Guilliams Vineyards is located in the heart of the Spring Mountain District – you use the same driveway as Charbay Distillery. Their driveway is extremely sharp and if you are driving west towards St. Helena on Spring Mountain road you will have to pass the driveway, turn around in the small dirt pull out, head back in the opposite direction and then enter the driveway. The 7-acre vineyard is located at an elevation of about 2000 feet placing this and nearby Spring Mountain vineyards as some of the highest in Napa County. Yes they do see a bit of snow here most winters. Vineyards were originally planted on this site in the 1890′s but were completely abandoned during the 1930′s and the forest had reclaimed most of the land by the time the Guilliams moved here in 1978 from the Bay Area. The winery is owned by John & Shawn Guilliams. They wanted a quiet location to build a house and raise a family but were out of work. Not having a background in the wine industry, John found work at a cooper and started building wine barrels. Soon they were making home wine with his co-workers and a desire to make commercial wine took over with their first vintage relased in 1985.
This is a winery you have to seek out as due to their low production they are not well-known and typically will not be found on any of the winery maps or tour guides. Look for the round wooden building up on the hill as you get close to their driveway. Due to the low production, tastings are for serious wine enthusiasts as they are not open to the public. Typically around 1000 cases are produced (only 100 cases of the Merlot) and their two main wines are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the focus being on Cabernet Blends. The 2004 wines we tried are both refined and elegant containing a beautiful softness and rounded mouth feel.
Because of the small production, attention can really be focused on the vineyards. A number of larger wineries will pick the entire vineyard or block at one time, regardless if small portions of the block are not quite yet ripe. Other more detailed wineries will pick specific vineyard rows in a block over time. However, Guilliams is so focused on quality that they pick only ripe fruit separated by actual groups of vines, not even entire rows or blocks which means their harvest on their small property can sometimes take up to a month. This type of harvest ensures only the best quality and ripest fruit is used on the micro level. All punch downs during fermentation are done by hand and new French Oak is used during the aging. The tasting is conducted in the barrel room below their house. No fancy tasting bar is here; wine barrels serve as the bar. This is a true small boutique winery tasting experience! Website coming soon: www.guilliamswinery.com