Napa River Terroir Project – River Trip Part I & II

In following up from our Prelude Posting to the Napa River Terroir Project, we have since taken 2 different trips down the river and found a nifty app & website to document these trips.  We used to track us in real-time and record our journey, it even Geo-Tags the locations of the pictures we took.  Our first trip was a huge learning experience and jam packed with fun and determination.  What was planned as a 7 hour trip for 9 miles, manifested as 7.5 hour mission to go 7 miles.

(Top) Ward Kadel (Middle) Crocker & Starr
(Bottom)Steve, Beth, Ward, Seth, Andrew,
& Jill {behind camera}

The Napa River is uncharted territory and for good reason – it is no pleasure cruise.  The river is a casual-sporting one that shares many fun obstacles complimented by some occasional minor rapids and waterfalls.  The obstacles typically present themselves as trees and brush across the river that you can sometimes limbo under.  At other times, these trees have resulted in a major dam across the river with dangerous downward currents ripping under them.  These self-constructed dams are a giant patchwork of logs, branches, and anything else floating in the river, they are 5-10 Ft tall!  There was even one spot that had giant nest of tree limbs over 15 Ft tall.  The mass of these dams not only makes them a pain to carry kayaks over, they are also evidence that this river can get very big and move with lethal speed into massive obstacles.

However, we smartly never went near the river when it was in a rage, and I strongly recommend everyone to respect the river, especially in the late winter months.  Our sessions on the river were late in the rain season and we found it to be an overall VERY FUN time and great learning experience.  The major obstacles tend to come in clusters and absorb time, but are quickly forgotten as the majority of the river is easy flowing.   These smooth flowing stretches of the river are very easy to navigate and give a priceless view on the valley,  The “Spine” of the Napa Valley.  And hence, the Napa River Terroir Project has begun.  Our exposé of this dynamic arterial system influencing the landscape, air movement, wildlife, and water; is designed to ultimately inform us if there is any terroir implications from the Napa River. (Our hunch says yes)

And this is the beginning of a really exciting endeavor.  Here are 2 trips that we posted via  The sideshow shows the pictures with their corresponding location on the map.  Please have a look through these 2 trips.

Part 1 started at Tudal Winery and we launched at Bale Lane and ended at Zindandel Lane.  We stopped at Titus Vineyards, Crocker & Starr, and are appreciative of the invites from Ramsay Vineyards and other wineries.

Napa River Terroir Project – Part 1

Our second trip from Zinfandel Lane to Oakville Cross Rd. we stopped at Round Pond Estate and on the river edge behind Alpha Omega, Peju, St Supery.

Napa River Terroir Project -Part 2

Below is our “just for fun” Point of View video of what it is to be on the Napa River.  We have found the river to be refreshing, fun, and a remote sanctuary amidst the great Napa Valley Floor.   As you will see the river is at points very well enclosed and isolated.  And at other occasions, the land slopes gently to the river edge.   I would not say that people have turned their backs on the river, but at the same time.  The Napa river is a major natural feature of the valley and is typically overlooked and rarely referenced.   We should also note it is a thriving ecosystem, we saw many ducks, cranes, turtles, and some smaller fish – amongst other wildlife.

Where do we go from here?

Our next steps are to gather our various impressions and collective notes from the river trips.  We have tied in some of the video and most of the pictures we took.  As you can imagine, bringing cameras and equipment on the river is a risk, and we lost 2 video cameras to the cause.  Luckily, we found gear for protecting our iPhones, which have made the base documentation above possible.  We will assemble our data in our next steps, and we will start researching the points below:

Edge Conditions: What are the profiles of the edge conditions? And how does this change, shift, or be leveraged.

Soil Compostion: A mapping of the soil composition river bed

Varietal Planted: A mapping of the varietals planted along the river

Tributary Influx: A coordination of the influencers of the river.  We noted that Tributaries were of considerable factors to the river

Information Trade: Share info with Vineyard Management Companies, Preservation Societies, RDUST society, Vineyard Surveyors, & Wineries.

River migration: The river has moved and was re-directed when the rail road to Calistoga was built.  The river changes considerably  when traveling down it, and this query should inform us of soil changes and nuances in the vineyards .  The river bed also changes dramatically at spots which is another point of interest.

Historic River Engagement: There are several points where old foundations are on the river and man-made residuals are apparent.


The above info will allow us to arrive at an educated guess of how the terroir may reveal itself  throughout the valley.  The river is a unifying thread that links most the AVA’s from top to bottom of the valley and is a sinuous connection and artery for the valley.  Our grand scheme is to gather support from the wine trade and culminate data and stories.  This info will bring the river to the foreground of discussion for the first time in Napa’s history.  I hereby propose: The Napa River Terroir Alliance and to have a Terroir Tasting fundraiser and preliminary showcase in 2011.

Thanks for reading!  If you or anyone you know has interest, stories, or wants to contribute, please contact us.  This is an open-ended project done as a hobby/passion/fun way to explore the valley and wine.


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Sister Posting on Vinopanion

Ward Kadel

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