Porthos | The Wine Insiders
Fourteen Appellations
13_logo.jpg Wines have an extraordinary capacity to reflect the environment in which they’re grown. A point not lost on the current crop of American vintners eager to have their wine express increasingly smaller plots of land.

Against this trend of vineyard-designated wines comes THIRTEEN — a wine made not from a single vineyard but from a baker’s dozen, each one more esteemed than the next. What distinguishes these vineyards is that they have been chosen as the best representatives of their respective sub-appellations: Howell Mountain, Rutherford, etc. Napa Valley has 13 of these sub-appellations, or did, when we picked the fruit. (More on this in a moment.) The idea behind THIRTEEN was to blend one ton of grapes from each of these 13 vineyards to create a wine that is conspicuously connected to Napa Valley. A wine that is the truest expression of what the Valley has to offer. As far as we know, no one has ever tried to capture Napa in its totality. Our guess is, no one’s even thought of it. It is, after all, a daunting task to collect grapes from every soil type, every microclimate, every terroir. But the question remains: is this invention of ours a good idea? We’ll leave that for you to discover.

In 2001, Napa Valley claimed 13 sub-appellations. In April of 2004, Oak Knoll District became Napa Valley's 14th sub-appellation, continuing a trend seen in every grape growing region of the United States.

The Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley (its formal name) is comprised of 8,300 acres, of which 3,500 are planted to 14 varieties, mostly Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While there are 16 bonded wineries within its boundaries, more than 40 wineries source fruit from it. Among them, Opus One, Joseph Phelps, and now, of course, THIRTEEN.

The creation of a brand new American Viticultural Area (AVA) might seem to have more to do with marketing than merit. But the truth is, wines from Oak Knoll have more in common with each other than with wines from anywhere else. What that is exactly, is hard to pin down. And therein lies the elusiveness of terroir. Why does a Cabernet Sauvignon from one plot of land taste consistently different from another one grown a few hundred yards away? When everything else is accounted for--rootstock, clonal selection, vine and row spacing, trellising, canopy management, disease control, irrigation, fertilization, and winemaking--what explains the difference one tastes?