“We grow more varieties of grapes in Oak Knoll District (OKD), than any other AVA in Napa Valley. That’s because OKD is the Goldilocks zone–not too hot, not too cold–perfect for wine producing diversity.”
–Dave Pramuk, Robert Biale Vineyards
OKD’s cool climate naturally leads to diversity, producing exceptional fruit that is coveted for its bright character and elegant flavor. Offering a perfect convergence of growing conditions, OKD has earned a reputation for producing an array of world-class wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot among others.
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Where the OKD Legend Began
Storied in a unique and colorful history, OKD is one of Napa Valley’s oldest grapegrowing areas dating back to 1851, with some of the earliest vineyard plantings of varieties for fine wine.
Captain Joseph W. Osborne, with the Gold Rush booming, settled in California in 1850. The following year he purchased a large tract of land three miles south of Yountville and named it Oak Knoll. In 1852 he brought vine cuttings introducing some of the first European grape varieties to California. Prior plantings had all been of the less-desirable Mission varieties brought by Spanish missionaries.
The entrance to Eshcol in the 1880s.
Oak Knoll Farm at the turn of the century.
Delivering grapes to Eshcol around 1915.
By 1856 Oak Knoll was named the state’s best farm by the California Agricultural Society. Soon Osborne’s fifty-acre vineyard was the largest in Napa Valley. Osborne was a renowned agricultural innovator and advocate for grape quality. Along with Agoston Haraszthy, he formed the Sonoma-Napa Horticultural Society. Historian Charles Sullivan writes that, “Had he not been murdered by a former employee in 1863, history might well have named him the father of Napa Valley’s fine wine industry.”
In the 1880s, Eshcol vineyard was founded near Oak Knoll. This ranch would also be recognized as a model farm with small, neatly tailored vineyard blocks as its hallmark. A “state of the art” wooden, gravity-flow winery designed by Hamden McIntyre, who also designed Inglenook, Greystone and Far Niente, was built on the site in 1886. Eshcol produced some of the wines that established Napa’s prowess as the premier winegrowing region at the 1888 state viticultural convention.
In the 1890s, when Napa Valley counted at least 140 wineries in operation, the valley and the entire state’s wine industry were dealt one blow after another with vine disease, recession, Prohibition, world wars and the Great Depression. By the mid-1960s, the vineyards had been largely replaced with walnuts and hay. And then things began to change…
The New Oak Knoll District Rises
The train that once stopped at Oak Knoll station was no more, but a once-vibrant now-sleeping fine wine industry was waking up. With fewer than 25 active wineries in the entire valley in 1968 the Trefethen family rehabilitated a ghost winery and began replanting the vineyards. That year residents established the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve to permanently protect more than 38,000 acres of prime valley floor farmland. The Corley family followed the next year building a winery and planting vineyards near the Napa River in Oak Knoll. Nearby the Jaeger family planted its vineyards and the district, along with the entire valley, was embracing a bright new wine culture.
Success came early in this renaissance when grapes from the district’s vineyards were in the top-placing Chardonnay wines of the 1976 Judgment of Paris and Gault Millau Magazine’s World Wine Olympics. Moet et Chandon took up residence when starting their California venture, Domain Chandon, before moving to permanent headquarters nearby—but still source much of their fruit here. In the 1980s red varieties took top honors with Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon ranked best in the state at the California State Fair Wine Competition.
The federal government formally recognized OKD of Napa Valley as the 14th American Viticultural Area of Napa Valley in 2004.
Today, the district’s 8,300 acres find nearly 4,200 acres under vine. It is located north of the City of Napa and south of Yountville. Mt. Veeder is the western border and the Silverado Trail defines its eastern boundary.
Some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious wineries make their home here and own or source fruit from these vineyards. In addition, some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious wineries source fruit from these vineyards.