Storybook Mountain Vineyards (Seps Estate) is about the furthest northern located winery in the Napa Valley. It is away from all the hustle and bustle of the southern part of the valley and its location is very quiet and peaceful. You come to Storybook for its history, and the relaxed informative tastings – but mainly you come for their very high quality Zinfandel. A number of Napa wineries make maybe 1 or two Zinfandels, but this is one of Napa Valley’s few wineries where Zinfandel is the core of their production. Storybook is a very historical winery – one of the three famous Napa Valley “Jacobs” originally founded it in the 1880′s, Jacob Grimm, who was later joined by his brother Adam. The other two famous Jacobs were Jacob Schramsberg and Jacob Beringer, both of whom founded famous Napa wineries in their own right. The Grimm’s were from family that has been and still is involved in the wine industry dating back to 1540! During the 1880′s Zinfandel was one of the varietals planted on site.
Storybook winery was destroyed & abandoned after the big 1964 Hanley Ranch Fire which burned all the way to Santa Rosa – 20 miles away! The current owners Jerry and Sigrid Seps purchased the land in 1976, replanted and built a new winery and then released their first Zinfandels in 1983. All farming is done sustainably without insecticides or pesticides. Their location is somewhat unique due to their relative isolation from Napa Valley. The site sits on the eastern hills of the northern Mayacamas mountains which separate Sonoma from Napa County. They are relatively close to the Russian River Valley which brings cooler breezes through on hot summer days and combined with their elevation they are often 10 degrees cooler than the northern part of the Napa Valley in the summer. This all contributes to longer more evening ripening. In addition, for the area, they receive a fairly large amount of rainfall and are able to dry farm most of their mature vines.
We arrived on a crisp Spring morning and walked up the dirt road among the vines for the start of a very personalized tour. When we were there, the owner Jerry Seps was in Nepal doing some mountain climbing in the Everest region. Jerry is a pioneer in the Zinfandel industry and he was instrumental in starting the
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers organization (ZAP). After a walk in the vineyards we entered through their 100+ year old hand dug caves located right next to the winery. These are among the oldest and largest hand dug caves in Napa Valley. The inside is quite humid and it is interesting to touch the very velvety thick black mold that grows on the ceilings and walls (this mold is harmless to touch). Don’t try sampling it though as you will want to keep your palate fresh for the wines! It is interesting to note that part of the cave actually contained riddling racks used in the production of sparkling wine.
The tasting is located at the end of one of the caverns – their estate grown Zinfandels are world class and if you are a Zinfandel lover you have a variety of these wines to choose from including a Zin Gris Rose and a mostly Zinfandel blend, among others. Be sure to also try their current vintage of the Reserve Zinfandel. All wine for this is taken from only the best barrel lots and these are typically rich complex wines thare are built to age. Their wines have consistently been top rated and have won many awards; Storybook Winery has been listed by Wine & Spirits as one of the top 100 wineries in the world. The famous Robert Parker has commented on their wine as “representing the pinnacle of wine quality in California.” Not bad!