Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spring Mountain Vineyard Revisited

Spring Mountain Vineyard is one of our very favorite wineries of the several hundred Napa Valley wineries we have visited over the past forty years.  Their wines, especially their Cabs, are among the finest in the world.  Hospitality is always wonderful.  The setting is so pretty that it was featured on the TV series Falcon Crest from 1981 to 1990.  Appointments are required because of a county ordinance, so you will need to call or complete the online appointment form, but you will receive very personal attention during your visit. We do recommend the tour and not just the stand up tasting; there is simply too much to see, and the sit down tasting is more relaxing.  Visiting Spring Mountain Vineyards is an incredible experience, and it really doesn't get much better than this.  Put it on your bucket list, and indulge yourself by visiting and touring this lovely winery.  I can't imagine anybody soon forgetting their visit to Spring Mountain Vineyard.

Spring Mountain Vineyard Miravalle

Spring Mountain Vineyard entry to wine caves

Spring Mountain Vineyard has a wine history dating back to 1884 when the owner was instrumental in overturning the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited California businesses from hiring Chinese workers, and Chinese workers were able to build by hand (with pick axes) the initial wine cave.  The gorgeous Victorian mansion on the premises, known as Miravalle, was commissioned in 1884 and designed by the famous architect Albert Schroepfer who designed the lovely Rhine House at Beringer Vineyards along with the winery building at Inglenook and the San Francisco Orpheum Theatre.  Miravalle was empty for seventy years until 1974 when Spring Mountain Vineyard was established by Sir Michael Robbins who maintained the estate until 1992 when Jacob Safra, a European businessman and wine collector, purchased the vineyard, then called Miravalle, along with La Perla and Chevalier Vineyards.  The estate now comprises 845 acres and includes four adjacent vineyards: La Perla (435 acres dating from 1873), Miravalle (257 acres dating from 1885), Chevalier (120 acres dating from 1891) and Streblow (33 acres dating from 1979.)  This is rugged mountain terrain so only 226 of the 845 acres are planted in vineyards. The vineyards are all sustainably farmed and over a thousand bluebird houses are in the vineyards to provide habitat for the birds and to help control insects.

Spring Mountain Vineyard grounds

The estate rises from 400 feet above sea level to 1600 feet and includes a number of microclimates.  Spring Mountain AVA receives more rain and cooler weather than the valley and the rocky well drained mountain soil stresses the grapes to make more concentrated fruit with lower yields.  The stressed growing conditions and rugged mountain soil at Spring Mountain Vineyard often yield less than two tons per acre, with some of the grapes going into the Elivette wine yielding less than one ton per acre.  When harvested, each block is initially kept separate for fermentation and aging.  They only retain their finest grapes, with the rest being sold to other producers.

Spring Mountain Vineyard

Some of the Spring Mountain Vineyard vines are pruned in the uncommon but ancient Roman vertical goblet (Gobelet) style that can be viewed in the photo directly below.  This is done to maximize the sunlight that reaches the fruit.

Spring Mountain Vineyard goblet trained vines

In 1976 Spring Mountain Vineyard gained world wide recognition when they won fourth place for their Chardonnay in the Judgment of Paris, scoring higher than some very famous and expensive French wines. More recently, their 2005 and 2010 Elivettes won world wide Gold Medals from Decanter Magazine.  Awards and ratings. Three of their wines are now on the wine list at the famous restaurant The French Laundry.  Their estate Cabernet and Elivette Cabernet blend usually score in the 90's with critics and are considered among the finest Cabs in the Valley.  But you won't need to know about scores or awards to appreciate the excellence of their wines; simply taste them for yourself!

Spring Mountain Vineyard Miravalle window view

In addition to the beautiful architecture and lovely vineyards, Spring Mountain Vineyard has a unique tropical garden with palm trees, banana trees, and other very interesting flora, plus historic wine caves, a green house, gorgeous vineyard and mountain views, and numerous other attractions.  It is one of the most photogenic wineries in Napa Valley. (I would have even more photos if my camera had not malfunctioned.)  Bring your camera along for an experience you will remember for years to come.

Spring Mountain Vineyard wine caves
Photo courtesy of SPV

Much thanks this visit to Valli and to our host Marilyn.  Both were very courteous, professional, helpful and informative.  Our visit included a walk through the grounds and garden, a tour of the wine caves and a visit into the gorgeous Miravalle house where we sat down to a very lovely and relaxing tasting of some wonderful wines. It is an experience you won't forget.

Spring Mountain Vineyard Miravalle

Our first pour actually began when we arrived and were initially greeted.  As we approached, Marilyn came out to welcome us with two glasses of the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2010 Sauvignon Blanc that retails at $40.  They have been producing Sauvignon Blancs since 1993.  This one is 84% Sauvignon Blanc and 16% Semillon and was aged six months sur lie in neutral French oak with 1,006 cases being produced. It had a very nice nose of white peach, with some tropical and floral notes. On the palate it was medium plus bodied and crisp with white peach, lemon, grapefruit, tropical fruits and some herbaceousness with a very good medium plus length finish. My friend liked it enough that he purchased several bottles.

Spring Mountain Vineyard

Our second pour was also provided prior to the tour and was the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2010 Estate Pinot Noir at $75.  Almost every Napa Valley Pinot Noir is grown in Carneros but this one is actually grown on Spring Mountain, which is very unusual.  The grapes came from their La Perla estate at 1550 feet using clones 115, 777 and Pommard 5.  It is the eighth year they have produced a Pinot Noir.  The 2010 saw 22 months on French oak and a mere 583 cases were produced.  I got mostly strawberry with a light floral aroma on the nose.  On the palate I got a soft, light bodied presentation of strawberry and red cherry with decent acid and a medium length finish. My friend purchased some of this too as did the other visitor.

Spring Mountain Vineyard inside Miravalle

The other pours were at the end of the tour which lasted about 45 minutes or so.  These tastings were done in the Miravalle house near the fireplace at a luxurious setting.  We each had four wine glasses so we could go back and forth between the four wines to compare them.  Such a lovely way to taste great wine!  You will feel more like royalty than a tourist at Spring Mountain Vineyard.

Spring Mountain Vineyard tasting table

The four wines we tasted next were two Cabernets and two Elivettes, their Cabernet reserve Bordeaux style blends, beginning with the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2005 Elivette at $160.  During our last visit to Spring Mountain Vineyard on February 17, 2011 we tasted the 2006 and 2007 Elivettes, both of which I liked very much.  But it was the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon at $75 that we purchased, tasted very carefully and raved about.  At that time I wrote in our blog: "Addendum 10/6/11: We opened the 2005 Spring Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) and it was one of the best cabs I’ve had in the past 40 years.  All three of us were in ecstasy. Spring Mountain Vineyard is really making some great wines!!! I can’t wait to return."  So you can imagine my excitement at being able to taste the Spring Mountain 2005 Elivette Reserve.  Well, 2005 appears to have been a magical year for Spring Mountain Vineyard, and their 2005 Elivette is sensational.  This is a very traditional style Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that is bold and masculine but with layers of complexity, even more so than their 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and it should continue to improve with age.  This 2005 Elivette is 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot.  It saw 22 months in French oak and 3,300 cases were produced.  It began with a deep, dark red color followed by a great nose of black currant, black cherry, vanilla, baking spices, chocolate, cigar box, graphite, and a complex host of other aromas.  On the palate it was a classic Napa Valley Cab with dark, black fruits of black currant, black cherry, black plum, and blackberries augmented with complex earthy forest floor notes, dense well integrated tannins, dusty oak, smoky cigarbox nuances, definite baking spices, hints of anise and touches of dark chocolate.  It was a complex Cabernet Sauvignon with great structure.  The finish was long and very pleasant.  Be sure to give it plenty of air. An outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon blend in the finest, classic Napa Valley style.

Spring Mountain Vineyard door to wine caves

Next up was the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon at $75.  This was 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot and saw 22 months in 100% new French oak.  3,215 cases were produced.  It had a lovely garnet color with a good nose of cherry and vanilla.  On the palate it was relatively soft, smooth and fairly fruit forward for a Cab.  Mostly black fruit with well integrated tannins and good balance, this is a Cab that is immediately accessible and should have wide spread appeal for those who like easy to drink Cabs.  It might not have the power and complexity of the 2005 Elivette, the decadent lush fruit of the 2009 Elivette or the refined elegance of the 2007 estate Cab, but it was still a pure pleasure to drink and can easily stand alone or could be paired with a wide variety of dishes.

Spring Mountain Vineyard cave tasting area

This was followed by the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon at $75.  Unlike the 2008, this one is almost all Cab with 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc.  It saw 20 months on 80% new French oak and 3,000 cases were produced.  This was an excellent year for Napa Valley Cabs and this one is right up there with many of the finest 2007 Napa Valley Cabs.  Dark purple in color with a lovely nose, this was rich and dense on the palate with good, well balanced tannins and concentrated fruits of black cherry, black currants and blackberry.  Finish was long. It was not as complex and intense as the 2005 Estate Cab that I liked so much at our last visit, but is still very good indeed.  During this visit I preferred this 2007 to the 2008, but my favorites were the two Elivettes, especially the 2005.  Of course, they are all wonderful and each has a special appeal. 

Spring Mountain Vineyard
fireplace & tasting table in Miravalle
Our last pour was the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2009 Elivette at $125.  This is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot and 1% Malbec and saw 22 months in new French oak. 2,350 cases were produced.  It was brick red in color and opened with cherry, cigar box, vanilla and a hint of cedar on the nose.  On the palate I got a deep rich, full bodied, very well balanced and smooth presentation with black currant, cherry, chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and well integrated smoky tannins with a good finish.  This is much more immediately accessible than the 2005 Elivette and has lovely, even luxurious fruit.  It might not have all the complexity of the 2005 but it makes up for it in pure hedonistic, rich, dense, silky, velvet like fruit.  It was my second favorite of the wines we tasted (next to the 2005 Elivette) and is ready to drink now.

Spring Mountain Vineyard
window at Miravalle

If you love great mountain cabs you will certainly want to visit Spring Mountain Vineyard.  But the wine caves, beautiful grounds and garden, lovely Victorian like mansion, and warm hospitality make this winery one of the most appealing in all of Napa Valley.  Try to arrange to see the Miravalle house and wine caves with the full tour. I have read that the Miravalle house is not always open so be sure to ask if this will be part of your tour when you make reservations.  I hope you enjoy your visit as much as we did.  It is a very special place!

Spring Mountain Vineyard

Spring Mountain Vineyard
2805 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: 967-4188
Date of visit: December 18, 2013

Tasting and tour options may be viewed here. Tasting and tour options With a minimum purchase, depending on which option you chose, the tour and tasting fee is waived.  The wines are simply divine and are priced reasonably, given the very high quality of their wines.  They are also in the Napa Neighbor Program. Notes from our last visit in 2011 may be viewed here:  Spring Mountain Vineyard

"To make your reservation, please complete the appointment request form online or call (877)769-4637 or (707)967-4188 between 8AM and 5PM (PST)."

Spring Mountain Vineyard greenhouse
Spring Mountain Vineyard
Spring Mountain Vineyard
tasting bar
Spring Mountain Vineyard entry sign

Spring Mountain Vineyard entry gate

Spring Mountain Vineyard stained glass

Spring Mountain Vineyard stained glass
window in Miravalle

Spring Mountain Vineyard
Christmas tree

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.