1 / 3
Howell Mountain AVA
Howell Mountain AVA
2 / 3
Howell Mountain AVA
Howell Mountain AVA
3 / 3
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

Cliff Lede Vineyards
Cliff Lede Vineyards 2015 'Howell Mountain' Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2015 Howell Mountain is enchanting and captivating from the start. Dark cassis flavors are infused with notes of pine cone and forest sous bois. Roasted chestnuts and steak au jus aromas unwind in the glass and subtle accents of dried red current, Spanish paprika, cumin, crushed rose petal, clove, and mint intertwine amongst the fragrance. The piquant mountain tannins round and fatten along the finish and build support and structure this young vibrant Cabernet. -Christopher Tynan, Winemaker

View Winery Profile

Cornerstone Cellars
Cornerstone Cellars 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon Sourced from the Ink Grade Vineyard, Howell Mountain is a sub-appellation of Napa Valley which is defined primarily by elevation. The Howell Mountain AVA is positioned well above the valley floor and lies between 1,800 and 2,400 feet. The terraced vineyards can face to the east, south or west. The soils vary from decomposed volcanic ash, called “tufa”, and red clay that is high in iron. Both soil types are nutrient poor, which stresses the vines, producing intense wines from small clusters and berries. The smaller grapes have a higher skin-to-juice ratio resulting in deeper colored wine with more pronounced tannins.

View Winery Profile

Selah Wines
Selah Wines 2017 'Selah' Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon from estate vineyard on Howell Mountain made by Thomas Rivers Brown

View Winery Profile

Grape Culture
Grape Culture 2022 'DUALRIDGE' Cabernet Sauvignon

Dualridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain

View Winery Profile

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

This website uses cookies.
Learn more about our privacy policy.
Dismiss this notice