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Eduardo Dingler

In the topic of mountain-grown wines, the Napa Valley has an upper hand clearly defining the characteristics of each peak region. Howell Mountain, Atlas Peak, Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain no doubt make impressive wines with dominant richness and muscle.

The southern portion of the Napa Valley is Mount Veeder’s reign. This impressive and compelling area is gifted with the cool marine layers from the San Pablo Bay from the south, an ideal exposure and various volcanic soils.

Mount Veeder also counts with the highest elevation vineyards in the entire Napa Valley sitting around 2,400 feet.

We could spend all afternoon talking about the many producers that populate this AVA, making the various expressions from these soils, but let’s focus on the pioneers and key players, starting with a gentleman by the name of Captain Stelham Wing. Records indicate he produced wine, dating to 1864, in Mayacamas in the late 1800s and later on Mount Veeder Vineyards, founded in the early 1870s, paving the way for future producers.

Michael and Arlene Bernstein had the vision of creating wines early on, giving fruition to their dream. Later on, wineries like Donald Hess’ Hess Collection supported the theory of mountain wines. Brandlin, now part of Cuvasion Vineyards, took advantage early on of the landscapes and climate, making bold and chewy Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lagier Meredith, a Syrah house, is the crown jewel of the reign delivering a consistent, matriarch-like structure with tannin and fruit balance. Jean-Noel Formeaux saw the opportunity and in the late 1980s he created Chateau Potelle.

If Lagier Meredith is the queen, we have to mention that an honorary king of the mountain is quite possibly Pott Wines crafted by the talented and charismatic Aaron Pott.

Wineries like Godspeed Vineyards, Vinoce and Robert Craig later came on board the Mount Veeder train, creating iconic expressions that define this terroir.

In most recent years, Mount Veeder has gained the attention of foreign investment, like the Tesseron family of Château Pontet-Canet in Bordeaux purchasing the former Robin Williams estate. Before the sale this vineyard, named the Pym-Rae Vineyard, gave birth to a new Napa Valley classic, Pilcrow Wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon crafted by Sara Beer that pays homage to beauty and restraint.

One of the latest additions to the Mount Veeder landscape is Progeny Winery, a project by visionaries Paul Woolls and Betty O’Shaughnessy-Woolls under the winemaking of Sean Capiaux whose expertise in mountain wines includes O’Shaughnessy Vineyards located across the valley on Howell Mountain.

The variety of wines this piece of land generates is vast. Some might hang their hat on Napa Valley’s king grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, but producers like Mayacamas can prove that great Chardonnay can be produced from this range. Viognier, in the charge of Pott Wines, also delivers a unique expression, and, of course, Zinfandel lovers can get a kick out of this AVA. Hess Collection has spent years experimenting with other varietals like Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and even Gruner Veltliner with great success, but unfortunately for the consumer, in small quantities.

When wondering why the name Veeder, here is an excerpt from the Mount Veeder Appellation website: “The appellation’s principal landmark is Mount Veeder, located at the north end of the AVA. The mountain was named after German Presbyterian pastor, Peter Veeder, who lived in Napa during the Civil War Era. He was known as a great nature lover and enjoyed hiking on the mountain, where the Douglas Firs and Bristlecone Pines reminded him of the forests of his homeland. Until the 1960s, the Mount Veeder area was commonly called ‘Napa Redwoods,’ named after the coastal redwoods that are the most eastern in the country.”

A countless amount of great wines are produced each year from this area that houses only about 1,000 acres. The growing list aims to showcase the elegance and timeless expression of elevation, cool climate and soil diversity.

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Eduardo can be reached at eduardo@sakedrinker.com.

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