Saddleback Cellars in Oakville is owned and operated by Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge, considered one of the best winemakers in the region. Venge and his father-in-law bought the 15-acre property in 1976 but they didn’t produce their first Saddleback Cellars label wine until 1983, when they released their 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon. Venge was busy during those years as winemaker or vineyard manager for Charles Krug, Sterling Vineyards, Villa Mount Eden and Groth, where his 1985 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve earned 100 pts from Robert M. Parker Jr. It was the first time Parker had awarded a California wine with a perfect score. Saddleback focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, but also produces Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sangiovese and blends. It also produces Zinfandel and a portfolio of white wines.
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,
This white variety originated in Burgundy, but is now grown around the world. Its flexibility to thrive in many regions translates to wide flavor profile in the market. Chardonnay is commonly used in making Champagne and sparkling wines.