There is a long standing debate amongst vintners in the valley on what is better, valley floor or mountain. I like both, thinking each mountain range brings a different element to the flavor palate of their the wines produced. We talked about a few of my favorite mountain AVAs today on The Broadcast, highlighting a few key wines that represent the region beautifully.
Of the 100 soil types in the world and 54 are located in the 30 mile stretch of Napa Valley, this along with the slope of the land, the exposure to the sun, the wind, the rain, etc (also known as the terroir of the land) is what will define a wine.
Antica on Atlas Peak – elevations are very high, around 1500-2000 feet, creating long sunshine filled days with well draining, volcanic soils. Antica, the Antinori property actually sits at the edge of Lake Atlas that has created almost a natural valley floor scenario, even at very high elevations, as well as benefiting from steep mountain vineyards. Cool breezes from the lake allow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to grow at this elevation, keeping vines cool and dry. Mineral rich volcanic soils of Atlas Peak add freshness and steely Chablis style character to the California Chardonnay. $50
La Jota on Howell Mountain – Howell Mountain Cabernet is masculine, yet very refined, with black fruit notes influenced by a location that sits above the fog line, allowing fruit to ripen even with cooler temperatures. The shift in temperatures from day to night also isn’t as dramatic, with morning temperatures often sitting a few degrees above that on the valley floor, but also not exceeding top temperatures during hot summer days, keeping an even flow allowing fruit to ripen evenly, with richness. Iron rich, red clay soils add minerality to the wines. This rests underneath well draining, volcanic ash, or Tufa soils. The historic La Jota stone winery was built in 1898 and is still used today for making the La Jota wines. La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon is filled with leather, earth and graphite, mixed with blue and black fruit, soft purple and wild flower notes and spice. Big, bold and tannic, a special wine from a very special place. $75
Mount Brave on Mt. Veeder – The huge appellation of Mount Veeder sits on the edge of the Maycamus Mountain range with the longest growing season in Napa, yet the smallest yield as the majority of the rocky, extremely steep sloped land of the AVA is not planted. Top soil is shallow so water can’t be maintained and vines produce fruit with very small, yet very concentrated berries. This is true craftsmanship. Mount Brave pays homage to rugged pioneers who first settled the land, and to the original inhabitants of the land, the Wappo Indians. Sitting at 1400-1800 feet the gravel filled soils, above the fog line, create wines filled with coffee, blueberry, licorice, and violets with minerality and balance. $75
A blend of the best with Cardinale – Jess Jackson and Jackson Family Wines wanted to showcase the mountain appellations of Napa Valley through these individual wines (like La Jota and Mount Brave), as well as by blending the very best fruit from the mountain AVAs of Howell, Mt. Veeder, Diamond and Spring together to create their Cardinale wine. With star winemaker Chris Carpetner leading the way, Cardinale blends the best fruit from their mountain vineyards to create a remarkable wine of elegance, focus, grace and complexity. This is a wine to hold on to for the special occasions, as it is delightful now, filled with black cherry, blackberry, coffee and cedar notes, but will continue to soften, developing more dried fruit, earth and spice notes, perfect for this kind of wine. $250