Bigger Than Life: Spring Mountain Wines

27th October 2010

Spring Mountain Wines

I had the wonderful experience of spending several days in the Spring Mountain District located directly above the Napa Valley.

I attended as part of the Touch the Terroir Program

sponsored by the Spring Mountain Winegrowers Association.  This crush camp gave me the opportunity to learn about the unique characteristics of the region and taste the wines they produce. The Spring Mountain District lies just above St. Helena on the east slope of the Mayacamas Mountains, which separate Napa and Sonoma.  The district’s elevations range from 400 to 2,600 ft.  Its location creates a very unique range of microclimates characterized by relatively cool days and warm nights (as the heat rises from the valley floor) in comparison to Napa Valley.  It is truly amazing to see the vineyards that line the terraced mountain side. The vines location creates wines that have intense flavors of black and red fruit with balanced acidity and loads of tannin.

Visiting this area can be pretty challenging for the faint of heart because the narrow roads that scale Spring Mountain can be difficult to navigate. In fact, the first time I visited the area, I didn’t think I would make it up to the winery. However, once I arrived and met the folks that call this place home, I was so glad I made the trip. The wines are uniquely expressive and quite beautiful. It was almost like traveling to a different wine growing region all together. I had to continually remind myself I was still in Napa. The wine scene on the mountain is much more laid back than their neighbors below.

Cain Cuvee NV6

When you have a view like the one from Cain (pictured above), it is hard not to be inspired to produce great wine.

Cain Winery is unlike any other winery on Spring Mountain. Though intense like all the others, Cain wines show a measure of restraint and balance that your palate will appreciate. The Cain Cuvee NV6 is a non-vintage wine, meaning that the wine blends multiple vintages (i.e. a little 2006 wine with a little 2007 wine). In the case of NV6 it is 55% 2006 and 45% 2005.  The wine is blended with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The product is soft, supple, and complex with beautiful red fruits, minerality, and earth.

Schweiger Vineyards Dedication

Schweiger is a wonderful example of a family vineyard.  Walking up to the property Fred Schweiger immediately makes you feel like you’re at home.  Be careful though, he might put you to work.  His family’s work has produced some beautiful wines including Dedication.  Dedication was the brainchild of winemaker/vineyard manager Andy Schweiger (Fred’s son).  Each vintage is dedicated to someone special.  The 2006 vintage was dedicated to Diana Schweiger and according to her, it is the best yet :) .  Dedication is a Bordeaux blend containing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.  Its rich in blackberry, currant, and plum with coriandor, and minerals.   The wine has got a big mouth feel that is velvety and lush.

Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay

Spring Mountain isn’t all about red wine.  The wineries from this district are also making a number of very promising whites.  This Newton Chardonnay is one of my favorites.  The wine is unfiltered to preserve its natural fruit characteristics and is fermented using wild yeast that is native to the vineyards where the grapes are grown.  It’s full bodied with notes of allspice, caramel, pear, and apple.  The finish is creamy and the oak notes are soft.

In the spirit of full disclosure (for what it is worth), the winegrowers arranged for the day-to-day transportation and meals of the participants, including me. However, do not let that stop you from checking this district out on your next trip to Napa. I guarantee you will have a great time. Plan ahead though, most of the wineries are by appointment only.

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