly from end
to end, from side to side and between the valley floor and the
mountainsides. Additionally, numerous soil types abound in the
Napa Valley. All of these factors affect flavor development, acid balance and the quality
of tannins. So what is Napa Valley's Rutherford Appellation, and why is it so special?
THE RUTHERFORD DISTRICT (AVA)
Cabernet Sauvignon was first planted in the valley more than a century ago. The
small town of Rutherford, located near the center of the valley, emerged as
Napa's first prime cabernet growing district. Cabernets perform especially
well here, as there is an ideal mixture of cool mornings and evenings and
warm, sunny days, usually ripening the grapes fully and quite easily.
This area was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA), also known as
"It takes Rutherford dust to produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon."
Appellations are intended to identify unique winegrowing areas and the resulting wine
characteristics and style. This designation has given rise to a new
breed of Napa Valley Cabernets — wines that demonstrate unique
qualities that set them apart from the other Appellations. One example:
The wines produced from the grapes grown in the Rutherford
district reflect a distinct and identifiable character fondly referred to as
"Rutherford Dust". It describes the mouth-feel from a fine
Rutherford Cabernet. In the Rutherford area, the wines tend to be perfectly proportioned, intense yet not heavy,
with refined clarity of Cabernet fruit. But what does it mean to us?
Answer: Vineyard location is strongly connected to the style and quality of the wine.
"Wine is made (first)
in the vineyard."
OUR ESTATE VINEYARDS
One of the most important things about the valley's general climate is the role its
faceted topography plays in creating temperature and pressure differentials that
move air up and down the valley, helping to even out extremes. Cabernet
Sauvignon thrives on warmer temperatures, yet enjoys cool nights. These
valley floor Cabernets tend to be riper, fleshier and fruitier, with more
plum, black cherry and currant flavors than those grown on hillside.
Moving north up the Valley, the personality of wines deepens and the tannins
gain substance as the increasing heat and drier soils begin to make thicker
grape skins. In the Rutherford area,
where the cool nights and warm days are most evenly balanced in the Valley,
the wines tend to be perfectly proportioned, intense yet not heavy, with
refined clarity of Cabernet fruit. As important as the microclimate is,
the unique soils at our location play an equally important role.
Our estate vineyards are nestled up against the eastern hills of the
Valley. Overall, the Rutherford region encompasses the soils from three alluvial fans that are primarily gravelly,
sandy and loamy. These fans are formed from shattered, well-bedded
sandstone found on the hills above the valley. The soils at our
vineyards are classified as Bear Creek Loam on the Napa Valley
soil survey from 1935. Examining this map, one is struck at how few
areas of this particular soil type there are present in the Napa Valley.
But it gets even more interesting. Found 18 inches to 4 feet below the
surface is a white layer of soil comprised of decomposed volcanic ash called
tufa. We believe this rare soil combination results in wines we like to
think of as having our own personal, unique identity.
The resulting wines have an abundance of rich currant, dark berry and black
cherry flavors, with cedar, tobacco and spice notes and fine but substantial
tannins. Our wines are maybe a shade more elegant than those grown on the
other valley soils.
In the end, we are constantly learning about our estate vineyards. As each new
vintage is released, we come to better understand how these wines want to be
made. One of the wonderful things about making wine is that we are constantly
learning and intrigued by how Mother Nature can surprise us.
To learn more about the Rutherford Appellation, go to www.rutherforddust.org
To learn more about the Napa Soil Survey, go to Soil Survey
of Napa County