Schweiger Vineyards produced their first harvest in 1984 although their original 8 acres was purchased by Fred Schweiger in 1961 when he was 19 years of age. Fred paid $250 per acre for land that was completely forested – of all the vintners we have met in the Napa Valley, perhaps Fred was the youngest to ever purchase land in the valley. Fred originally owned a construction company but when interest rates hit all time highs in the late 1970’s he pulled his construction crew out of their projects and put them to work clearing his land for vineyards.
Spring Mountain is often above the fog and in the summer can be noticeably warmer than the valley floor. Unique microclimates and terroir (there are 5 distinctive soil types on their property) make this an ideal growing region, especially for Cabernet Sauvignon, as a result, the majority of the vineyards are planted to this variety. This winery is owned by Fred & Sally Schweiger, both of whom grew up in San Francisco. This is truly a family affair as their son Andrew (locally known as Andy) is the winemaker and Fred handles the vineyard management and overview. Andy worked at several wineries before taking the winemaking job here including ZD Wines, Joseph Phelps and Trefethen (his degree is from U.C. Davis). Their daughter is also involved in national sales and distribution.
Andy has a long history of working at premium Napa wineries and also makes wine on site for several boutique wineries. We’ve tried several of the wines from the boutique producers that he makes wine for; your not going to find a bad Andy Schweiger crafted wine!
Prior to making wine themselves they sold their grapes to other high end wineries and winemakers, however today much of the fruit from their 35 hillside acre estate is kept for their own wines (the actual winery is perched at about 2,000 feet). Unlike a number of the Spring Mountain wineries that share driveways, Schweiger has their own driveway just down from the Napa/Sonoma County line.
They produce two white dry wines every year; a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc. Their Chardonnay is one of the rare Spring Mountain bottlings of this variety. The grapes for this wine are grown at some of the higher elevations in the Spring Mountain District at about 2,000 feet – and perhaps one of the highest plantings of Chardonnay in the Napa Valley.
The 2017 Schweiger Vineyards Chardonnay is pale gold in color; smells like April in a Bakersfield blooming citrus grove off of Highway 178 before entering the Kern River gorge – but the aromatics are not just one dimensional – also offers notes of honeysuckle, sweet vanilla and honeycomb. Shows a richness of both flavor and weight on the palate, especially on the finish which lingers with plenty of fruit and some darker dessert spice notes along with almond. Fermented in a combination of both French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.
The Schweiger Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc has consistently been sourced from the Uboldi Vineyards in Kenwood (neighboring Sonoma County). The 2006 vintage is a crisp clean wine with lively acidity that undergoes no malolactic fermentation. On the palate, it shows notes of pear, apricot and some tropical nuances.
The 2016 Schweiger Vineyards Cabernet Franc is deep ruby in color; the aromatics show plum, blueberry, dark chocolate and cedar. Also hints of dust and dried herbs. Somewhat savory initially but opens to more fruit as the wine breathes. Sometimes wine triggers totally random memories – smelling this Franc reminds us of motorbiking across the island of Paros in Greece on a warm summer late afternoon – with the smell of wild herbs in the air and the sea crashing into the rocky cliffs far below. Mouth filling fruit, juicy. Good acidity – lingers with a pleasing textural feel – a darker finish with notes of cracked peppercorn and earthy tannins.
The Cabernet Sauvignon wines that we have tried from Schweiger over the years age extremely well; all have featured good acidity and well structured tannins. Some of their later vintages often have a small amount of Merlot blended in – which helps soften and smooth out the mouth feel. The 2010 Schweiger Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon shows a sweet note on the bouquet – with plum and dusty blackberry (aromatically balanced if you will). A jam-like blackberry quality shows on the palate (but not really jammy) – the mouth feel is soft and pleasant with lingering well integrated tannins.
The 2004 Schweiger Vineyards Merlot is a good example of Spring Mountain grown fruit. Don’t like Merlot’s…try this one, maybe you will change your mind. It is a fruit forward, juicy wine with tasty blackberry and black cherry flavors. The finish is very long.
The Dedication is also very popular and is a red varietal blend of typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, & Malbec. This Bordeaux styled blend is made in extremely small quantities and is always dedicated to a family member. On the bouquet the 2010 Schweiger Vineyards Dedication shows blueberry, cedar notes and hints of vanilla and baking spices. The wine is soft and elegant on the palate yet anchored by long lasting integrated and earthy tannins.
Schweiger styles their Cabernet Sauvignon, Dedication and Merlot to be approachable upon release. Part of this involves extended aging prior to release – up to five years old (three years in barrel and two in bottle). This additional age in part helps tame the robust mountain tannins. This is a great thing for the consumer – as most wineries release their wines much younger.
Be sure to try Iteration, a fortified wine which is typically made in very small quantities from their estate Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, usually less than 10 barrels. It is made a Solera style, non vintage and the “number” changes every time they release a new bottling. Their first vintage of this wine was in 1997. This Cabernet Sauvignon fortified wine is one of the finest of its kind we have tasted in the Napa Valley. It was originally fortified with brandy made from their grapes by their neighbor Domain Charbay but today they source high quality spirits from Germain-Robin. And they also produce a second dessert wine, a fortified Chardonnay called Napuro.
Their latest fortified style wine at the time of this update was their 12th release, IE Iteration XII. This bottling shows a sweet component on the nose – dried rose petals, a hint of sage with blueberry and red cherry. It is a delicious wine, packed with layers of flavor.
Schweiger Vineyards is located off of Spring Mountain Road – allow about 15 minutes to drive up the hill from the town of St. Helena or about 30 minutes from downtown Santa Rosa. Once visitors arrive at the gate – press the code to be buzzed in and drive slowly down the gravel driveway through rows of vines. It is not an uncommon sight to see Fred riding his well-weathered yellow 1947 Caterpillar D2 tractor within the vineyards.
The Estate Tasting Experience includes a brief overview and tour of the actual winery facility (designed by Fred) and end with a tasting in their modern tasting room with both a deck and patio overlooking Fred and Sally’s home in the distance as well as their rolling vineyards. Or weather permitting, at a table outside. Note the photographs inside the tasting room taken with San Francisco 49er players and ownership. In previous years, the Schweiger’s were one of 49 wineries selected to be poured at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
And the All Terrain Vineyard Experience includes a ride through their vineyards with either Andy or Fred at the wheel. Stops are made within the vineyard to taste wines from specific blocks. This experience is selectively offered from May through September.
In fall 2020, a major wildfire (dubbed the Glass Fire) tore through the Spring Mountain District destroying numerous wineries, vineyards and other structures. Remarkably the Schweigers were able to save their winery and various structures from being damaged.
Several other wines are produced in small amounts and are only available through their wine club. Many of their wines are 100% varietal with just a few exceptions. One can find their wines locally at a variety of Napa Valley restaurants. Schweiger Vineyards also offers customized label services for private-label wines. And they have longed embraced the power of wine videos (reference their Youtube channel). For more information, to schedule a visit or to join one of four wine club membership options, including the nicely named, Extended Family Wine Club, visit: www.schweigervineyards.com