Do a book search for Napa on Amazon, or any other Internet bookstore of your choice, and you will immediately be struck by two facts. The first will surely be just how many bodice-rippers seem to have embraced Napa as their backdrop of choice (the most juicy of which seem to be the Napa Wine Heiresses). But with a more discerning eye, the second will be the fact that no definitive guide exists to America’s most famous wine region.
As unlikely as that may seem, the fact remains that when sommelier Kelli White (along with her fiancé Scott Brenner) accepted the job of directing the wine programme at Press restaurant in the heart of the Napa Valley in 2010, there was no book she could pick up to help her begin the task that the restaurant’s owner had set for her: to create the most comprehensive Napa-only wine list in the business.
In particular, very little critical or evaluative information was available about the historic wines of the Napa Valley, those made in the era before journalists and critics began regularly reporting on their existence and quality. In 1994, historian Charles Sullivan wrote what is still the definitive and most detailed history of the valley in his book Napa Wine: from Mission Days to Present , but that book and its significantly updated and revised 2013 edition focused on people and wineries rather than on the wines.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.