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

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Saturday and Sunday
Course Format: Off-campus
Duration: 2 days
Date(s): Apr 28—Apr 29
Drop Deadline: Apr 14
Unit: 1
Tuition: $550
Instructor(s): David G. Howell
Limit: 30
Status: Open
Please Note: Course schedule: Saturday, April 28, 9:30 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday, April 29, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday
Apr 28—Apr 29
2 days
Drop By
Apr 14
1 Unit
David G. Howell
Please Note: Course schedule: Saturday, April 28, 9:30 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday, April 29, 8:30 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 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 28 at the Groth Winery (750 Oakville Cross Road, Oakville, CA). Participants will drive from there to locations in the eastern half of the Oakville AVA. We will end by 6:00 pm at Opus One. The next morning, we will meet at 8:30 am at Hoopes Vineyard (1380 Yount Mill Road, Napa, CA) and continue from there to locations in the western half of the Oakville AVA. The workshop will conclude at 4:00 pm on April 29.

Students should wear sturdy shoes for walking in vineyards. A boxed lunch will be provided on both days. Participants must provide their own transportation and lodging. Tuition discounts are not available. Grade restriction: No letter grade.

David G. 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 (suggested pre-workshop reading). After retiring from the US Geological Survey, Howell was an adjunct professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences 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)