The first stop on our Spring Mountain tour brought Scottie and myself to Terra Valentine. Located a few miles up Spring Mountain road, this majestic estate smacks of eccentricity and individualism that in many ways symbolically typifies how Spring Mountain is different from its neighbors further down on the Valley Floor.
After a circuitous drive through the domaine’s property, we arrived at the Terra Valentine’s main entrance. What a grand introduction to this 17,000 square foot concrete and stone building! Above the huge, beautifully embossed copper double doors, a life-size Greco-Roman statue greeted us. Equally impressive were the hand carved wood panels found directly above the doorway. This magnificent welcome was just a precursor to the wonders behind those doors..
This main building and winery was completed in 1970 by Fred Aves, the winery’s original owner. Mr. Aves was self-educated and by all accounts, brilliant. Responsible for numerous inventions and patents throughout his lifetime, this renaissance man conceptualized the winery (at the time called Yverdon) as a place where culture, art and humanity seamlessly co-exist amongst nature and the vines. Witness the guesthouse that Aves constructed overlooking this gentle slope of hillside which now is home to a section of the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon vines.
Although under Mr. Aves this mountain winery was still active until the early 1980’s, under the direction of the increasingly reclusive Aves, the winery began to languish and over the years slowly fell into disrepair. Fast forward to 1999, when Angus and Margaret Wurtele (originally from Minnesota) purchased the domaine and began restoring the the winery and its vineyards. They renamed the property Terra Valentine, in honor of Angus’ father who was born a twin on St. Valentine’s day.
In addition to engaging a young and talented winemaking team, the couple were deeply committed to realizing the potential of this land’s specific terroir. Toward this end, two vineyard sites, Yverdon and Wurtele, have been cultivated to showcase what Terra Valentine and Spring Mountain is all about. Both Yverdon and Wurtele are planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon as well as other Bordeaux varietals. In addition, both vineyards are farmed without the ue of pesticides, chemical, synthetic fertilizers or fungicides. Organic compost, along with a roaming herd of goats serve as a first line of defense acting as “natural herbicides”. Vineyard manager and goat-herder Armando Hernandez wouldn’t have it any other way.
In my next post, I’ll cover the wines that we tasted at Terra Valentine, as well as a bit more on the specific vineyard sites. Please stay tuned!