Diamond Mountain Wineries: Persistence and Skill Produces Excellent Wines
Diamond Mountain wineries are elevated above the valley floor, situated on Diamond Mountain. Here, the vineyards benefit from the hillside slopes that are warm and rich with volcanic soil. As a result, the mountainside wines that are produced in this region are often quite distinctive.
In particular, the wineries in the Diamond Mountain region are known for being quite age worthy; especially the Cabernet Sauvignon produced here. The steep, often unforgiving, slopes of Diamond Mountain require not only perseverance but also skill. If you are in the region and wish to enjoy a tour or tasting, be sure to call in advance as the wineries in this region are usually only open by appointment.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, the warm climate of Diamond Mountain is also ideal for Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot. There are even some limited quantities of white grapes that are planted in the region as well; including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
For the most part, the soil of Diamond Mountain is comprised of volcanic ash. Over millions of years, the ash has decomposed to the point that minerals have been able to leech out. Unfortunately, this means that much of the soil is infertile. The small, rather thick skinned grapes that are produced on Diamond Mountain; however, are able to produce exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Today some of the most superb Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the entire state are produced on Diamond Mountain. These wines tend to have a flavor that is quite intense, even when compared to the regular standards of Napa Valley.
While Cabernet Sauvignon leads when it comes to wine production on Diamond Mountain, many other red varietals are also produced. The sunny slopes on the hills of Diamond Mountain have proven to be perfect for the ripening of grapes such as Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc.
In the early days, pioneering winemakers were drawn to Diamond Mountain by the rugged and beautiful terrain. The first winery to be established on Diamond Mountain was Shramsberg, in 1862. Within thirty years Jacob and Annie Schram would own more than 100 acres in the Diamond Mountain region. Despite the Schram’s success, the hostile terrain discouraged most others from cultivating during those early years. A school was not even established on Diamond Mountain until 1909 as a result of the slow settlement in the area. While other areas had developed and then been decimated by both phylloxera and Prohibition, Diamond Mountain had barely even begun its rise to prominence.
As it would turn out, it would be sparkling wine production that would make the difference on Diamond Mountain. Jack and Jamie Davies purchased the Schramsberg property in 1965 and began producing sparkling wine. The historic vineyards were replanted with pinot noir and chardonnay. Eventually, the land was converted to the production of red Bordeaux grapes; however, it was the interest in sparkling wine that revived this struggling area. By the mid-1970s there were several wineries in operation on Diamond Mountain, including Roddis Cellars and Al Brounstein.
The rather unique growing conditions of the area meant that it was necessary for vintners to adapt their own techniques in order to succeed. These efforts eventually paid off handsomely when AVA status was acquired for Diamond Mountain in 1999. Today, the region has earned a reputation as producing exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. While traditionally these Cabs have not been considered noteworthy until they had aged for a number of years, the Cabs produced on Diamond Mountain have earned a stellar reputation even in their youth.