Spring Mountain

A new wine region rises high above the Napa Valley

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    Martin Sundberg

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Moisture and mountains don't always add up to great wine. Weak soils, which are the norm at these elevations, stress the grapes, forcing them to stay small, with a higher skin-to-grape ratio. As a result, mountain wines tend to be more concentrated and intense―sometimes too much so.

But on Spring Mountain, this effect is softened by the more gradual temperature fluctuations that the surrounding, taller mountains provide. "As a result, our wines have the bright color and intensity that mountain wines are often known for, but also a softness and elegance that surprises wine critics," Ferrell explains.

Surprising indeed. In 2003 Wine Spectator's prestigious Wine of the Year award went to a Merlot―in itself a surprise. And this particular Merlot was from Paloma Vineyard, possibly the most down-home winery in the entire Napa Valley.

"A mountain vineyard is totally different than a valley vineyard," says Paloma co-owner Barbara Richards, who, at 70-plus years old, carries a shovel to combat rattlesnakes when she drives her ATV. "Down there they can pick a 15-acre vineyard in one day because it all ripens evenly," she says. "Here we pick by taste. We did 13 picks last year; it took a month. That makes a much more complex wine."

 

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