Visit Rutherford: Home to Napa’s Best Cabernet Sauvignon


Located south of St. Helena and north of Oakville, Rutherford is a small region producing big wines. It’s the epitome of Wine Country. Think hillside estates, rows of perfectly ordered grapevines, and some of the finest wineries California has to offer. If you’re a Cabernet Sauvignon lover, Rutherford is paradise! Celebrated for its hot days, cool nights, and superior soils, the AVA is ideal for growing bold Bordeaux-style varieties. That’s precisely why Cabernet Sauvignon is Sequoia Grove’s champion variety and why we typically produce eight different expressions of it each vintage.

What is an AVA?

You may have heard this term while enjoying a tasting at a winery or perhaps spotted it on the back of a wine bottle, but what does ‘AVA’ actually mean? An AVA stands for an American Viticultural Area. It’s an allocated area of vineyard land grouped by specific geography or climate. In France, an AVA is called an appellation. You may have heard of regions such as Champagne or Burgundy that are celebrated for producing region or varietal-specific wines. In the US, our AVA system is not as strict as the French one. Applicants must demonstrate why a specific geographic area deserves special recognition by providing maps, evidence, and a convincing argument to apply to create an AVA. There are currently 16 distinct appellations located in the Napa Valley.


Napa Valley: Cabernet Paradise

Napa Valley is one of the smallest, most diverse wine-growing regions globally. Remarkably, it has more than 100 soil variations along its 30-mile corridor! While a plethora of grape varieties are suited to the region, the most popular (by far!) is Cabernet Sauvignon. 

This red variety shot to fame following the now-famous 1976 “Judgement of Paris.” This was a private wine competition held in Paris that pitted California wines against French wines in an era when the market was convinced that French wines were superior. The result? Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley won top honors! 

Following this pivotal moment that proved Napa’s Cabernet wines could compete with the world’s leading wines of the time, Napa Valley has since forged ahead in becoming a world-class Cabernet Sauvignon producer. While many places in California are too hot (and increasingly so) for growing Cabernet, the Rutherford AVA offers the perfect mix of conditions for the variety to thrive.

The ‘Rutherford Dust’ Effect  

“When it comes to producing great wine, it starts with growing great grapes,” says Steven Bowden, Sequoia Grove’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing..

Rutherford is situated in the middle of the Napa Valley and ranks among the finest AVAs. It is one of the widest parts of Napa Valley, giving it more sunlight hours, with hot days and cool nights ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Rutherford’s location near the San Pablo Bay causes a cooling effect at night that delivers morning cloud cover. The morning fog slows certain aspects of ripening, helping to maintain acidity,” explains Steven.

Rutherford’s soils are also unmatched: “There are many different soil types that work for Cabernet Sauvignon. What’s important is good drainage and not too much soil fertility to encourage ripening. What makes Rutherford extra special is the prevalence of volcanic soils which unexplainably add an earthy, ‘dusty’ taste to the wines,” he shares. 

It was Andre Tchelistcheff, a Russian-born immigrant turned Napa winemaking pioneer, who coined the term ‘Rutherford dust’.The Rutherford dust effect is what wine writers describe as a delicate “cocoa powder finish.” It comes from the region’s deep soils and unique microclimates that help round out the tannins. The mythical ingredient is so sought-after that a Rutherford Dust Society exists! The society consists of members passionate about preserving the AVA’s unique terroir. Naturally, Sequoia Grove is a proud member. When it comes to Sequoia Grove wines, the ‘dust effect’ is particularly prevalent in our Cabernet Sauvignon.

“While our wines show off a classic Cabernet fruit-forward profile, there is extra nuance. Imagine going for a walk along the valley floor, and as you walk you are crunching over dead leaves and branches, kicking up dust. When you open a Sequoia Grove Cabernet, you’ll enjoy these forest floor aromatics and soft, powder-like tannins. That’s also the dust effect. These flavors represent Rutherford,” muses Steven.


Embracing the Rutherford AVA

At Sequoia Grove, we work with two different estate vineyards to coax completely different styles of Cabernet from them. 

“Our Sequoia Grove Estate vineyard soils are derived from ancient marine sediment and ocean crust that washed down from the Mayacamas mountains to our West. Our Tonella Estate vineyard soils are derived from diverse volcanic rocks from the Vaca mountain range to our East,” explains Steven. 

The result is a range of Cabernet Sauvignon wines that highlight the diversity of the Rutherford region. “When you try a Rutherford Cabernet for the first time, you’ll enjoy distinct flavors of red cherries, cocoa powder, and allspice. This comes from the unique sedimentary, gravelly-loam alluvial soils we have in our vineyards,” ends Steven. 

For more than 30 years, Sequoia Grove has been recognized for its commitment to crafting award-winning wines that emphasize finesse and balance from its Estate vineyards as well as through decades-long relationships with top Napa Valley growers. Our winery’s consistent philosophy of making wines with varietal character that are reflective of the terroir has helped establish Sequoia Grove as one of the premier Cabernet Sauvignon producers in Napa Valley. Our experienced wine team focuses on crafting wines that emphasize the elegance, finesse, structure, and balance emblematic of the renowned Rutherford AVA. 

Whether you’re a newcomer to Rutherford or a seasoned stalwart, Sequoia Grove is rooted in one of the most magical California AVAs. While some might say our success is written in the sand, we prefer to think it’s written in the dust!