, an Appellation overshadowed by the marketing kings and the modern limestone palaces.
While an explosion of tour buses, and “theme park wineries” grow in number in the valley below, families of Napa’s past reside in the mountain, upholding tradition while embracing innovation, sharpening the craft that put Napa on the map.
The Mount Veeder AVA spans the western border of Napa Valley from Oakville, all the way down to the flat-lands of the Carneros Appellations that hug the bay. Mount Veeder is the culmination of thousands of years of tectonic plates bashing their heads together, sea bed pushed up into a ridge that splits Sonoma Valley and Napa. The soil is rocky, rich with volcanic soil, clay, and a wide variety of other soil types. Hundreds of small valleys, and micro-climates make Mount Veeder a playground for experienced grape-growers. These rebellious grape-growers and winemakers experience first hand that the steep mountainous terrain makes cultivation of such fine grapes to be “less than a cake-walk”. But then again, great winemakers are not known for being normal, they’re known for being a little….”out there”.
The Mt Veeder Appellation spans almost 15,000 acres, while only 800 of those acres are planted with grapes. The Stag’s Leap District, an AVA well-known for big Napa “Cult” Cabernet Sauvignon, is a mere 8000 acres in total area with 1000 acres planted. So….? Mount Veeder has not been explored to its fullest extent. Only a rare few dare to face the slopes and get to climbing. Those who have, and have actually purchased a plot of land and started growing grapes have found something really special.
The Taste: A few winemakers who understand the potential of Mt Veeder, it’s “personality” and how to tame its temper, make phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon from the vines planted along the slopes. It is unusual, but winemakers here look for vines that cannot grow to their full potential. A vine here can only really dig its roots to about one foot of soil. The fruit these vines create look more like little BB’s for your red rider BB gun. These berries often take 3-4 weeks longer to reach full maturation then on larger grapes on the valley floor, giving them that much longer to develop complexity from the soil. They also get less moisture in the morning and night because in many areas, the vineyards lay above line of rolling fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The result of these tiny berries is INTENSE flavor. A wine’s flavor comes from the skins of the grapes picked, not the sugar-water inside. Tiny berries make for a very high skin/juice ratio, and thus more flavor. A struggling plant soaks up influences from around it and the result is incredible complexity of fruit flavors and unusual herbal and mineral components that are seamlessly integrated.
If you’ve had a Mount Veeder wine and you have not liked it, consult the map above. Find a wine produced in another area of the AVA. Due to the immense collection of micro-climates, a wine produced just down the road may be completely different.
Warning Note: These wines will need extensive aging or a few hours of decanting. They are incredibly lean, muscular wines. No flabbiness, or goopiness here. These wines will coat the palate and caress your every taste bud with layers of flavor while holding for 15 years plus.
AS ALWAYS : If you aren’t currently following THE VINTAGE….ya..just do that.
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