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9 Outstanding Red Wines From Napa Valley’s Famed Rutherford Region

Home to some of the Valley's most historic wine producers.

Napa Valley Rutherford Best Red Wines

Located at the widest part of Napa Valley, the Rutherford AVA is home to some of Napa’s most famous and historic wineries, including Inglenook and Beaulieu. Consisting mainly of valley floor vineyards, Rutherford receives long hours of sunlight that contribute to the ripeness and bold fruit flavors of grapes grown here. Elevated vineyards on the west side of the appellation are shielded from the sun in the late afternoon by the Mayacamas Mountains, preserving acidity, while to the east, in the Vaca range, topographic variation creates a series of microclimates that add restraint and finesse.

Legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff is known to have said, “It takes ‘Rutherford Dust’ to make great Cabernet Sauvignon.” Referring to the deep soils at the center of the valley, this brings to mind the earthiness of the distinctive Cabernet and other red varieties that thrive here as well as the cocoa powder character found in some bottles. This American Viticultural Area sits on the former Rancho Caymus land grant that was bestowed on Napa Valley pioneer George Yount in 1836. Yount is said to be the first to have planted grapes in the valley, and the nearby town of Yountville, now home to Michelin-starred French Laundry and several other notable restaurants, was named for him. In 1864 he turned over a large portion of the ranch to his granddaughter Elizabeth and her groom Thomas Rutherford as a wedding present. The young couple followed in Yount’s footsteps and continued planting vines here for 20 more years, and the AVA still bears their surname. The tiny town of Rutherford is home to around 100 residents; the population doubles when all 50 guestrooms are filled at luxury wine country resort Auberge du Soleil.

Besides Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford is known for a host of other red varieties including Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot; it’s also known for its ripe renditions of Sauvignon Blanc. The reds are used in single varietal bottlings as well as blends. Expect juicy berry and dark fruit flavors with touches of earthiness and cocoa, perfect for pairing with well-marbled steaks now that grilling season is upon us.

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