When we made the decision to buy a winery, we needed to decide where in the Napa Valley. The valley is 27 miles long and of varying widths. We tasted wines from several wineries. When we liked a wine, we followed the wine back to the source of fruit. It was always Howell Mountain. We knew that is where the winery had to be.
Howell Mountain is renowned for its big Bordeaux varietals and Zinfandels. European settlers were drawn to the land because its rocky landscape reminded them of the terraced vineyards of home. Wine from the mountain won the Gold Medal at the 1890 Paris Exposition, and the winery continues to produce spectacular vintages. So, what makes Howell Mountain such an ideal climate for winemakers? Apart from the pleasant cool Pacific breezes and moderate temperatures, the secret may be in the struggle of the vines.
Consisting of mostly volcanic rock, water retention is poor, allowing for excellent drainage while at the same time stressing the deep-rooted vines and forcing them to focus their resources into the production of fruit. The resulting fruit is smaller, lower in yield and higher in quality, producing wines that are rich, well-balanced and deeply concentrated. Smaller berries have higher skin-to-juice ratio, making for more intense wines and flavors.
The winery building was built in 1891 by John & Jacob Sutter and was the original Sutter Home Winery & Distillery. The stone building was built into the mountain to maintain consistently cool temperatures year round. The back wall of the winery is the actual mountain. Moisture from the mountain also allows for the humidity needed for the proper storage of wine barrels.
When the decision was made to expand our barrel storage, we dug a large cave into the mountain. This allows for consistent wine storage without the use of air conditioners or misting systems. We can store wine while still growing grapes above.
The farmhouse was built in 1922 and currently serves as our offices. An extensive remodel took the old farmhouse from pink stucco and rusted roof to the white, wood clad home with the wrap-around porch that welcomes guests today.
The winery property consisted of 47 acres at the time of our purchase in 2002. We have now added 63 surrounding acres to bring the winery total to 110 acres. We have received our permits to add about another 40 acres of vineyard and are currently in the process of adding these new vineyards.