The Development of Spring Mountain as a Napa Valley AVA
On the western side of Napa Valley, on the Mayacamas Mountains, you will find the Spring Mountain wineries. There are approximately two dozen vineyards and about 20 wineries located in this region. The dramatic landscape of this region is the perfect backdrop for wine tours.
One of the most interesting aspects of Spring Mountain is its unique microclimate. In fact, the climate in Spring Mountain is quite different from what you will find on the floor of the valley. The marine breezes blowing in frequently help to cool the area throughout the day, creating a blend of acidity and tannin that are quite remarkable. While fog frequently settles on the floor of the valley during the night, this is less of a problem in Spring Mountain. As a result, the nights are often warmer; leading to the production of red grapes which are fuller bodied.
Red grapes are planted over about 80% of the vineyards here. The Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from this region is well known for its softer tannin as well as an acidity level that is somewhat lower than in other areas. For the most part, the majority of the wineries in this region are constructed on the hillside terrain. Generally, the vineyards here are smaller in scale than other wineries throughout Napa Valley. As a result, they are able to approach the production of grapes and wines with a highly unique style.
While grapes were first planted in other regions in Napa Valley as early as the mid-19th century; the history of Spring Mountain as a wine region did not begin until 1873. At this time, Charles Lemme planted what would become the first vineyard in the area.
That vineyard was comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon. Eventually, he also established La Perla Cellar. The name Beringer came to Spring Mountain in 1885 when Jacob and Frederick Beringer planted a vineyard over sixty acres. Today, that particular vineyard is called Beringer Flat.
Another of the early vintners of Spring Mountain was Tiburico Parrot. After arriving in the area during the 1890s, he set about producing some of the finest wines in the region. In fact, several of his wines won national as well as international awards.
A very impressive winery, Chateau Chevalier, was constructed in 1891 by Fortune Chevalier. Today that winery is owned by Jacob Safra and continues to produce noteworthy wines. In addition, a significant amount of acreage was owned by Peter Conradi toward the end of the 19th century. His vineyards focused on Syrah and Zinfandel.
As was the case with most other vineyards throughout Napa Valley, Spring Mountain suffered at the hands of both phylloxera and Prohibition. The wine production in this area was all but destroyed. Fred and Eleanor McCrea set about reviving the area during the 1940s after purchasing Stony Hill Vineyard. Later, during the 1960s and 1970s, a number of other wineries were established which went on to achieve critical acclaim. One of those was Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery, which was established in 1971 by Stuart Smith. In 1977, the Frias Family purchased 100 acres and planted their first vineyards eight years later.
Although the vintners in the region certainly face a number of challenges presented by slopes that are almost inaccessible, they seem to have faced up to these challenges with tremendous success. Their dedication and resourcefulness in growing grapes on Spring Mountain have paid off well. By 1991, Spring Mountain had been able to achieve AVA status.