Pride Mountain Vineyards is located high on the spine of the Mayacamas mountains which form the boundary for the Napa/Sonoma County line. The winery is about half way between eastern Santa Rosa (the largest city in Sonoma County) and the town of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. In fact half of their winery is in Sonoma County including their tasting room, and the other half is in Napa County and they of course have lots of nearby Napa County vineyards. There is even a set of bricks in the concrete that identify the county line. Wines that see fruit from both sides of their vineyards are even labeled with the percentages of each and as they say, “one ranch, two counties”. They own about 200 acres with approximately 85 planted to vine. As a result, there is a good balance between the native hillside vegetation and the vineyard blocks. Pride Mountain is one of the more recognizable wineries in the Spring Mountain District. Regardless of the direction you come from, you will be driving on narrow windy roads to reach the actual winery and always ask for a time estimate when you make your appointment.
What a gem this place is. This winery has been the reason a lot of folks make the short trip up to Spring Mountain. They have provided good publicity for the Spring Mountain district and if you come up to visit this winery you might as well visit some of the other 20+ small wineries in the area. Many of the wineries in this district are within 10 minutes of each other. Due to its fantastic location there are excellent views and on a clear day you can see into parts of 6 or 7 counties including all the way to Snow Mountain (covered in snow in the winter) – about 80 miles airline to the north. We highly recommend the tour, allow about 90 minutes. You will start with a tasting and if the weather permits will spend much of your time in the vineyards. 23,000 square feet of caves tunneled into the hillside provides a place to do additional tasting if the weather is bad. You might even see the Clydesdale Horses that help out in the steeper vineyards during harvest time.
Note that their tours are especially popular around and during harvest time, so be sure to reserve well in advance during these times. Their philosophy is that the majority of winemaking begins and ends in the vineyards and that blending multiple vineyards adds complexity to the wine, rather than using fruit from a single vineyard. They are able to harvest individual blocks as they ripen and nothing is ever mass picked. Unlike many area vintners, they believe in using all neutral oak during the initial stages of the aging of their red wines and then based on each barrel and flavor profile they will add in individual new oak barrels as necessary. The idea behind this is they want the true expressions of the vintage and varietals to be expressed rather than have the new oak take over in the early stages of aging. They have a variety of soil types on the property including a very red rocky soil which is perfect for wine grapes. In addition, there are breezes which come through keeping the mildew and other diseases at bay. They are above the fog for the most part and the growing season is extremely long with harvest often going into late October and early November.
Just up the gravel road past the new winery you will see picnic tables in a peaceful setting under the oaks with stellar views of Mt. St. Helena and the surrounding hills. On a bright Spring or Summer day, it doesn’t get any better than this – click our photo link above to view some of these gorgeous views. This is a family owned winery that was started by Jim (now deceased) and Carolyn Pride and today it is very much family run with Carolyn’s children working in active roles. Both Jim and Carolyn came from farming backgrounds and the winery was going to be their retirement project. It has certainly grown significantly since those early years; their first commercial vintage was in 1991. Jim was the founder of the well-known Pride Institute. Ask any dentist about this institute and they will have heard of it. They introduced many, what are now common practices in the dental industry and provided management and consulting services for dental offices.
The original ranch was planted with grapes in 1869 and there are the remnants of a “ghost winery” on the property. Their wines have long won top awards at wine competitions and one of their walls is covered with Presidential certificates for when their wine was served at White House functions. The tasting room is elegantly decorated with a hand painted mural above the mirror behind the tasting counter. The tastings vary but usually include at least one white wine and the rest reds. All wines made are from their estate vineyards. During our recent visit we tried the 2007 Viognier. This wine has a nice phenolic grip and weighty mouth feel without being over oaked; the reason is despite being aged sur lie in oak, all neutral barrels were used. Viognier by itself is a very aromatic wine and this wine offers enticing floral and tropical aromas. Some wines are produced in such limited quantities that they are typically only available to mailing list members on a first come first serve basis. One is their estate Vintner’s select Chardonnay – we tried the 2006 vintage. This wine has great golden color with honeysuckle and lime aromas with notes of caramel on the palate with nuances of toasted nuts and assorted spices on the finish. Often a vertical of two vintages will be tasted side by side. Pride’s red wines age very well and it is interesting to note the differences both in aroma and flavor even with just a year extra of bottle aging especially so with the Merlot we tried. They produce very nice Cabernet Sauvignons and a Cabernet Franc. Also be sure to try their Mistelle de Viognier, this is a wine you won’t find elsewhere in Napa Valley; it is juice of Viognier grapes fortified with white brandy which makes a very interesting dessert type wine. Serve very cold for best results! Visit: www.pridewines.com