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Atlas Peak AVA
Atlas Peak AVA
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Atlas Peak AVA
Atlas Peak AVA
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Atlas Peak AVA
Atlas Peak AVA

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.

Appellation Details

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.


  • 400 to 2600 ft (122 to 793 m)
  • The area's highest elevation is located at the summit of Atlas Peak and the lowest elevation is located in the bottom of Rector Canyon at 760 feet above sea level. The majority of this viticultural area lies over 1400 feet above sea level.


  • Volcanic in origin
  • Basaltic red color
  • Shallow with limited water retention
  • Irrigation is often essential


  • Cool, mountain-influenced
  • Temperatures 10° to 15°F cooler than valley floor in summer
  • Mostly located above the fog line
  • Low diurnal change
  • Summer temperatures rarely above 90°F (32.2°C)


  • Up to 38 inches (96 cm) annually

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay

Atlas Peak AVA History

Romain C. DeBoom

Romain C. DeBoom

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

Notable Wines sourced from Atlas Peak AVA

Duckhorn Vineyards
Duckhorn Vineyards 2010 Merlot

We produced our first Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot in 1978. In the years since, mountain-grown grapes have played an essential role in our Napa Valley Merlot program. Atlas Peak’s temperatures can be as much as 10 degrees cooler than the valley floor, and its high-elevation vineyards are largely above the fog line. This results in long, even ripening that delivers exceptional Merlot vintage after vintage. Our Atlas Peak Merlot displays beautiful concentration with briar berry character alongside wild spice and herb notes.

View Winery Profile

Bell Wine Cellars
Bell Wine Cellars 2021 'Atlas Peak' Cabernet Sauvignon

Consisting of Clone 7 Cabernet, these grapes come from the east-facing slopes of Atlas Peak in the Elan Vineyard. Muscular tannins are supported by saturation and balanced acidity, lending to a very ageworthy wine. Rarely bottled on its own, this vintage displayed enough aromatic layers and great flavor expression to justify bottling a small amount alone.

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Guarachi Family Wines
Guarachi Family Wines 2021 '"G" by Alex Guarachi' Red Blend

Sourced entirely from Guarachi’s Meadowrock Estate, grapes for “G” have been meticulously hand-picked, hand-sorted and night-harvested from the finest 30-year-old vines found on the property’s rich rocky earth. Meadowrock sits facing Southwest at an elevation of 1,400 to 1,760 feet- perched on Atlas Peak above the fog line that often blankets the valley below.

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Rombauer Vineyards
Rombauer Vineyards 2014 'Atlas Peak Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon

Intrigued by the intensely expressive Cabernet Sauvignon from their Atlas Peak Vineyard, the Rombauer family produced their first single-vineyard designate from this site with the 2003 vintage. This wine showcases the unique character of wines from this remote, rugged site.

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Atlas Peak Resources and References

  1. "§ 9.140 Atlas Peak" (Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Part 9 — American Viticultural Areas; Subpart C — Approved American Viticultural Areas). Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved October 30, 2007.
  2. "Atlas Peak Viticultural Area", Federal Register, Volume 57, Issues 12-16. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, Jan 12, 1992. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  3. "Atlas Peak (AVA): Appellation Profile". Appellation America. 2007. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2007.
  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. The History of Atlas Peak Wine. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.calwineries.com/explore/regions/napa-valley/atlas-peak/history
  7. Atlas Peak Appellation. Official Website.

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