There's an old adage about small towns: If you blink, you might miss them. With a population of 71, Oakville might qualify, but it's definitely worth checking out. It is a CDP (census-designated place) in Napa Valley about halfway between Napa and Calistoga, just north of Yountville.

Oakville American Viticultural Area covers more than 5,000 acres of vineyards. These vineyards are particularly noted for their Bordeaux varietals. The University of California, Davis, operates Oakville Station, an experimental vineyard station established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1903.

Oakville's history goes back to about 1860 when it was a water stop on the railroad. Its name is derived from the dark green valley oaks that cover the area. While it may indeed be small, it is in the heart of the wine country and all that entails. Of historical note, the Oakville Grocery, founded in 1881, is California's oldest continuously operating grocer. The market specializes in a delightful selection of local products from farmers, artisans and other purveyors.

It's an important part of the wine country experience, and definitely worth keeping your eyes on.

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