Images Courtesy of Suzanne Becker Bronk
The Atlas Peak AVA is a Napa Valley Appellation known for a higher elevation which results in less cooling fog created by lower lying bodies of water such as the San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Atlas Peak is located in Napa Valley, California, on the western slopes of the Vaca Range that separates Napa Valley and the Sacramento Valley. Atlas Peak is the most prominent peak in the area at 2663 feet elevation.
Atlas Peak is the most southern link in Napa Valley’s Vaca chain and it is one of the more austere looking mountains in the region. Though it is closer to the San Pablo Bay and therefore slightly cooler, it receives some of the lowest rainfall in Napa Valley, which is evident in its parched landscape. Viticulture has a long history here but remains a minority presence. Despite large vineyards such as Antica and Stagecoach, Atlas Peak is primarily dedicated to cattle and other agricultural pursuits.
The westward orientation of most vineyards on the Vaca Mountains also extends the amount of direct sunlight on the grapes. The soil of this AVA is volcanic and very porous which allows it to cool down quickly despite the increased sunlight. The area has a fairly significant diurnal temperature variation upwards of 30 °F (17 °C) between daytime and night. This contributes to the balance of acidity that grapes from Atlas Peak vineyards are known to have.
Presumably due to the height and significance of Atlas Peak as a landmark in this corner of Napa Valley, it became the generally recognized name for the region in the late 1800's. While the origin of the name Atlas Peak for the mountain and region is unknown, the earliest print reference to the name Atlas Peak appeared in the July 10, 1875 issue of the Napa County Recorder. The region initially gained renown as a place with a "healthful climate" that "offered relief to sufferers of asthma and other respiratory ailments." In 1880 the California State Legislature considered the area as a potential location for a "State Hospital for Consumptives." Atlas Peak was considered due to its "equitability of temperature, freedom from fogs or from harsh winds, the dryness of the atmosphere and abundant supply of pure water".
The first vineyard of 1000 vines was planted by James Reed Harris in 1870 and by 1893 his vineyard had grown to 47 acres. In 1887, Romain C. Deboom made the first Atlas Peak wine. By 1895 there were at least 6 known vineyards in the area, most of which survived the Phylloxera epidemic during the 1890's. Unfortunately these early vineyards were abandoned following the enactment of Prohibition in 1920 and no new vineyards were planted in the area until 1940 when a new vineyard was planted on Mead Ranch in the southwest corner of the AVA. Since then various new vineyards have been planted, often taking advantage of favorable sites previously planted in the 1800's. Atlas Peak was officially recognized as an American Viticultural Area in 1992 and today, the appellation is known for many renowned wineries.
"Our climate, soils and topography are influenced by two deep canyons that carve their way up the eastern mountains of Napa Valley. Milliken Canyon to the southwest and Rector Canyon to the northwest ultimately rise to the elevated plateau known as Foss Valley where Chardonnay shines with the mountains continuing to rise to Atlas Peak Mountain where Cabernet Sauvignon excels."
- Glenn Salva, Antinori Napa Valley
Piero Antinori has defined as the guiding principle of the Antinori family’s winemaking philosophy the necessity to grow its own grapes in order to maintain ultimate control of wine quality and style from vineyard to wine. This belief holds true with the historic family-owned vineyards in Tuscany and Umbria to Napa Valley. The 1210-acre Antica Napa Valley estate occupies an elevated plateau tucked in an amphitheater-like setting of steep mountain tops rising up to Atlas Peak with an elevation of 2663 feet. There are approximately 550 acres planted to vineyard, 30% of which are Chardonnay. Each block is a carefully planned combination of soil composition, mountain elevation with its abundant California sunshine and long growing season, and clonal selections grafted on the appropriate rootstocks to limit vine productivity in order to enhance varietal character. As harvest nears each year, the Antica winegrowing team meticulously selects those mountain blocks, or rows within a block, that best highlight the characteristics they seek for our Mountain Select Chardonnay.
Circle R Ranch Vineyard in Atlas Peak at about 1500 feet elevation
(Broken Rock) Blessed with high drainage and low
fertility soil on the eastern ridge of Napa Valley at the
foot of Atlas Peak, Broken Rock consistently produces
wines of unusual intensity and concentration.
Las Piedras – Known for its gravely soil, this
Beckstoffer Heritage vineyard traces its roots back to
the original Mexican land grants more than 150 years
The 2021 Atlas Peak Chardonnay is of high quality and low yield vineyards with crisp citrus flavors.