Levy & McClellan was established in the late 1990s by Napa Valley winemakers Bob Levy and Martha McClellan, a couple with luminous resumes as winemakers for some of the area’s most storied producers. Levy has been winemaker for Harlan and Bond, among other estates. Martha has been a winemaker at Harlan, Sloan Estates and elsewhere. The couple started their St. Helena winery to make their own estate wines, and with their first release, the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, their wines have jointed the ranks of California cult wines. Wine Spectator rated the 2004 at 95 pts and described it as a wine that “combines power with finesse.” The very limited production wines are generally available only by mailing list.
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,