fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Summer Quarter

Summer Catalogues
Now Available
Registration Opens May 22
shopping cart icon0


« Back to Liberal Arts & Sciences

WSP 281 — Wine and Geology in Napa Valley: A Weekend Exploration

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Sat/Sun
Course Format: Off-campus retreat
Duration: 2 days
Date(s): Apr 29—Apr 30
Time: See below
Drop Deadline: Apr 15
Unit: 1
Tuition: $535
Instructor(s): David Howell
Limit: 30
Status: Closed
Please Note: Schedule: Saturday, April 29, 9:30 am – 6:30 pm; Sunday, April 30, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Off-campus retreat
See below
Apr 29—Apr 30
2 days
Drop By
Apr 15
1 Unit
David Howell
Please Note: Schedule: Saturday, April 29, 9:30 am – 6:30 pm; Sunday, April 30, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Soil is only the top layer of what winemakers call terroir. Millions of years of geologic upheavals have contributed to the unique properties of each wine region of the world. In this unique hands-on exploration of the relationship between geology and wine, we will spend a weekend in Napa Valley exploring the connection between wines and their terroir—the complete natural environment in which a wine is produced. We will see for ourselves how the geologic history of the land—along with the grapes, their viticulture, the climate, and the winemaker’s skills—is crucial to the characteristics of wines.

Though geology and terroir will be a focus of the workshop, no previous knowledge of either is necessary to understand the stories of deep-sea sediments, volcanic eruptions, uplifted mountains, earthquake faulting, mega-landslides, and torrential flooding—all active players in the making of the modern Napa Valley. Participants will explore a cross-section of the Oakville American Viticultural Area (AVA), located in the heart of Napa Valley, including four private tastings to see how the earth and the wine compare and contrast from place to place. In essence, we will bring the geology to the wine and the wine to the geology.

The workshop will start promptly at 9:30 am on Saturday, April 29 at the Groth Winery. Participants will drive from there to locations in the eastern half of the Oakville AVA. We will end at dusk at Opus One. The next morning, we will meet at Hoopes Vineyard and continue from there to locations in the western half of the Oakville AVA. The workshop will conclude at 4:00 pm on April 30.

A boxed lunch will be provided on both days. Participants must provide their own breakfast, dinner, transportation, and lodging.

Tuition discounts are not available. Due to its short format, this workshop may not be taken for a Letter Grade. However, Credit/No Credit is available.

David Howell, Research Geologist (Retired), US Geological Survey

David G. Howell is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. He has been working with Napa Valley vintners for more than twenty-five years and is the co-author of The Winemaker’s Dance: Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley. After retiring from the US Geological Survey, Howell was an adjunct professor in Stanford’s School of Earth Science from 2005 to 2009. He received a PhD from UC Santa Barbara and has authored more than 150 scientific articles.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Jonathan Swinchatt and David G. Howell , The Winemaker's Dance: Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley (ISBN 0-520-23513-4)