On the western side of Napa Valley, on the Mayacamas Mountains, you will find the Spring Mountain wineries. There are approximately two dozen vineyards and about 20 wineries located in this region. The dramatic landscape of this region is the perfect backdrop for wine tours.
One of the most interesting aspects of Spring Mountain is its unique microclimate. In fact, the climate in Spring Mountain is quite different from what you will find on the floor of the valley. The marine breezes blowing in frequently help to cool the area throughout the day, creating a blend of acidity and tannins that are quite remarkable. While fog frequently settles on the floor of the valley during the night, this is less of a problem in Spring Mountain. As a result, the nights are often warmer; leading to the production of red grapes which are fuller bodied.
Red grapes are planted over about 80% of the vineyards here. The Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from this region is well known for its softer tannins as well as an acidity level that is somewhat lower than in other areas. For the most part, the majority of the wineries in this region are constructed on the hillside terrain. Generally, the vineyards here are smaller in scale than other wineries throughout Napa Valley. As a result, they are able to approach the production of grapes and wines with a highly unique style.
While grapes were first planted in other regions in Napa Valley as early as the mid-19th century; the history of Spring Mountain as a wine region did not begin until 1873. At this time, Charles Lemme planted what would become the first vineyard in the area.
That vineyard was comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon. Eventually, he also established La Perla Cellar. The name Beringer came to Spring Mountain in 1885 when Jacob and Frederick Beringer planted a vineyard over sixty acres. Today, that particular vineyard is called Beringer Flat.
Another of the early vintners of Spring Mountain was Tiburico Parrot. After arriving in the area during the 1890s, he set about producing some of the finest wines in the region. In fact, several of his wines won national as well as international awards.
A very impressive winery, Chateau Chevalier, was constructed in 1891 by Fortune Chevalier. Today that winery is owned by Jacob Safra and continues to produce noteworthy wines. In addition, a significant amount of acreage was owned by Peter Conradi toward the end of the 19th century. His vineyards focused on Syrah and Zinfandel.
As was the case with most other vineyards throughout Napa Valley, Spring Mountain suffered at the hands of both phylloxera and Prohibition. The wine production in this area was all but destroyed. Fred and Eleanor McCrea set about reviving the area during the 1940s after purchasing Stony Hill Vineyard. Later, during the 1960s and 1970s, a number of other wineries were established which went on to achieve critical acclaim. One of those was Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery, which was established in 1971 by Stuart Smith. In 1977, the Frias Family purchased 100 acres and planted their first vineyards eight years later. Although the vintners in the region certainly face a number of challenges presented by slopes that are almost inaccessible, they seem to have faced up to these challenges with tremendous success. Their dedication and resourcefulness in growing grapes on Spring Mountain have paid off well. By 1991, Spring Mountain had been able to achieve AVA status.
A Guide to Spring Mountain Wineries in Napa Valley
Spring Mountain wineries are situated in the northwestern hills of Napa Valley, directly above St. Helena. Some of the most notable producers in the area include Smith Madrone, Cain Vineyard and Paloma Vineyard.
Fantesca Estate-This is a small winery that was originally established in 2002. The winery produces a Chardonnay originating from Carneros and a Cabernet Sauvignon that hails from Spring Mountain.
Pride Mountain Vineyards-Established in 1990, by Jim and Carolyn Pride, this family based vineyard has begun what will certainly continue to be a notable family operation.
Kongsgaard-This winery is considered to be a specialist when it comes to Chardonnay. The winery also produces a very small amount of Roussanne, Viognier and Syrah. Their 2003 Napa Valley Chardonnay reached the #8 spot on the 2006 top 100 list.
Newton Vineyard-Newton Vineyard is home to a group of exceptional terraced wines.
Spring Mountain Vineyard-Spanning 226 acres, this vineyard is quite diverse with elevations ranging from a mere 400 feet above sea level to some 1,450 feet above sea level. If you are in the area, it is truly something to see.
Robert Keenan Vineyards-The land that comprises this winery was originally planted in the late 19th century. Robert Kennan purchased the property in 1974 and since that time has been able to tap the potential of this property; producing wines that are known for their bold flavors.
St. Clement-West of Highway 29, you will find St. Clement. Like many properties in the local area, St. Clement has been planted since the late 19th century with grape vines. You will find the tasting room located in a breathtaking hillside building.
Frias Family Winery-It was Manny Frias Sr.’s dream to one day retire to this beautiful region. Today his son produces a limited amount of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sherwin Family Vineyards-You will find a superb Estate Cabernet Sauvignon produced at this winery. The grapes used in the wine are all grown on the vineyard.
Smith Madrone-This winery is considered today to be one of the premier wineries in the entire Napa Valley region. The winery was originally established in 1971 by Stuart Smith.
Cain Vineyard-Established in 1989 by the Cain family, today the Cain Vineyard is well known for its Cain Five blend, which consists of a variety of traditional red Bordeaux varietals including Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Vineyard 7 & 8-When this vineyard was established it was with the goal of producing the absolute best Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that was conceivable. Situated at an elevation of more than 2,000 feet above sea level; it is entirely possible they have reached their goal. Stop by and find out for yourself.
Stony Hill Vineyard-The 160 acres that comprise this vineyard in the northwestern hills of Napa Valley were originally purchased in 1943 by Fred and Eleanor McCrea. Four years later they began planting Chardonnay vines. This was certainly a forward looking action as only 200 acres of Chardonnay were planted throughout the entire state of California at the time.
Hollywood & Vine-Doug Barr, a former actor and director, relocated from Hollywood during the 1990s to this picturesque location.
Atchley Vineyard-In 1968, 20 acres of this lovely region were purchased by Marvin Atchley. This was the beginning of Atchley vineyard, situated on the old location of Moding Winery.
Terra Valentine-The focus of this excellent winery is a mountain grown Cabernet Sauvignon.
Barnett Vineyards-This vineyard is worth stopping by if for no other reason than the breathtaking views you can see of the valley floor. As if that were not enough; however, Barnett Vineyards, produces an excellent and intense Cabernet Sauvignon.
On ThEdge Winery-When you visit this winery, you will quickly understand its rather unique name. The winery is situated on a ridge that serves as a separation between Sonoma and Napa Valley counties.
Domaine Charbay-This winery is frequently referred to as The Still on the Hill. The family that owns the winery has been distilling liquor in Europe since the mid-18th century. Today Domaine Charbay produces rum, brandy, vodka and wine.
Paloma Vineyard-Definitely one of the most historic vineyards in the area. The land that comprises Paloma was originally planted more than 100 years ago. Although the original vineyard was neglected and abandoned for a number of years, many of the century old Zinfandel vines have survived.