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Howell Mountain AVA
Howell Mountain AVA
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Howell Mountain AVA
Howell Mountain AVA
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Howell Mountain AVA
Howell Mountain AVA

Images Courtesy of Suzanne Becker Bronk

The Howell Mountain AVA was the first mountainous nested appellation to be established, with the southern boundary of the AVA beginning at 1400 feet above sea level.

Appellation Details

"Overlooking the town of Saint Helena, CA, Howell Mountain AVA is a sub-appellation of the Napa Valley AVA and is located in the northeast side of Napa Valley near the town of Angwin. Howell Mountain AVA was established as an American Viticultural Area in 1983 and was the first sub-appellation within the greater Napa Valley AVA.

owell Mountain was the first mountainous nested appellation to be drawn and declared. It is also unique in that, unlike the other mountains which run down to connect with the valley floor appellations, the AVA’s southern boundary is 1,400 feet (427m) above sea level. This boundary was selected by the AVA’s founders because that was the elevation at which the fog crested. The thinking was that vines grown above this elevation would be dramatically dis- tinct from those grown beneath.


  • 1400 to 2600 ft (427 to 792 m)
  • Howell Mountain is also unusual in that it is more or less a plateau, which means it is far easier (and legally permitted) to cultivate vineyards here than on Napa Valley’s other mountains. The soils are largely volcanic, but range from rust red and iron rich to shockingly white (compressed ash, or tuff). Howell Mountain’s position entirely above the fogline and its plateau shape means that many of its vineyards are open to unmitigated sunshine. This tends to produce wines that range from dark and decadent to fragrant and tannic, depending on the producer.


  • Predominantly volcanic and shallow
  • Drainage is high
  • Fertility is low


  • Located above the fogline on the eastern side of the valley
  • This AVA is warmer and drier than other AVAs
  • More hours of sunshine
  • Little to no marine influence


  • Up to 50 inches (127 cm) annually

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier

Howell Mountain AVA History

Jean Adolph Brun

Jean Adolph Brun

The area in which the modern appellation of Howell Mountain is located was originally called "Sierras de Suscol" or "Suscol Hills", by the Spanish. Then in 1841 became part of the Rancho Carne Humana land grant, which was given to Dr. Edward Turner Bale by General Mariano Vallejo as payment for his services as "Surgeon-in-Chief of the Mexican Army." When Dr. Bale died in 1849, his family started to sell off portions of the vast land grant.

Howell Mountain and the Howell Mountain AVA are named after the Isacc Howell family, early settlers who moved to the area in 1846. In 1877, two of the area's first winemakers, Jean Adolph Brun and Jean V. Chaix planted 20 acres of grapevines from seven varieties which were sourced from Medoc in Bordeaux. They were among the first to operate successful vineyards in the area during the wine boom of the 1880's. They founded Nouveau Medoc Cellar and later Howell Mountain Winery in 1886, which was one of the most expensive construction projects in Napa at the time. Other early Howell Mountain winemakers included Charles Krug, J. Thomas and George McMee.

Howell Mountain first made history as a recognized wine producing region in 1889 when winemakers Brun and Chaix won a bronze medal at the Paris World Competition. However, with the outbreak of Phylloxera in the 1890's and Prohibition in the 1920's, winemaking in the area came to a standstill. All the wineries in the region closed and vineyards were either abandoned or replanted with different crops. It was not until the 1960's when interest in winemaking returned to Howell Mountain. The region was officially designated an American Viticultural Area in 1983 and was the first sub-appellation of the larger Napa Valley AVA. It is also the first mountainous nested appellation to be established, with the southern boundary of the AVA beginning at 1400 feet above sea level.


"The terrain of Howell Mountain is often steep hillsides with vineyards nestled between forests of pine, fir and oak trees. When the valley floor is covered in a blanket of fog, Howell Mountain is above the fogline, taking in the sunshine. The resulting wines, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon, are intensely structured, filled with great red fruit flavors and can age beautifully in a bottle for 20+ years."
- Danielle Cyrot, Cade Estate Winery

Notable Wines sourced from Howell Mountain AVA

Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards
Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards 2019 'Dust & Glory' Cabernet Sauvignon

The first new Single Vineyard Cabernet to be added to our portfolio in over two decades, introducing Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain AVA. As we explored the idea of producing this wine, we were reminded of what it’s like to raise children. Like kids, each vineyard has a unique personality; some are more challenging than others, but you love them all the same. Howell Mountain, as we learned, comes with its challenges; the fruit is late-ripening and the tannins can be overwhelming. But as John and Nat Komes explored and experimented, they identified a wine from one of the highest elevation sites in the AVA that met their criteria, a beautifully expressive mountain Cabernet, distinct from our other Single Vineyards but no less prized.

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Castiel Estate
Castiel Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Inspired by the desire to capture time and place, Castiel Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a collaboration among nature, patient and caring human hands, and artistic excellence. It speaks clearly of its unique and extraordinary location upon Howell Mountain.

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Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars 2003 'Dancing Bear Ranch on Howell Mountain' Cabernet Sauvignon

Our 2003 Dancing Bear Ranch on Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon displays a wonderfully complex aroma of sweet black fruits (currant, plum and blackberry) mingled with notes of chocolate, clove and ginger. The wine’s rich flavors are juicy, deep and long, with a spicy/herbal tone that evolves into an intriguing tea-leaf spiciness in the wine’s long, satisfying finish. The firm tannins and youthfully compact structure of this lovely Bordeaux-style red, a classic mountain wine, argue for extended cellaring, although it provides great pleasure now when decanted and paired with grilled steaks marinated in a zesty pepper sauce.

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Beringer Vineyards
Beringer Vineyards 2013 'Steinhauer Ranch' Cabernet Franc

STEINHAUER RANCH In 2003 the former Tre Colline Vineyard was renamed to honor long-time Beringer Viticulturist Bob Taz Steinhauer. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. At an elevation of 1,800 feet high on Howell Mountain, Cabernet Franc grown here enjoys the duality of mountain farming. Cooler mountain temperatures often impact the vineyard, bringing great diurnal swings during the growing season. Yet this ranch sits mostly above the fog line in one of Napas warmer growing areas, receiving high solar radiation, perfect for late ripening varietals. The volcanic red soils are low in fertility and yield berries with intense, concentrated flavors.

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Howell Mountain Resources and References

  1. "§ 9.94 Howell Mountain" (Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Part 9 — American Viticultural Areas; Subpart C — Approved American Viticultural Areas). Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved November 5, 2010.
  2. Robinson, Jancis; Harding, Julia, eds. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 347, 469, 470. ISBN 0-19-860990-6.
  3. "Who's Who on Howell Mountain". Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Association. Retrieved Nov 5, 2010.
  4. Palmer, Lyman L.; Wells, Harry Laurenz (1881). History of Napa and Lake Counties, California. Slocum, Bowen & Company. ISBN 978-1363000555.
  5. Weber, Lin (1998). Old Napa Valley: The History to 1900. Wine Ventures Publishing. ISBN 9780966701401.
  6. Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Association. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://www.howellmountain.org/
  7. History, Prohibition & Howell Mountain Wine Production. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.calwineries.com/explore/regions/napa-valley/howell-mountain/history

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