Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley

Adam Arlen

, Happy Hour

Mountains vs. Valley Floor

Napa Valley is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but you know that already. What you may not know is that the valley has over 70 different soil types and many different vineyard aspects that change the flavor profile of Cabernet Sauvignon.

So why the difference? It boils down to sunshine and water.



On the valley floor

You will have direct sunshine from about 11am to 7pm and get all the rain runoff from the mountains. The vines will not have to struggle to get water it needs to grow grapes. This results in a rich, plush wine.


The perfect example

Honig Cabernet SauvignonBright blackberry, red plum, and raspberry fruit with notes of cranberry, black tea, spice and coriander seed. Luscious and balanced, with toasty oak and a long finish. Pick it up for around $40.



The mountains

It gets a little tricky here to generalize. The Vaca range is the eastern mountains and gets the afternoon sun starting about 11am to sunset. The Mayacamas range in the western part of the valley gets all the morning sun until about 2pm when the mountains help shade the grapes. This results in 2 very different wines.


Western facing mountains

Since the western facing mountains get more sun, the skins of the grapes get thicker and have more pigment and tannin that act as sunscreen to protect the grapes from burning. This results in a more powerful and densely concentrated wine.

Krupp Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak is a perfect example. It opens with aromas of black cherry, dark plum, sweet cigar spice and subtle earthy notes. Opulent with a fleshy texture and supple tannins enveloping the palate in lingering chocolate-covered cherry, pomegranate and layers of cedar spice and clove. Pick it up for around $110.


Eastern facing mountains

The eastern facing mountains of the Mayacamas range get the sun early in the day. When it is the hottest in the day, the vines are shaded, giving the finished wine more elegance and freshness.

Andy Schweiger makes a stunning example from Spring Mountain. A rich, full-bodied Cabernet, deep in color; the nose of the wine is lively with essences of dark berries, plum, dark chocolate, and toasty oak. The sweet, supple entry crescendos into a deeply intense middle; followed by a pleasant, velvety, lingering finish. Pick it up for around $75


Images courtesy



Adam Arlen, Sommelier


Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”





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