Highlands Winery dates back to its days of being owned by another Napa winery, Freemark Abbey. It was sold in 2005 and today it is privately held by two partners, Paul Seagus and Dave Cofran, both Napa wine industry veterans. Dave (who we met with at his home) has a long history in the wine industry dating back over 40 years. He is a graduate of UC Davis during the mid 1960’s from a class that produced industry pioneer winemakers for Napa including Justin Meyer (Silver Oak Cellars), Rick Forman (Forman Vineyards) and Nils Venge. Dave worked as General Manager at Silver Oak Cellars for almost 20 years before retiring. We visited with Dave for a review of another winery he was involved in called Strata.
Paul worked as an executive at IBM in the early 1970’s, had a desire to get into the wine industry, but had very little wine related knowledge. He acquired Napa property, planted vineyards, took viticulture classes and in a relatively short amount of time his vineyards were being highly coveted by select wineries including Chateau Montelena, Joseph Phelps and Robert Mondavi.
The focus of Highlands is fairly specific, a 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel each year, always from two select vineyards on Howell Mountain. Incidentally Howell Mountain was the first AVA within Napa, formed in 1983; today there are 16 AVA’s with Coombsville being the newest and probably the last for some time.
One of their vineyards deserves special mention. It is the Black Sears vineyard and is highly sought after by those in the know who produce Zinfandel & Cabernet Sauvignon (try D Cubed, Turley etc). There are only several other vineyard in Napa County higher than this one; the uppermost part of this vineyards sits and an elevation of about 2400 feet; it is completely organically farmed. These old vines are head pruned.
The other vineyard they source from is Beatty Ranch which is located at about 1800 feet (also in Howell Mountain). This vineyard is source for the oldest Zinfandel grapes on Howell Mountain. Howell Mountain has long been known for producing top quality Zinfandel and today there are still a number of Zinfandel producers and vineyards in this AVA.
We tried the delicious 2004 Zinfandel. This is mountain grown fruit and the nose is a characteristic of a full bodied rich Zinfandel. The aromas are intense which lead to a plethora of up front fruit flavors including various berries including blackberry and raspberry with a structured slightly spicy mid palate to finish.
You can find their wine locally at Backroom Wines in Napa or taste select releases at Silenus Vintners (located near Yountville). With approximately 2000 cases produced each year you can also find the wine in select major markets across the US. Visit: www.highlandswinery.com
NOTE: Last we heard, the wines may be selectively available for tasting at the Fairwinds Estate tasting room along the Silverado Trail (just south of the town of Calistoga).
Note 1: this review has been identified as needing a *major* update.