Schweiger Vineyards harvested their first grapes in 1984 and produced their first commercial vintage in 1994. The 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 Napa Valley, perhaps Fred was the youngest to ever purchase land here. His great grandparents originally immigrated to the U.S. from, Krieglach, a small municipality in Austria, via Vienna to the Santa Cruz mountains. The family eventually settled in San Francisco where Fred’s grandparents owned one of the last pieces of farmland in the San Francisco city limits. Fred originally owned a construction company but when interest rates hit all-time highs in the late 1970s 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 and in 2021 celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. This is truly a family affair as their son Andrew (locally known as Andy) is the winemaker and Fred handles the vineyard management. 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 and after a three-decade long career teaching, Andy’s wife Paula is also actively involved in their day to day operations.
Andy has a long history of working at premium Napa Valley 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; you’re not going to find a bad Andy Schweiger crafted wine!
Prior to making wine they sold their grapes to other premium wineries and winemakers, however today most of the grapes from their 55-acre property (35 hillside acres are planted to vines) are kept on site for their own wines. The physical winery is perched at about 2,000 feet. All their winery operations are 100% solar powered. 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 Sauvignon Blanc is their only non estate wine. The Schweiger Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc has been sourced from the Uboldi Vineyards in Kenwood (neighboring Sonoma County) for several decades. The 2022 Schweiger Sauvignon Blanc Uboldi Vineyard Sonoma Valley is pale yellow in color; the bouquet is simultaneously floral and fruity including scents of citrus blossom, jasmine, honeysuckle, pineapple, ripe pear, apricot, pomelo and grapefruit. The palate is minerally and shows more green and citrus fruit characteristics than the bouquet. It sports flavors of grapefruit, green apple, a lemon/lime note and gooseberry. Crisp and refreshing the wine’s acidity dances across the palate, especially felt on it’s vibrant finish. A very light fennel-like sweetness shows up deep in the finish. Every year this wine is barrel fermented and then aged sur lie. Pair with Thai steamed fish with lime garlic sauce (Pla neung manao).
Their Chardonnay is one of the rare Spring Mountain bottlings of this variety and is a wine that Sally really enjoys drinking. The grapes for this wine are grown at some of the higher elevations in the Spring Mountain District at about 2,100 feet; this is among one of the highest plantings of Chardonnay in Napa Valley. Only two acres of this variety grow on site, on a part of the property that is more shaded (and as a result, cooler) as compared to the vines surrounding the winery.
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; the bouquet 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 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 wine is Andy’s tribute to his father. 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 bottlings 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.
And in 2019, Schweiger harvested their first estate Pinot Noir grapes, Napa Valley’s highest planting of this variety at about 2,000 feet in elevation.
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 and until 2016, the bottlings were all labeled as Port. As respect to the region of Portugal producing Port wines, Andy changed the name of this wine to Iteration. And in respect for his decision to do so, Andy was knighted by the organization in Portugal responsible for giving out such titles. This Cabernet Sauvignon fortified wine is one of the finest of its kind we have tasted in 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.
Their latest Iteration at the time of our latest update to this review was their 12th release, IE Iteration XII. This bottling shows a sweet component on the nose along with dried rose petals, a hint of sage, blueberry and red cherry. It is a delicious wine, packed with layers of flavor. With plenty of complexity, there is nothing linear about this wine at all.
And we tried the Schweiger Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Port VII in 2022 (only their 7th edition of this wine – five barrels were produced). This bottling is dark ruby with some brickish colors; the bouquet is intense and offers sweet aromas of prune, cherry liqueur, ripe boysenberry, black licorice and as the wine evolves in the glass it offers some notes of sage. It also shows a diversity of dessert notes including espresso, brown sugar and chocolate brownie. Rich flavored, sweet, but superbly balanced this bottling reveals flavors of blackberry jam, strawberry and toasted marshmallow. Its texture is like liquid velvet rolling across the palate effortlessly. It shows a subtle hint of dried tobacco leaf on the finish. For dessert wine enthusiasts this bottling can be dangerous; its nearly 20% alcohol and each sip begs for another sip and before you know it, the bottle is drained, and you are lying face down on the couch feeling very, very fine.
As a result of a trip Andy Schweiger took to Portugal in 2015, specifically visiting wineries along the Douro River, he returned to Napa Valley determined to make a white port-style wine. This dessert wine is cleverly named Napuro and was always made with their estate grown Chardonnay. Typically, only a barrel was produced and was always fortified with brandy. Unfortunately the 2019 Napuro was their last vintage produced of this wine.
The 2018 Schweiger Vineyards Napuro is medium to deep gold in the glass; offers aromas of peach, apricot, ripe pear, and sweet tree resin. Also shows notes of honey along with tropical fruits. As the bouquet breathes some deeper aromatics are revealed including toffee and caramel. Sports a light viscosity on the palate along with some sweetness but this wine is not overly sweet as the acidity keeps the sugar in check. Offers a variety of flavors including hazelnut, yellow nectarine and ripe apricot. This is a conversation piece to be sure due to its very limited production and the fact it is a very unique Napa wine. Nicely done.
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 (10 mph maximum) down the partial 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 or one of several of their much newer tractors.
The Estate Tasting Experience includes a brief overview and tour of the actual winery facility (designed by Fred) and ends with a tasting in their modern tasting room either at one of several tables or at the bar. A metal strip wraps around the lower outside section of the bar, taken from a wine tank; one can clearly see the ‘dimples’ in the metal.
Weather permitting, guests can also sit outside on either a small deck adjoining the tasting room or a patio overlooking both Fred and Sally’s home in the distance as well as their picturesque vineyards. 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. In a modern touch, a digital counter which updates live inputs, displays their total number of Instagram and Facebook followers.
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 Schweiger’s were able to save their winery and various structures from being damaged, as they stayed on site and along with various firefighters, heroically fought the fire that was burning on and all around their property.
Several Schweiger wines are produced in small amounts and are only available to members of 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