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Saint Helena AVA
Saint Helena AVA
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Saint Helena AVA
Saint Helena AVA
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Saint Helena AVA
Saint Helena AVA

Images Courtesy of Suzanne Becker Bronk

The Saint Helena AVA is a Napa Valley sub-appellation located in the narrower northern valley floor and known for diverse soils and consistentely warm weather.

Appellation Details

St. Helena’s northern location on the valley floor means that it experiences only occasional morning fogs; this makes for a fairly hot appellation and indeed sometimes St. Helena can be hotter than Calistoga. Because of this, Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena tends to be quite decadent, with higher alcohols due to the warmer temperatures of the region. One exception is the western benchland where some producers such as Spottswoode, Anomaly and Corison are able to make wines in a more elegant style due to the protection afforded by the nearby Mayacamas against the hot afternoon sun.

This AVA has an unusual shape, like an hourglass, as it encompasses the narrowest part of the valley. The northern half of the appellation is similar in feel and temperature to Calistoga, while the southern half is kin with Rutherford. The soils vary from gravelly loam in the west to volcanic in the east. The appellation is also unique in that it contains alluvial fans on both sides of the valley.


  • 400 to 2663 ft (122 to 793 m)


  • 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)


  • 34 inches (86 cm) annually

Principal Varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay

St. Helena AVA History

Dr. George Belden Crane M.D.

Dr. George Belden Crane M.D.

The St. Helena AVA is named after the town and mountain with the same name within the larger Napa Valley AVA, but originally the town of St. Helena was a Native American village inhabited by the Wappo people who are thought to have lived in the area since as early as 2000 B.C. The original name of the village was "Anakotanoma", which translates to "Bull Snake Village." The nearby mountain, Mount St. Helena, was originally named "Kanamota" or "Human Mountain" by the Wappo people. Later, the mountain was named "Mount Mayacamas" by Spanish colonists, but finally it was named Mount St. Helena by a Russian survey party who climbed the peak in 1841. To memorialize their visit, they left a plaque at the top of the mountain that was inscribed with the date and the name of Princess Helena de Gagarin, the wife of their commanding officer Alexander G. Rotchev at the former Russian outpost of Fort Ross (Крѣпость Россъ) in Sonoma County.

The area in which the modern town of St. Helena is located was originally part of the Rancho Carne Humana land grant, which was given to Dr. Edward Turner Bale in 1841 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.

The modern town of St. Helena was founded by Henry Still, who purchased 126 acres of land from Dr. Bale's widow in 1855. This original property was located on the west side of the county road in between Sulpher creek and the future Madrona avenue. Lots were given for free to anyone willing to start a business. The town was offically incorporated on March 24, 1876 and shortly after the first railroad reached St. Helena, bringing commerce, farming resources and tourists.

Some of the first grapevines in the area were planted by George Belden Crane in 1860 and by 1874 his winery was producing over 500,000 gallons of wine per year. Another Napa Valley wine pioneer, Charles Krug also founded his winery in 1861, which is now the oldest wine estate in Napa Valley.

The St. Helena AVA was offically recognized in 1995 and today the town of St. Helena is the center of the St. Helena AVA which is comprised of over 400 vineyards planted with over 6800 acres of grapevines.


"St. Helena is the historic heart of Napa Valley, with several vineyards and wineries being established here in the late 1800’s. Situated within ancient alluvial fans, St. Helena’s distance from cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay gives us less diurnal shift. This results in early ripening Cabernet Sauvignon that is wonderfully fruit forward, with sleek tannin and balanced acidity."
- Megan Gunderson, Hall Wines

Notable Wines sourced from Saint Helena AVA

Gibbs Vineyards
Gibbs Vineyards 2022 'Centa Vineyard' Sauvignon Blanc

Made with 100% Sauvignon Blanc harvested from Centa Vineyard, one of our two estate vineyards in Saint Helena. The fruit comes from vines grown near the banks of the Napa River, where relatively cool summer temperatures help retain a balance of flavor and acidity. Gibbs Sauvignon Blanc is light bodied with crisp acidity and an elegantly long finish. The nose is generous, exhibiting aromas of tropical fruits, lemon peel, pear and subtle white florals that compliment a light, but immensely flavorful body bursting with mouthwatering Meyer lemon, tart Granny Smith apple, and juicy pineapple. The finish is quite lengthy, showing more tropical flavors of passion fruit and lychee.

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Unwritten Wines
Unwritten Wines 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sourced from the Lewelling Ranch in the Saint Helena area of Napa Valley, our Unwritten Cabernet Sauvignon has complex and inviting aromatics. The wine is an opaque purple in the glass, visually demonstrating the wine’s youthfulness. The nose erupts with floral aromas backed by crushed black fruit, layers of cassis, hints of tea and traces of cocoa. On the palate the wine is bright and lively, exhibiting youthful flavors of blackberry and creme de cassis, supported by silky tannins promising decades of development. The mouthfeel explodes with a multilayered texture that must be experienced – words cannot do it justice. The finish lasts a good 45 seconds… which is longer than you will want to wait for your next sip.

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B Cellars
B Cellars 2009 'Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon

Dr Crane Vineyard is planted alongside an ancient river bed in the heart of Saint Helena. These vines are anchored in the soil rich with rock and silt deposits. Originally planted in 1858, this vineyard has proven itself time and time again to produce Cabernet Sauvignon of great distinction. This Dr. Crane Cabernet Sauvignon is a testimony to the unique gravelly loam terroir, and the excellent winegrowing practices of the Beckstoffer family.

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Crocker & Starr Wines
Crocker & Starr Wines 2010 'Stone Place' Cabernet Sauvignon

This highly collectable wine is “Saint Helena” in its purest form; 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the heart and soul of the 35 year old vines grown on the legendary Crocker Estate. Huge aromas of fresh violet, dark cherry and savory purple plum linger at the rim. Explosive layers of fresh blueberry, cassis, boysenberry and graphite are the leading flavors. Supple tannins and a mouthwatering acidity transition to a full and lingering black fruit finish. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Stone Place’ strikes a rare harmonic chord of power and elegance. Delicious to drink now, it will definitely age gracefully over the next 20 years.

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Saint Helena Resources and References

  1. "§ 9.149 St. Helena" (Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Part 9— American Viticultural Areas; Subpart C— Approved American Viticultural Areas). Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR). Retrieved October 31, 2007.
  2. "The St. Helena Viticultural Area (94F–015P)" (27 CFR Part 9 60 FR 47053 [T.D. ATF–366; RE: Notice No. 801] RIN 1512–AA07, Final rule). Federal Register. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. 60 (175): 47053–47061. September 11, 1995. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 31, 2021.
  3. "St. Helena AVA" (Napa Valley’s Wine Epicenter). Napa Valley Life Magazine. August 5, 2020.
  4. Brook, Stephen (March 7, 2011). The Finest Wines of California: A Regional Guide to the Best Producers and Their Wines. University of California Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-520-26658-2
  5. "St. Helena AVA — What Everyone Should Know". FredSwan.wine. December 27, 2019. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  6. Villano, Matt; Doerper, John; Wood, Sharron S. (2011). California Wine Country (6th ed.). Compass American Guides. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-4000-0492-8
  7. Palmer, Lyman L.; Wells, Harry Laurenz (1881). History of Napa and Lake Counties, California. Slocum, Bowen & Company. ISBN 978-1363000555.
  8. Weber, Lin (1998). Old Napa Valley: The History to 1900. Wine Ventures Publishing. ISBN 9780966701401.
  9. Walker, Larry (March 17, 2005). The Wines of the Napa Valley. Octopus. ISBN 978-1-84533-625-7
  10. St. Helena Historical Society. (n.d.). The St. Helena area was home to the Wappo people, a Yukian-speaking group who were the area’s earliest inhabitants. St. Helena Historical Society | City of St Helena. Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://www.cityofsthelena.org/community/page/st-helena-historical-society
  11. Wikipedia contributors. (2021, December 19). Edward Turner Bale. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:36, September 16, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edward_Turner_Bale&oldid=1061066278
  12. St. Helena Appellation. Appellation St. Helena. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://appellationsthelena.com/

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