Howell Mountain AVA in Northeastern Napa Valley was the first of Napa Valley’s sub-appellations, earning its own designation in 1984, just a year after Napa Valley became an appellation. As the name suggests, the AVA is in one of the highest elevations in the area. Every vineyard in the appellation is at least 1,400 feet above sea level. Some vineyards are as high as 2,200 feet and because of their altitude most of the AVA’s vineyards receive more sun than vineyards at lower elevations, which are affected by fog from the Pacific Ocean and the San Pablo Bay. Howell Mountain was home to vineyards in the late 19th century, but winemaker Randy Dunn is considered the area’s most influential modern pioneer. Dunn moved to Howell Mountain in 1979, acquired property and began making exceptionally rich Cabernet Sauvignon. The AVA also grows Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. There are 600 vineyard acres within Howell Mountain AVA.
Despite its popularity, this grape is quite rare. Less than 10,000 acres are planted worldwide, with the bulk in California. In France, the grape is referred to as Durif. Not to be confused with Syrah, Petite Sirah is a cross of Syrah and Peloursin. The result is darker and fuller.