La Jota Winery is an old ghost winery built in 1898 from rock taken from the property. The original owner of the property was George Yount (Yountville is named after this early pioneer) and he sold it in the 1880's to a San Francisco newspaper owner. The original claim to fame was a bronze medal won from their entry in the 1900 Paris Exposition. After prohibition the winery sat vacant until W.H. Smith purchased the winery and property in the early 70's and produced wine from the early 80's. He sold the winery to Markham which was then purchased by Kendall Jackson who is the current owner.
This winery is surrounded by trees and sits high in the hills east of Angwin in the Howell Mountain area. It was completely renovated in 2003 and today is one of the nicer of the old stone hillside ghost wineries in the Napa area. This is an area known for intense Cabernet and that is what they focus on. Most of the fruit is sourced from three vineyards that are in close proximity to the winery. The elevation is typically over 1500 feet which is above the fog of the valley floor.
Due to the slightly cooler climate, hang time is long, with grapes usually harvested well after the valley floor fruit. The very rocky soil is volcanic in nature and has great drainage. Howell mountain is known for its reddish volcanic soil. La Jota also makes a Cabernet Franc. Tasting of La Jota's wines are done at the tasting counter at Cardinale. All wines we tried were 2002 which was their current vintage at press time - somewhat older than most wineries' current vintages. We really enjoyed their 2002 Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc which is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. In our opinion, this is how a Cabernet Franc based wine should taste with lots of fruit mid palate and good structure on the finish. The nose is complex with hints of Cranberries and vanilla - with a lot of fruit on the palate "kissed" by oak and notes of cedar.
We also tried a special 21st Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon. The "juice" for this wine was taken from only their top vineyard selections and is very representative of Howell Mountain teroir, earthy yet at the same time showing a refined elegance. The chocolate notes that you often find in Howell Mountain based Cabernet wines are hinted at on the palate. What really drives this wine however, is its superior balance.