Since its earliest days, Rutherford’s growers and vintners have been committed to quality. Today, they maintain the spirit of Rutherford’s proud history through their commitment to build upon this standard. The attitude toward quality is the driving force behind the vineyards and wines of this distinguished district.
The Rutherford Viticultural Area is approximately 6 square miles, beginning just south of Cakebread Cellars and BV Vineyard #2 along Highway 29. It ends at Zinfandel Lane, 3.3 miles to the north, and stretches across the valley 2 miles at its widest point from Mt. St. John on the West to the Vaca Mountain Range on the East.
Soils from three alluvial fans are primarily gravelly, sandy and loamy. The fans are formed from shattered, well-bedded sandstone, and their deposits are high in gravels. Deep and well-drained, the fans have pockets that allow runoff to easily flow to the streams and Napa River. Rutherford soils are dominated by the Franciscan marine sedimentary materials with some volcanic deposits (primarily Bale, Pleasanton and Yolo loams).
One of the more unusual aspects about Rutherford is that it has a higher radiant value than other parts of Napa Valley. Because the area is located at Napa Valley’s widest point, it spends more time in the sun. University of California, Davis categorizes Rutherford as a Region II, with over 3,000-degree days during the growing season.
Warm summer days ripen Rutherford grapes, giving way to cool evenings. An average summer day may drop 12 degrees (F) immediately after sunset. This fluctuation allows the fruit to ripen at a steady pace; temperatures north and south of Rutherford can vary as much as 10 degrees. Rutherford has an average rainfall of 26-36 inches per year. Although typically mild, spring can bring freezing temperatures at night during March and April.
Although bordered on the West and East by two mountain ranges, the Rutherford Viticultural Area does not extend above 500 feet in elevation. Regardless, the elevation is quite pronounced. Vineyards creep up the nearby hillsides from the Napa River in the center of the appellation, which lies just 172 feet above sea level.
On this western fan, the soils are derived from sediment deposited from the Mayacamas Mountains with the coarsest, most gravelly soils near the base of the mountains gradually becoming near as the distance increases.
More fertile alluvial and sedimentary area between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. Vineyards situated near the Napa River where the soil has been deposited from the river itself in the river’s flood plain. Soil tends to be fine-grained with varying depths.
The soil at the base of the fan tends to be the coarsest and most gravelly, and transitions to finer soil as the distance from the historic mouth of the river increases.