The winery's history dates back to the 1883 when it was founded by the Grim Brothers who came from a German family that has been producing wine in German continuously since 1540. It was called Grimm Vineyards and Wine Vaults back then, and the Grimm brothers were responsible in 1889 for digging the first two of three wine caves on the property. The tasting room is located in the wine caves where the humid temperature remains between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit year long where there are also about 400 French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Current production is about 5,000 cases a year. The vineyard is organically farmed.
During Prohibition, the winery produced "sacramental and medicinal" wines, after which it was abandoned until 1976 when Jerry and Sigrid Sepps purchased the ghost winery and ninety acres (now 120) which they replanted primarily with Zinfandel. By 1983 Storybook Mountain Vineyards produced its first Zinfandels and began winning awards. In 1989 their 1984 Zinfandel became the highest rated Zinfandel in history and in 1990 Jerry Seps, along with some friends, founded Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (
Our first sample was the
Vineyards 2009 Storybook Mountain
Estate, Napa Zinfandel at $36. This had a soft cherry nose with hints of
minerality and cedar. On the palate it
was very fresh, balanced, soft, smooth, relatively dry and fairly straight
forward, with very good varietal characteristics. After mostly cherry with some minerality or
crushed rock, I got a rather short but pleasant finish. It is the antithesis of
the big, jammy, high alcohol, overly ripe, raison oriented Zinfandels and was
much more like the Chase Zins we tasted last week, Zins that are more subtle
and have more varietal qualities. There
was some oak, but again it was subtle.
(It was given 30% new oak.) Mayacamas
Next was the
Third up was the Seps Estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon at $65. After a light nose, I got cherry with soft tannins, a medium body and a medium length finish. It was a good Cab that avoided some of the excesses that often accompany other Napa Valley Cabs.
Our final tasting was the Storybook Mountain Vineyards 2011 Napa Valley Viognier at $35. This had a great nose, although it was more of fresh fruit (pears) and minerals than the usual Viognier floral aroma. On the palate it was dry and crisp for a Viognier, with more minerality than floral notes, mostly Japanese pear and white peach with a touch of vanilla and cream. It was also more intense than most Viogniers. Nothing insipid or pale here, but very well balanced. It had a good, fairly long finish. I really liked it. It was great alone but has the structure to stand up to pairing with poultry or other food. Along with the Antaeus, it was my favorite wine of the day. (Storybook is especially noted for its reserve Zinfandels, but we did not taste any.)
If you love premium Zinfandels that maintain great varietal characteristics and are not excessive or over the top, or if you want to try a different but delicious Viognier, and you would like to visit some wine caves in a beautiful area while being hosted by friendly, informative staff, then you will want to visit Storybook Mountain Vineyards. It is a very quiet and off the tourist trail. An appointment is required but may easily be made. We really enjoyed our visit and think you will too.
3835 California 128
Calistoga, CA 94515
|Close up of German cask|
|Black mold on wine cave ceiling|