The first official wine trip of 2011 took my colleague Susan Thornett and I up north to the Napa Valley. Some of you might recall that just about a year ago, Scott Beckerley and I braved the stormy weather and pouring rain for a trek up to Spring Mountain.
Well this time around the weather was much more amenable to our cause. Sunny skies (at least when we hit 1400 ft. above sea level) and a crisp 60 degrees F or so was just perfect for a wine adventure!
So let’s get to it! In the next several weeks we’ll take a tour in, around and through the vineyards and wineries that make Howell Mountain such a unique place. We’ll be making visits to old school, new school and super new school (you’ll see what I mean) wineries:
I’ll also introduce you to the growers, winemakers and other Howell Mountain wine folk who so enthusiastically share their passion for the vines and wines of the region.
In order to get you up to speed so that we can hit the ground running, you’ll find a couple of handy maps below, as well as some key factoids on the region.
District: Howell Mountain
Region: Napa Valley
A.V.A. granted: 1983 (Napa Valley’s first sub-appellation)
Location: On the northeast side of Napa Valley in the Vaca Mountain Range and around the town of Angwin.
Latitude: 38.5 degrees
Elevation: Vineyards lie across the Napa Valley from and above the town of St. Helena. Virtually all of the vineyard sites lie above the fog line, between 1400- 2200 ft. above sea level. Most vineyards are planted at 1800 feet above sea level and on southwest facing slopes.
Climate: Cool days and warm nights, especially compared to the Napa Valley floor. Maritime with significant influence of winds from Pacific Ocean. Mornings are generally warmer than temperatures on the Napa Valley floor, however afternoon temperatures can be cooler due to Pacific maritime influences.
Annual rainfall: 40-50 inches (135cm)
Soil: Shallow soils composed of decomposed volcanic ash, volcanic rock and clay rich in iron provide poor fertility but very good drainage.
Chief Viticultural Hazards: spring frost, Pierce’s disease, phylloxera
Predominantly red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Sirah, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Grenache
White: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc
Total area under vine: 600 acres
Winemaking: Various, although leaning more towards traditional winemaking practices. Vinification mostly in stainless steel tanks for red and white wines. Most reds will age in barriques (225L) for 12-20 months. Many wineries do not fine or filter their red wine.
Number of wineries: approximately 30
Useful and important websites:
NEXT: A visit to O’Shaughnessy!