20 Napa Valley Facts You Might Not Know

I’ve spent a lot of time in Napa Valley exploring the different vineyards and wineries but it wasn’t until this last trip that I wanted to really dig into it. Literally, I wanted to dig in the dirt of every place we stopped.

I’ve always known the Napa Valley is a unique wine region based on its climate and terroir – the land and all the environmental factors that effect a crop.  Yet, I didn’t realize just how diverse. As I kick of this series of Napa Valley and Alexander Valley, the two wine regions I sipped my way through this past month, I wanted to share some of the fun wine facts every wine lover should know about Napa Valley…Alexander Valley will come soon. Cheers!

20 Wine Facts Every Wine Lover Should Know About Napa Valley

1. Napa Valley is one of the most renowned winemaking regions in the world, but it is also one of the smallest. The valley floor is roughly 30 miles long and five miles wide.

2. While Napa Valley may be small it’s rich in minerals. The Napa Valley contains half of the soil orders that exist within the world. To be more precise, Napa Valley contains 33 soil series with more than 100 soil variations.

Napa Valley soil samples
Napa Valley Soil Samples, Photo by Elaine Schoch

3. There are 16 approved AVAs within the Napa Valley AVA.

4. George C. Yount is credited with planting the first grapevines in Napa Valley in 1836. The vines are believed to have been from Mexico. Following Yount’s death in 1865 at age 71, the town of Yountville was named in his honor. The town is now home to world-renowned restaurants such as Bistro Jeanty and The French Laundry.

5. While there are 40 different wine grape varieties growing in Napa County, Cabernet Sauvignon is still king and accounts for 50 percent of the overall Napa Valley wine. Chardonnay makes up 13 percent.

6. The Napa Valley has a dry Mediterranean climate, covering only 2 percent of the Earth’s surface.

Napa Valley Wine Travel Guide
The Napa Valley has a dry Mediterranean climate, covering only 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Photo by Elaine Schoch

7. Vineyards in Napa Valley range in elevations from sea level to 2,600 feet above sea level.

8. The first commercial winery in Napa Valley was established by Charles Krug in 1861. The industry grew rapidly following its opening and by 1889, more than 140 wineries were in the valley. Charles Krug survived the test of time, including 13 years of Prohibition and is still one of the leading vineyards in Napa Valley.

9. In 1965, Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi broke away from his family’s Charles Krug estate to found his own. This was the first new large scale winery to be established in the valley since before National Prohibition.

Wine Facts: In 1965, Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi broke away from his family's Charles Krug estate to found his own. This was the first new large scale winery to be established in the valley since before prohibition.
The Robert Mondavi Winery, Photo by Elaine Schoch

10. The local wine industry and related businesses creates an economic impact of more than $9.4 billion annually to the Napa County economy and represents a mighty $34 billion economic impact on the U.S. economy. (2022 data)

11. The local wine industry creates 44,000 jobs in Napa County and 190,000 nationwide. (Napa Vinters)

12. As of 2022, there are approximately 475 physical wineries in Napa County, which produce more than 1,000 wine brands. (Napa Vinters)

13. About 95% of Napa Valley’s wineries are family owned. (Napa Vinters)

14. The Napa Valley is the first Agricultural Preserve in the United States. In 1968 vintners and civic leaders in the Napa Valley seized an opportunity to preserve farmland by taking advantage of the Williamson Act enacted by the California Legislature to give landowners property tax relief for designating their land for agricultural purposes. Today, nearly 90 percent of Napa County is under permanent of high levels of protection from development. (Napa Vinters)

15. Chateau Montelena put Napa Valley’s white wines on the map in 1976 when its Chardonnay took top honors at a the Judgement of Paris, a blind tasting. Stag’s Leap 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon further cemented the quality of wines from Napa Valley when it won in the red category at the same tasting. At the time, Napa was considered a wine producing region that could in no way could compete with classic French wine. The story was made into a movie called “Bottle Shock” starring Bill Pullman. Check it out while sipping a bottle of Stag’s Leap or Chateau Montelena, for historical purposes, of course.

16. The town of Calistoga in the upper Napa Valley was founded by entrepreneur Samuel Brannan, who recognized its mineral hot springs as a resource to bring tourists to the Napa Valley. He was right. Geothermal spas and volcanic mud baths now dominate the town, almost as much as wine tasting.

17. While this isn’t a “wine fact” it’s definitely a great thing to know about Napa Valley… There are three “Old Faithful” geysers in the world and one of them is near Calistoga, just north of downtown Calistoga.  (It’s a fun side trip when you’re in Napa Valley.)

18. Napa Valley wineries represent 40 percent of all sustainable winery certifications in the sate of California. (Napa Vinters)

19. Only 4 percent of California’s wine grape harvest comes from Napa Valley. Yet, Napa Valley represents 0.4% of the world’s wine production. (Napa Vinters)

20. As of 2023, 15 restaurants in Napa Valley have earned Michelin Stars and/or recommendations.

Learn anything new? What other fun wine facts about Napa Valley should be included here? Let me know in the comments.

Sources for these fun wine facts include the Napa Valley Vintners, Visit Napa Valley and Wikipedia.

Sip In More of Napa Valley…


  1. I am looking for an article you had about less expensive alternatives to expensive wines.

    1. Thanks for checking out our posts. I’ll check the archives and see what I find and shoot it over.

  2. So many fun facts! I would add that Napa was the first approved AVA in California in 1981. Also, you mentioned how small Napa is… for comparison sake, it’s only 1/8 the size of Bordeaux! 🙂

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