July 7, 2020 | Ralph Sands
I’m dead serious when I say I have answered this question a thousand times; we are coming back to Napa Valley for vacation, we love it and have been there a few times. Are there any cool or new places you recommend? I ask if they have covered a lot of the wineries on Highway 29 and Silverado Trail; if they say yes; I say it’s time to explore Spring Mountain.
Spring Mountain stands behind the town of St. Helena framing the northeast corner of the Napa Valley at 2600 feet and is the main route linking Napa to Sonoma from the top of the valley. The Spring Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) was established in 1993 but vines have been planted on the mountain since 1870.
There are some great and historic wineries to visit here. You can get away from the traffic of 29 and into beautiful rugged mountain landscape and enjoy a different side and style of Napa wine. Mountain wine! Wineries like Cain, Barnette, Paloma, Peacock, Philipe Togni, Keenan, Schweiger, Smith Madrone, Terra Valentine, Pride and of course Spring Mountain Winery. The wines from the valley floor are almost always soft-rich-silky expressions of Napa wine while that mountain wines tend to be much stronger, with higher acidity and tannins levels with masculine, persistent and built more for aging. I also find them to have far more complexity.
Peacock Family Vineyard from Spring Mountain AVA
I’ve been blessed to have some really wonderful wine and life experiences from this Mountain that I would like to share.
Starting with Spring Mountain Winery, the first wine I tasted from this estate was over 30 years ago and was a Cabernet blend of three vintages, 71,72 and 73. Three historical estates now form this winery as one, Miravalle, 1884, La Perla, 1876 and Chevalier, 1880 , those places are literarily the wine history of Spring Mountain. I’ve re-tasted some of those wines recently and they were hanging on to the deep, dark, strong, earthy fruit and impressive as older California can be at this age and very those were extremly difficult weather vintages on the mountain and everywhere in Napa.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Miravelle almost became more famous for being the statuesque white Victorian building and the home of the TV Series Falcon Crest in the 1980’s. I recently tasted, bought and sold some 2010, serious, linear Cabernet that is just opening up at 10 years of age and has plenty of life ahead.
Sping Mountain Vineyard is one of the most photogenic wineries of Napa Valley
The Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots made at the Robert Keenan estate in 1978, 1979 and 1980 were absolutely epic wines with huge levels of mountain fruit, power, complexity, and great tasting. I was mesmerized by these wines; they were so good that they kept me in the wine business when I was thinking of changing jobs. Keenen still makes outstanding wine.
Pride Mountain Winery has always made fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon as well as some of the best Merlot and Viognier in California. I enjoyed a great picnic lunch there years ago with Dr. Wong as we sat in the vineyard with one leg in Napa County and the other in Sonoma County!
My most enjoyable memory was at Cain Cellars, also located on the ridgeline of Napa and Sonoma. They were just getting started in 1991 but the wines were good and selling well, when the sales manager found out that I was getting married in November and staying close to home (no honeymoons in the wine business in November and December) he insisted we spend a night there. We had dinner with the young winemaker, Mr. Chris Howell. I had no idea he was trained at Ch. Mouton Rothschild and at that time I had been to Bordeaux twice (now 55) we drank Ch. Beycheville from St-Julien and we had a lovely evening. Later that night, my lovely bride and I sat in the hot tub and could see the lights of both the town of St. Helena and Sonoma glittering below, a great memory. 29 years later, Chris is dam near Napa Valley Winemaking Royalty and still making great wines, I hope to visit him and Cain again soon.
Get you exploring hat on and create your own memories on your visit to the wineries of Spring Mountain.