Yates Family Vineyard is located on the slopes of Mt. Veeder; this is one of the southern most vineyards in the Mt. Veeder Appellation. The Yates family has owned this slice of Napa since 1950 making this the oldest continuously owned vineyard & winery property in Mt. Veeder. A ghost winery on site dates from the early 1860’s; remarkably this was one of the first wineries within Napa County. Any winery from the 1860’s based in Napa is part of an elite historical category of which there are very few Napa ‘members’. German immigrants initially developed the vineyard land on site.
This winery contains a well-preserved extremely rare Roman Press made of a giant piece of Redwood; it is one of only two that we are aware of still in existence in Napa County – the other being at Nichelini Winery. This press sits above concrete vats – that were used for small lot fermentations when this was a working winery – these are also extremely rare – we are only aware of one other winery using these built in vats (Mayacamas).
For the past 50+ years their 35 acre vineyard has been supplying a number of well-known Napa wineries with fruit for their own wines. As with many vineyard managers and growers they made home wine on the side for friends and family; ultimately they produced their first commercial wine in 1999. Their wine makes up a small portion of the overall vineyard – they continue to sell grapes to a number of premium clients.
As a testament to the vineyards and wine making, some of their home made Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc from the cellar is tasting great more than 30 years later! This is a testament to the power of Mt. Veeder’s terroir in regards to producing extremely age-worthy wines.
This part of Mt. Veeder historically was known as the Napa Redwoods, named after a large grove of redwoods similar but smaller in size to the Armstrong Grove in neighboring Sonoma County. In tribute of the redwoods that grow here, they used the name Napa Redwoods Estate for seven years – but for branding and marketing purposes, Yates Family was chosen as the new name.
This is truly a family run affair. Michael Yates is the winemaker (self-taught); he has a degree in Agriculture, but for many years ran a construction company. Michael’s daughters Whitney and Mary are also actively involved in the day-to-day operations. Mary wears many ‘hats; she oversees wine making with her father, helps in the vineyard and also assists with sales. Mary helps with the business side of the operations.
Production as of the time of this review is around 700 cases.
The vineyards are in a spectacular location, with most of the blocks very steeply planted. On a clear day, a drive to the ridge top above the vineyards reveals 3-bridges in the distance; the Golden Gate Bridge next to San Francisco, the Richmond Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Mt. Diablo is also seen far in the distance.
Their focus is on layered wines that don’t have the robust tannins often seen in mountain grown fruit. These are wines that can age but can certainly be consumed young. All their wine is made at a nearby winery (also located in Mt. Veeder). All vintages we initially tried were 2004, the last year they used the Napa Redwoods Estate label. The only white they produce is a 100% varietal Viogner (the most recent wine addition to their portfolio).
All their wines are rather dark in color and their Cabernet Franc is no different. We spotlight this because it was our favorite of the three wines. The 2004 vintage is a superbly crafted wine. There is lots of fruit on the nose including cherry – the mouth feel is rich, concentrated and smooth followed by an exotic spicy finish, peppers, cloves and more that continue to evolve until the last flavors have run across your palate.
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon shows dark ruby in the glass with elegant notes of bright and aromatic fruit including blackberry and darker cherry framed with tinges of toasted cedar and cocoa powder. As the wine breathes a dry dusty note shows on the bouquet. A tobacco leaf characteristic shows on the palate – the wine is still a bit tight with young grippy tannins showing for quite some time on the finish. With good structure, acidity and fruit, this wine should age well for many years.
For Mt. Veeder grown fruit, the wines are priced quite reasonably by Napa standards. You can find their wine locally at the St. Helena Wine Merchants in St. Helena. Visit: www.yatesfamilyvineyard.com
NOTE: This review has been identified as needing an update. We will revisit as time permits.
Michael Yates talks about his family winery: