Spring Mountain Vineyard is arguably one of the most photogenic wineries in all of Napa Valley. The winery is located just outside of the St. Helena town limits – off of the narrow windy Spring Mountain Road which connects St. Helena to the city of Santa Rosa to the west. The original winery on this property (La Perla winery) dates from 1875. There are several other historical buildings all from the late 1800’s including an old barn with a vintage horse drawn carriage & other winery equipment.
Swiss banker and Spring Mountain Vineyards owner Jacqui Safra purchased three historical wineries on site in 1992 – La Perla, Chevalier, & Miravalle totaling nearly 850 acres of which 225 is planted to vine. The vineyards are farmed extremely sustainably using cover crops, not using herbicides or pesticides, no burning, using organic compounds to protect against mildew, using beneficial insects…the list goes on an on! Spring Mountain’s property lies just behind Beringer Winery and extends from near the valley floor at 400 feet to the top of the nearby mountain range at 1600 feet. This type of elevation gain gives them some real diversity in soil types and growing conditions, not to mention the inherent differences in micro climates based on the elevation differences from the near valley floor property to the steep hillsides.
It should also be noted that the vast majority of their vineyards are planted on steep or terraced slopes. The vineyards are sub divided into small blocks based on each block’s unique fruit characteristics. These blocks are kept separate during fermentation and the subsequent aging and it is only during the blending trials will the wine from the various blocks come together.
Along with a full time winemaker, Spring Mountain Vineyards also employs several wine consultants from both Bordeaux and Burgundy. These consultants make the trip over to the winery several times a year.
You can choose to just signup for just a tasting but we highly recommend the combined tour and the tasting which takes about 90 minutes. This is one of the nicer tours and tastings in the valley. Book ahead of time as their tours/tastings are quite popular. The grounds are absolutely beautiful with a real Mediterranean feel; there are lots of olive trees on the grounds. In complete contrast to the Mediterranean foliage, a sub tropical garden with many palms and some bananas grows on site; it is amazing these plants do so well in Northern California. Also look for the Norfolk Pines growing outdoors; since this is a sub tropical tree, you rarely find it growing outside in Northern California.
The tour briefly ducks into their caves; you will notice that the original cave is dwarfed in size when compared to their much expanded modern caves. However, it is worth seeing from a historical perspective as it was hand cut with pick axes by Chinese workers many years ago. What used to take years to tunnel out a rather short cave using hand tools – is a quick process using modern cave drilling machines. The “new” cave is about 20,000 square feet.
Mr. Safra spends most of his time in Europe as he is from a large European based International banking family. A few rooms in his private residence are included on the tour if he is not actually staying on site. His “carriage” house is a real gem; it underwent a major renovation and shows very nicely now. The entire property was closed to the public for almost 10 years during these renovations. No expense was spared in this house. You will taste in a beautifully furnished room; the chandelier that sits above your head used to be in Rupert Murdoch’s home before Mr. Safra purchased his house. A good number of sports players and other celebrities have toured this property over the years.
Spring Mountain concentrates on red wines (although they do make an estate Sauvignon Blanc). Some Pinot noir is also grown on site which is extremely rare in this “hotter” part of the valley, but they have found a cool spot on their property for this. Only several other Spring Mountain wineries actually grow Pinot noir and all in small amounts.
They produce excellent Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. One of their Cabernet Sauvignon blocks is over 60 years old – this has to be the oldest or one of the oldest hillside Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in all of Napa County.
The wine that they are most known for is the Elivette Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine which is blended with small amounts of various Bordeaux varietals which the varietals and blend amounts change from year to year. The 2004 is a very aromatic wine both with fruit and floral characteristics. Dark fruit is at the core of the palate with structured firm tannins anchoring a long finish. This Bordeaux styled wine has excellent natural acidity, fruit and structure to age for many years.
Spring Mountain Vineyard’s prices are quite reasonable based on the fairly small quantities of wine actually made each year. What is also fairly unique among Napa wineries is they have select older vintages available for purchase – both onsite and online (discounts are given for club members).
Also note that Spring Mountain Vineyards was one of only several Napa wineries to appear in the TV Show, Falcon’s Crest. Another bit of trivia you may not know: this winery was featured in the 1976 Paris Tasting – their 1973 Chardonnay took 4th place.
Visit their extremely informational rich website including what contains probably the best Enology section of any Napa winery website: www.springmountainvineyard.com