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Wild Horse Valley AVA
Wild Horse Valley AVA
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Wild Horse Valley AVA
Wild Horse Valley AVA
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Wild Horse Valley AVA
Wild Horse Valley AVA

Images Courtesy of Suzanne Becker Bronk

The Wild Horse Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area that spans both Napa County and Solano County. One of the smallest Napa Valley AVAs, it is known for its relatively cooler climate, due to its close proximity to the San Pablo Bay, making it beneficial to the cultivation of grape varietals such as Pinot Noir.

Appellation Details

Wild Horse Valley wines are almost impossible to generalize because so little of them are made. However, the elevation and location in the south near to the Bay make for a cool growing area. Because of this, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir tend to be planted over Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are similar to Carneros in that they have ripe fruit but tend to have slightly higher acidity due to the elevation.


  • 850 to 2,130 feet (259 to 649 m)


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


  • Due to elevation and proximity to the San Pablo Bay, it is the coolest of all the Napa Valley AVAs.
  • The air mass that passes over Carneros cools another 10 degrees by the time it rises to the Wild Horse Valley AVA.
  • Mostly located above the fog line
  • Low diurnal change
  • Summer temperatures rarely above 90°F (32.2°C)


  • Up to 35 inches (90 cm) annually

Principal Varieties:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir

Wild Horse Valley AVA History

Cayetano Juarez

Cayetano Juarez

The area now encompassed by the Wild Horse Valley AVA was once part of the Rancho Tulocay land grant given to Cayetano Juarez, a Californio ranchero, in 1841 by Mexican Governor Manuel Jimeno. Cayetano Juarez had been a soldier stationed at the San Francisco Presidio and was awarded two leagues of land for his decade of service in the Mexican army. The name Tulocay translates to "red" in the Native American Pomo language. This is thought to refer to the red soils in the area, colored by the presence of oxidized iron in the ground.

The first grape vines in the area were planted by Joseph Vorbe in 1881, but the onset of Prohibition in 1920 put an end to all winegrowing activities in the area. Due to its relative isolation, Wild Horse Valley doesn't have the long history of other Napa Valley AVAs. Nearly 60 years after Prohibition in 1978, the first new grape vines since Prohibition were planted on 1100 acres by John Newmeyer. The Wild Horse Valley AVA was officially recognized as an American Viticultural Area in 1988.


"What sets the Wild Horse Valley AVA apart are the cool temperatures and relatively mild growing conditions that we enjoy. This is perhaps the most important detail, as the cool temperatures are no doubt influenced by our proximity to the San Francisco Bay. Cool temperatures equal longer hang times for our grapes and we like hang time!"
- Marc Nanes, Kenzo Estate

Wild Horse Valley Resources and References

  1. "§ 9.140 Wild Horse Valley" (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. "Wild Horse Valley 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. Palmer, Lyman L.; Wells, Harry Laurenz (1881). History of Napa and Lake Counties, California. Slocum, Bowen & Company. ISBN 978-1363000555.
  4. Weber, Lin (1998). Old Napa Valley: The History to 1900. Wine Ventures Publishing. ISBN 9780966701401.
  5. Wild Horse Valley Wine Country | Calwineries. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://www.calwineries.com/explore/regions/napa-valley/wild-horse-valley

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