Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pride Mountain Vineyards

Pride Mountain Vineyards has remarkable views, great wines and an outstanding educational tour/tasting program. It is winery that you really must visit!

If you are a wine drinker who is serious about learning, Pride Mountain should be near the top of the Napa Valley wineries to visit. Pride Mountain Vineyards is one of the best known wineries in the Spring Mountain AVA in Napa Valley. Appointments are required but can easily be made over the Internet or by phone. The tasting is a very reasonable $10 per person which they credit toward a purchase. A great place for a picnic, the grounds has an incredible view of Napa and Sonoma Valleys and, when clear, other counties as well. (The vineyard and buildings straddle the two counties and they will show you where the dividing line is at the winery.)

They provide a tour with barrel tastings that is not to be missed, thanks to Jason who is a certified sommelier and really knows a lot about wines. Jason was very friendly, down to earth and helpful and is the ultimate in "wine educators." We learned more about wine visiting Pride than we have visiting dozens of other wineries.

Our tasting began with the Pride Mountain 2010 Viognier ($42). This had a wonderful aroma, with lush fruit and perfect balance. It's a soft, fruity white wine that everybody should like and would be perfect for summer sipping. After this, we were given a tour with some Cab barrel tastings and taught about the importance of clones and wine blending. One thing that really impressed us was the huge difference between two different cab clones grown in the same area. In this instance, Jason had chosen two that perfectly complimented each other. Both were quite lacking by themselves, the first being angulated with good fruit but nothing else. The other lacked ripe fruit but had good acid and tannin. Combining the two made a far superior Cab. I've experienced and read about how this is done with Cabs, blending in Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. And most of us know about blending cabs from different AVAs to complement each other. But this was the first time I experienced (by tasting) the importance of using different clones of the same varietal in blending.

We returned to the tasting room and had a very nice Pride Mountain 2009 Syrah ($60). This has 1% Viognier added. The aroma seemed more plum like with some of the usually Syrah spiciness, but if you expect an Australian type fruit bomb Syrah, you will be pleasantly surprised not to find that here. Sure it had great fruit but it was not excessive or unbalanced. For me this was exactly how a really good Syrah should taste. The Pride Mountain 2008 Merlot at $58 is very nice. In addition to the Merlot, it has 10% Cab and 9% Syrah. The aroma is to die for, with its full ripe cherry. With balanced acids and tannins, sumptuous fruit, layers of interesting flavors and sub flavors and a good finish, this is a Merlot to love and a "must buy" even if you don't make it to the winery. It is one of the best Merlots I've ever tasted and it is so well balanced and integrated that it should appeal even to people who usually prefer white wines and tend to shy away from really big red wines. This delightful Merlot was followed by the Pride Mountain 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($68) which is a blend of Napa and Sonoma cabs, with 11% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot added. It is aged for 19 months in French oak. This has a rich mouthfeel of ripe fruit with nicely balanced acid and tannin and layers of flavor. It is so rich and sumptuous that one almost feels decadent for drinking it. It is very drinkable now but obviously has everything in it to cellar nicely should you want to put some age on it.

We really liked all the wines we tasted but especially the Merlot and Cab. BTW if they offer you some Pride Mountain Mistelle de Viogner at the end, take them up on it even if you don't usually like sweet dessert wines. I believe this is made from Viogner and brandy. It is not at all cloyingly sweet but refreshing instead. Even if you are unable to visit this winery, try to locate a bottle of their Merlot!

Pride Mountain Vineyards
4026 Spring Mountain Rd
St Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-4949
Date of visit: December 24, 2011

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