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Napa wineries with hillside fruit, NOT on Spring or Howell Mnt?

Kind of a weird request, but I am looking for a specific type of winery/wineries to visit this November. I have not been to all the wineries on Spring or Howell Mnt, but several. I’d rather spend a day at each mountain, sometime in the future, but not this trip. I’ve also been to the majority of wineries on the floor and all of the Stag’s Leap district wineries (we go to V2V often). I’m basically looking for new places to visit that have hill side fruit, that are smaller - off the radar, not overly priced wineries that have been what I call “Parkerized”, and just downright good juice. I also like the more intimate visits where you can relax, visit with the owners or wine makers and casually taste their wines without the pressure of crowds or feel like part of the heard. I’m not afraid to spend upwards of $200 for a bottle of wine, but would prefer to find a winery or two with wines in the $20 - $60 range. For consistency reasons, I do prefer wineries that grow their own fruit. I buy way more “offer / allotment” type wines in the + $60 range than my salary should support already, and don’t need or want any more.

I really don’t have a favorite varietal, country or region. I like just about all wine, but maybe not bubbly’s too much. I’ll just list what I don’t like. I do not like wine that has been over oak’ed, and is over extracted jammy swill that is so common nowadays. I like a bit of dirt mixed with fruit. Not too much of either, just a hint of both, but I don’t like to have to dig too much to smell it either. I also don’t like wine that is over the top with tannins and you feel like the moisture has been sucked out of your teeth when you drink it, or wine that’s hot with too much alcohol. I don’t pay a great deal of attention to scores, especially Parker or WE. Out of all the critics, I probably look to Tanzer more than the others. My caller is very eclectic, to say the least.

Some of my favorite Cali wines are (in no particular order): Lamborn cab, Peter Michael (all of them really, but not their price), O’Shaughnessy cab, Lewelling, David Arthur 1147, Matriarch, Faila pinot, W/S pinot, Donelan Family Syrah, Turley P/S, Mary Edwards Sav Blanc, Malk Sav Blanc, Hartwell Merlot, Edge Hill Mixed Blacks, White Rock, Outpost P/S, Ridge Monte Bello, Far Niente Dolce, Tresspass Cab Franc, Booker, Philip Togni, Flora Springs Wild Boar, Jeriko Canyon. I buy Turley, and am quite saturated with their zins, so I really don’t need any more zin (and no, I do not enjoy ALL of their zins).

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  1. Personally, I'd go to the Santa Cruz Mountains . . .

    1. I think Sonoma has more wineries that fit that description than Napa does.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        We will be spending five days in Napa, attending a few events at CIA this time. I have a few blocks of time where we could swing by a few wineries.

        I know what I am looking to find (in the price bracket) may be unlikely, but figured it couldn't hurt to ask??? Take Lewelling for example, they could easily sell their wine for over $100 per bottle, but they have continued to hold their price much lower.

        What about Montagna? I just stumbled onto this one and most of their wine is at about the price point I'm looking for. They have some bottles for much more, but most are lower.

        Santa Cruz.....I have not been there before. I'll have to look into that area for another trip. We also travel to Washington and Oregon..... So many places to go wine hunting, so little time...

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Could you elaborate? Where is the mountain type/high elevation fruit in Sonoma??? I can think of Chalk Hill. Where else?

          I realize that some vineyards in the Sonoma coast may have a high elevation, but I'm having trouble thinking of a winery that specializes in it.

          1. re: goldangl95

            There are TWO sides to the Mayacamas Mountains . . . one side is in Napa, but the other side is in Sonoma. Think Laurel Glen, for example, or Moon Mountain.

            There is a Sonoma Mountain AVA, too.

        2. All appointment only:

          Kenzo, Altamura, Jarvis

          Neyers, Continuum, Chappellet

          Vine Cliff, White Rock (might be open to the public?)

          7 Replies
          1. re: goldangl95

            I've been to Altamura, like their wine.

            I have several bottles of Chappellet that Rick sold me last time I was at Groezingers, but have not tried any yet! I better pop one open!

            White Rock is one of my favorites list above, love their juice!

            I have not heard of the remaining you listed and will check them out, thank you!!

            1. re: goldangl95

              Goldang -

              Kenzo has me intrigued. $80 for a tasting and lunch from Bouchon, temping. Have you had this? Also, I do not see any reference to the price of their wines, mailing list only. Any idea what they range??

              1. re: akmike

                They have basically a two tier pricing structure $80 per bottle and $150 per bottle. I have not done the Bouchon lunch.

                1. re: akmike

                  They just released the 2009s.

                  The 100% Cab (Ai) is $250 (!!).

                  The Cab/Merlot blend (Murasaki) is $250.

                  The Cab/Merlot/Cab Franc/Petite Verdot/Malbec (Rindo) blend is $100.

                  Their Sauvignon Blanc (Asatsuyu) was released earlier this year and I don't remember what it cost. All prices above are for 750mL, but it appears they do have half bottles too.

                  1. re: neuf_du_pape

                    Oh wow, That is a huge and ridiculous price increase over previous releases.

                    1. re: goldangl95


                      They also recently raised the price on the tasting with Bouchon lunch pairing. It was $60 not more than 2-3 months ago. My friends and I considered it at $60 but $80 is an easy pass for us.

                      1. re: neuf_du_pape

                        Well as intrigued as I am about Kenzo, I will not be going there. Too much money for the wine. Kapscandy did the same thing.... 180 per bottle the first couple years, then they get a killer Parker score, now what are they, 400??? Rudd jumped from 125 to 185 in one year... I just got an offer for Derenoncourt, looks like they've double their price too.

                        I'm sticking the smaller wineries that do not cater to fame and glory and think they can charge first growth prices.

              2. Atlas Peak - Atlas Mountain
                Mayacamas Winery - Mayacamas mountain range
                Constant Diamond - Diamond Mountain

                1 Reply
                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  Constant Diamond sounds right up my alley, but they state that visits are for "members only". This sounds like the typical catch 22.... You have to be a member or on a mailing list to taste the wine, but unless you've had it before, it's a leap of faith to become a member and order the wine to taste it.

                2. Tall order. You may have to develop a list of wineries, research them on the web or just hunker down on the telephone and try to ferret out what you want.

                  Have you considered the Diamond Mountain AVA, or those in the Pritchard Hill/Lake Hennessey area (Chappellet, etc.)?

                  Research Suggestions:

                  Go to the website of the Napa Valley Vintners Association for their lists by AVA.

                  And to the specific region AVA websites: Diamond Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain, etc. For example, the Spring Mountain District Wineries website is at http://www.springmountaindistrict.org...

                  Good luck to you.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Ya I know.... tall order. But I know that everyone has there favorites, so I didn't think it would hurt to ask.

                    CarrieWas gave me a couple good recs. Not sure if I can get an appointment, but I'm interested enough to make contact with them. I may just order some juice from them regardless.

                    I did not realize there was a Diamond Mountain AVA. I think that area deserves a day or two all on it's own.

                  2. For something small, laid back...

                    Not far from where you will be staying is Farella Vineyard in the new Coombsville AVA. You can probably meet with Tom, give him a call. With solid well-priced reds ($75 and under), tranquil and charming setting, Farella will not disappoint.

                    Love this diagram to see who buys fruit from this vineyard...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: ceekskat

                      Perhaps I'm missing something, ceekskat, but I don't understand your post.
                      Is that hillside fruit?

                      Also, I didn't see anything about where the OP will be staying.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        No hillside fruit. I probably should have specified that Farella meets many of OP's requirements, not all. As you stated above, OP's request is a tall order and I was merely suggesting he might find a rewarding experiencing in someplace new.

                        I know all my trips to Napa have been made infinitely better by all the great suggestions, however big or small, of fellow hounds. Let me also take this time to thank you for tirelessly imparting all your knowledge and wisdom of the wine business.

                        Lastly, OP stated in another thread that he was staying at Vino Bello.

                        1. re: ceekskat

                          Thank you for the kind words. And for clarifying.

                          I've had some truly lovely Farella Pinot Noir.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            I echo Ceekskat..... I am new to this sight, but look foward to reading your comments.

                        1. re: ceekskat

                          "For something small, laid back...

                          Not far from where you will be staying is Farella Vineyard in the new Coombsville AVA. You can probably meet with Tom, give him a call. With solid well-priced reds ($75 and under), tranquil and charming setting, Farella will not disappoint.

                          Thank you for that idea. Not hillside, but I have them on never ending list of places to go to.....

                          I mean that too. I keep a running list so that when I'm buzzing around the area on one of my wine sabbaticals, I have a list of places to see, verse waste time on other wineries.

                        2. AKMike, we are coming to Napa the same wknd you will be there for the CIA event.. Visting from FL and have never been to the area before. Our trip is so brief and I don't want to be tempted to overdo it. I read your comments on this post and a previous one and the relaxing, unherded experience you've described that you're looking for sounds a lot like what I'm hoping to find while we are there. I was referred to Erna Schein's and am intrigued about visitng Spring Mtn. I want to able to relax and enjoy the view while we are there. We hope to come back another time for a longer trip. Curious if I should try to spend a day in Sonoma (we have Saturday and Sunday only - flying home from SF Sun nite). Would love to read some more of your suggestions. Thank you

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: graysea

                            You don't have much time to spare if you are going to the events on Sat and leaving Sun. Due to the driving time to Sonoma, I'd just hang in Napa and hit a couple wineries there if you have time. Sunday is a bit tough, as many of the places I enjoy take Sunday off. I'm pretty sure that Erna Shcein pours Sunday, but you better call and sched quick. Be advised though....the "tasting room" at ES is a small travel trailer. You don't have a view. The view is however just a few steps away from the trailer. Also, their prices have gone up quite a bit since I bought juice from them a couple years ago, which is a bit disappointing - but inevitable I suppose...

                            I called around quite a bit, after getting feedback from those kind enough to offer advice on this thread, and ended up getting only one appointment based on my goals noted earlier, and that is at Mayacamas. I'm looking forward to that. I also set some up at wineries on spring mnt and Howell mnt, which I was trying to NOT do.. LOL... In the end, it was a time thing. And, a couple of my friends have not been the valley before, so I'm giving them a taste of several areas.

                            Appointments set up:
                            Smith Madrone
                            Peter Michael

                            So what events are you going to anyway?? Have you done the Flavor thing before? It's a first for us, so I'm apprehensively excited...

                            1. re: akmike

                              If you are attending the World of Flavors conference, you are *not* going to want to leave the event to go tasting anywhere... There is so much going on in the events, chatting with celebrities in the food world, and eating truly amazing food.

                              1. re: CarrieWas218

                                Carrie makes a great point.

                                I've attended this event for many years in a row (not this year, though). The event is all consuming and there is a plethora of wine there to sample. Take notes of what you like the best.

                                At the event, there is so much to do, so much to taste, so many wines to sample, so much to learn -- that it is overwhelming and possibly exhausting. You may want to crash rather than head out anywhere else to taste.

                                What I'd like to suggest is that you take the event in, and devote yourself to it. Then, if you'd like to taste somewhere, head to the closest, highest quality AVA that's near -- the Spring Mountain District with Pride, Spring Mountain Vineyards (also very beautiful), Paloma (amazing Merlot -- two words I rarely write together), Keenan, Schweiger, Barnett, etc.

                                The road that takes you to Spring Mountain is just a couple of blocks south of the CIA Greysone Building on Main Street. Go south on Main Street, turn right onto Elmhurst, go one block and then turn right again onto Spring Mountain Road. That road will take you up into the hills and to the Spring Mountain District AVA. If you go to Pride, take the time to walk towards the picnic tables to check out the view -- panoramic.

                                Good luck. Enjoy the event. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and bring more biz cards than you think you'll need. Leave room in your suitcase for all the swag you'll get.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  Carrie / Moria –

                                  The Flavor event, as far as I understand, is on its second year. I do not think it is part of the conference. You can check it out here…. http://flavornapavalley.com/

                                  Regardless, I understand what you are saying. My group will be in Napa for seven days. Three of those days are booked with several different events / classes and cooking demonstrations. Our winery visits are set up on non-event days, with the exception of one day that we do not need to be at CIA prior to 3PM.

                                  1. re: akmike

                                    Ah, I thought you were attending the World of Flavors conference which is what most locals know of as the Flavor event: http://www.ciaprochef.com/WOF2012/

                                    You are right - that "Flavor Napa Valley" is a new event that is built to bring in more tourists after harvest is over. I'll be interested in what you think of the event.

                                    1. re: akmike

                                      Yes, you're correct about the two different events. In the large Appellation tasting, you're going to to taste many things. Perhaps use your impressions from that as your rudder on where to visit.

                                2. re: akmike

                                  Mike, we were planning to visit Napa before I learned about the Flavor event. While I am sorely tempted to attend something that weekend, I agree that we don't have enough time to soak in the Napa Valley scenery,visit a few wineries and relax before heading back to the rat race. Right now we have a reservation at Biale at the end of the day on Friday. We are expected at Erna Schein on Saturday morning. Otherwise we don't have any firm plans.

                                  Here are some places friends have recommmended:
                                  Alpha Omega 707.963.9999 no appt necessary
                                  Hall (707) 967-2657
                                  Truchard- Joanne Truchard (HG) 707.253.7153 LM
                                  Domaine Chandon
                                  Vincent Arroyo (Calistoga/Northern Napa) - BR
                                  August Briggs - BR

                                  I'm thinking that if we keep the appt at Erna Schein, maybe we visit a couple more wineries on Spring Mountain on Saturday. Then Sunday we may want to concentrate our visits to either Diamond Mtn or Howell.

                                  I have self-identified the following wineries on all 3 mountains and I would genuinely appreciate your reaction to these possibilities. Thanks for your time and advice.

                                  Spring Mountain (St. Helena)
                                  *Terra Valentine - tours/tasting by appointment only 707.967.8340 www.terravalentine.com
                                  *Paloma - tasting by appointment only 707.963.7504 www.palomavineyard.com
                                  Keenan - tasting by appointment 707.963.917 www.keenanwinery.com
                                  Pride - tours/tasting by appointment only 707.963.4949 www.pridewines.com

                                  Diamond Mountain (Calistoga
                                  )Reverie Vineyard and Winery – 1520 Diamond Mountain Road 707-942-6800 http://www.reveriewine.com/
                                  Diamond Creek Winery - 1500 Diamond Mountain Road (707) 942-6926 http://www.diamondcreekvineyards.com
                                  Von Strasser Winery - 1510 Diamond Mountain Road (707) 942-0930 http://www.vonstrasser.com/

                                  Howell Mountain (Angwin
                                  )Black Sears Winery 2615 Summit Lake Drive Angwin, CA 94508 (707) 965-9650
                                  Outpost Wines 2075 Summit Lake Drive Angwin, CA 94508 (707) 965-1718
                                  Neal Family Vineyards 716 Liparita Avenue Angwin, CA 94508 (707) 965-2800

                                  1. re: graysea

                                    A recent poster indicated AlphaOmega was a let-down...

                                      1. re: graysea

                                        Just to offer a different opinion I actually really like Alpha Omega's wines. They are on the Parker-esque side of things so you have to like that style, and they are open to the public and on the main drag so they get busy.

                                        I'd do an appointment instead of just walking in - if having a personalized experience with someone who knows their stuff is necessary. For some people that makes or breaks the wines. But if you do like the Parker side of things, they are well balanced for that type of style and just very drinkable with good aging potential for the style.

                                    1. re: graysea

                                      Graysea –

                                      Carrie and Moria can most likely give you better advise than I, but I’ll offer you my thoughts on the places on your list that I have first hand experience with…..(many on your list I have not had)

                                      Alpha Omega – I have not tried this wine.
                                      Hall – OK, but not on my short list.
                                      Truchard- Joanne Truchard – I have not had this wine.
                                      Domaine Chandon – I have not had this wine.
                                      Vincent Arroyo – If you like very earthy, old world wine making, you’ll like this wine. I love his Petite Sarah’s, the Rattlesnake vineyard PS in particular.
                                      August Briggs – I have not had this wine.

                                      *Terra Valentine – Not a big fan of this wine. Had their cab and thought it was over extracted. Have not had another since.
                                      *Paloma – Paloma makes one of my favorite Merlot’s. I do not like their Syrah much…. My favorite merlot is Hartwell, but I don’t much care for the price.
                                      Keenan – I know a lot of people love their wine, but it just isn’t anything special to me. I walk right by it without a second thought… Not bad juice, just nothing unique or good enough for me to buy it again.
                                      Pride – I have mixed feelings about Pride. They do make good wine, but nothing spectacular. Their reserve cab is quite good, but not worth the trouble or price (you have to get on the mailing list to buy it). I think their merlot and cab franc are pretty good, and they also make a white desert wine that I liked quite a bit (forgot what it was).

                                      Reverie Vineyard and Winery - I have not tried this wine.
                                      Diamond Creek Winery - I have not tried this wine.
                                      Von Strasser Winery – I have not tried this wine.
                                      The Diamond Mnt area is an area that I have not spent any time at. After researching several Diamond Mnt wineries, I became fascinated with Mayacamas. Old school wine making techniques always intriges me.

                                      Black Sears – Have not tried this wine.
                                      Outpost Wines – Love their wine. Nice people, great view.
                                      Neal Family Vineyards – Not a big fan. Good, just not great.

                                      My favorite Howell Mnt wineries are Lamborn, O’Shaughnesey and Outpost. Dun is good, but I have to be in the right kind of mood to drink their wine, and preferably one that is about 15 years old or better.

                                      1. re: akmike

                                        Ah, your post revealed to me one possible answer to your original question: mountain fruit in an area to which you haven't been.

                                        If you haven't tasted the wines of the Diamond Mountain District, then go there. It's not too far from the CIA, and the fruit and wines are distinctive from all the other mountain AVAs.

                                        As with other mountain AVAs, the wines have that same clear fruit with a backbone of acidity, but IMO the Diamond Mountain Cabs have a striking opulence and velvety-ness.

                                        Von Strasser makes beautiful wine. The cabs are velvety, not over-extracted, and not over-ripe. Perfect balance. The 2009s are extremely fine. The 2008s are great as well.
                                        Avoid the 2010s everywhere -- the vintage is a lightweight, thin one, and don't believe anyone who says the wines are that way because they're still young.

                                        Reverie is in the same "driveway" as Von Strasser, so just walk up the hill a bit from Von Strasser and check it out also.

                                        Diamond Creek is known far and wide for its distinctive and expensive Cabernets with their unusual names. The single-vineyard Cabs are direct expressions of terroir -- notice the differences in flavor between them. Boots Brounstein and her team carry on ably since Al has passed on.

                                        Constant is a beautiful property and the winery that is the highest in elevation on Diamond Mountain. Their wines may be the inkiest of the lot, with more bass notes (coffee, tobacco, etc.) than the others. Not quite sure why this is so -- soil, hangtime (ripeness), over-extraction or what. The wines are rated very highly (90+) by some.

                                        Dyer Vineyards is the partnership of two very sharp and personable winemakers: Dawnine Dyer, who made the sparkling wine for Domaine Chandon for 25 years; and her husband, the winemaker Bill Dyer. Both Dawnine and Bill have exceptional palates and experience, and their wines are very flavorful, with a good deal of finesse and elegance.

                                        Finally, one of the best wineries in Napa Valley -- no matter the AVA, no matter the varietal being discussed -- is Schramsberg. It's also on Diamond Mountain. This is the finest sparkling wine house in Northern California, and also one of the most beautiful wineries. The caves transport you to France. The wines range from the Blanc de Blancs (the regular bottle of bubbles in my house) to the Rose (also good) to the Reserve (more like a slightly aged French Champagne) to my favorite of all, the J.Schram, a mouth-filling spectacular bottle of bubbles characterized by lemon verbena, brioche and molasses cookie flavors. The J. Schram is one of my favorite wines anywhere in the valley.

                                        What's not known so much about Schramsberg is that they also produce a very fine Cabernet (as would be expected with land in that AVA). Velvety and voluptuous. Hugh Davies is the winemaker.

                                        Though I've mainly talked about Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Syrah are also produced frequently on Diamond Mountain along with a smattering of other varietals.

                                        1. re: akmike

                                          Re: <<After researching several Diamond Mnt wineries, I became fascinated with Mayacamas. Old school wine making techniques always intriges me. >>

                                          Bear in mind that Mayacamas Winery is in the Mt. Veeder AVA, recommended to you earlier. This is another possible mountain AVA to explore -- Lagier-Meredith, Mt. Veeder Winery, Hess, and other wineries are there also.

                                          There's an interesting distinction between the fruit in the wines from the upper and lower elevations of Mt. Veeder. One is more berry flavors; the other is more brambly.

                                          If you don't know about the wines and the utterly amazing contemporary art collection at the Hess Collection, then you really must learn about it. Hess makes several tiers of wines: a lower tier with good QPR; and an upper tier with some standout wines.

                                          Lagier-Meredith makes some of the best Syrahs in Napa Valley.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            Thank you for the very informative post Maria! I have already decided to make my next trip to Napa one where I can spend a couple solid days on Diamond Mnt. I need to spend time in Sonoma too....

                                            Our Sunday is completely free, other than a brunch at Auburge. I will call some of the wineries you mention to see if they are pouring Sunday. If not, Sunday might just turn into a few rounds of golf. lol...

                                          2. re: akmike

                                            Some additional notes:

                                            Keenan reads very "green" and "tannic" to me upon tasting, but having one that aged a bit - they do develop into a nice balanced wine for heavy french food.

                                            Hall I like but only at the $90+ price point - which is perhaps un-necessarily pricey.

                                            Pride's wines are very over the top, but if you like that style - they are very good esp. with 2 years age or more after release which gives time for the oak and tannins to settle down a bit.

                                            1. re: goldangl95

                                              I agree on Hall but disagree strongly on Keenan (I have tasted his wines for 20 years) and Pride. Every Keenan wine I've had has been good -- though his competition on Spring Mountain is fierce. I have never, ever tasted the green component to which goldang refers, nor a heavily tannic component.

                                              I have yet to have a Pride wine that was over the top (we have not been drinking the same Pride wines, goldangI95). The standout is the Cabernet Franc and it is a dream of wine - perfect fruit, perfect acidity, such drinkability. The white wines (barely mentioned in posts, it seems) also very well done. There are a few Merlots there that are big blueberry bombs, but unusually, they seem integrated -- because of that backbone of acidity.

                                              I'd recommend taking a pass on Hall's wines. The structure above Auberge is something to see if you have a lot of extra time, but the wines are not top-tier, I'm sorry to say.

                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                I think we have been drinking the same wines - just have different palates. We have a few Pride lovers in our circle, so we have tasted a large selection of their lineup including Pride Reserve Cabs for at least the last five releases, and a fair amount of the Merlots, Cab Francs, Sangioveses etc. I find them very big and very oaky and tannic upon release. Some settle down beautifully for me - others never did.

                                          3. re: graysea

                                            Reverie is a gem. They make good wines at a reasonable price point and have an interesting mix of varietals including non-traditional ones for Napa such as Tempranillo, a 100% Petit Verdot, a Barbera, a Malbec and a Roussane. The tour and tasting is free with an appointment. The people are great and the setting was nice. It was one of my favorite stops on my last trip there. Wish I had known ahead of time about Von Strasser as I have heard good things about them too but didn't schedule the timing in a way that I could visit both.

                                      2. Thank you all for the encyclopedic knowledge and generous info! I just called Reverie (on Diamond Mountain) and they close on Nov. 10 til Dec. 15, fyi.