Freemark Abbey, in St. Helena, Napa Valley, California, was founded in 1886 by Josephine Tychson, one of the region’s first women winemakers. But the winery’s modern history started in 1939 when the three people who then owned the winery combined their last names to make up “Freemark Abbey.” The site has never had anything to do with a religious order. In 1967 the winery was purchased by seven business partners who made major innovations. Today the winery owns nearly 300 acres of vineyards and also sources grapes from some of the areas most acclaimed districts including the Rutherford Bench, Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain. Freemark Abbey is known for its Cabernet Sauvignons, though it also makes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah and late harvest Riesling. Noted California wine writer James Laube has written that the estate makes wines of “finesse and polish.”
Napa Valley AVA is the most famous winemaking region in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. With nearly 43,000 acres of vineyards and more than 300 wineries, it is the heart of fine wine production in the United States. Winemaking started in Napa in 1838 when George C. Yount planted grapes and began producing wine commercially. Other winemaking pioneers followed in the late 19th century, including the founders of Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards. An infestation of phylloxera, an insect that attacks vine roots, and the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the nascent Napa wine industry in the early 20th century. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert Mondavi and other visionaries were producing quality wines easily distinguishable from the mass-produced jug wines made in California’s Central Valley. Napa Valley’s AVA was established in 1983, and today there are 16 sub-appellations within the Napa Valley AVA. Many grapes grow well in Napa’s Mediterranean climate, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is also very successfully cultivated, and about 30% of the AVA’s acreage is planted to white grapes, with the majority of those grapes being Chardonnay,
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.