High atop Spring Mountain, overlooking Napa Valley, stands a winery with views so lovely we found ourselves sitting, sipping, and staring, tended to by an attentive winery dog and our host, Kevin Hague. The fourth stop on our winery tour was Barnett Vineyards.
The winery is located in the Spring Mountain District on the ridge of the mountain that separates Napa Valley from Sonoma Valley. The logistics of operating a hilltop winery – at an elevation of 2,000 feet – require terraced vineyards, some of which were planted on 45-degree slopes. In order to tend the vines, the vineyard crew must have some acrobatic ability. While we may have hoped to see people out on the steep slopes, on the day of our visit the work being done at the winery had more do to with constructing a solar-powered building than farming the vineyard.
The winery was founded in 1984 by San Franciscans Fiona and Hal Barnett. They bought 40 acres of undeveloped forested land and planted 6,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines. The vines sit above the fog, which allows them to receive as much as three extra hours of sunlight daily. They produced their first vineyard of Estate Cabernet Sauvignon in 1989.
Today, Barrnett Vineyards produces 7,000 cases annually, which places it among the boutique wineries in Napa Valley. For comparison, a few Colorado wineries (among them Plum Creek Winery, The Infinite Monkey Theorem, and Two Rivers Winery) produce in excess of 10,000 cases. Barnett Vineyards ages its wines in 100% French oak barrels of mixed cooperage. The barrels age in a tunnel that was dug six years ago.
* Sauvignon Blanc, Andrews Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, 2013 – aged in stainless steel for four months, this refresher greeted us with the fragrance of stone fruit and – yes – vine-fresh tomatoes. Made from grapes grown in the Sonoma Valley, the wine delivered balanced acid and fruit with tropical notes.
* Chardonnay, Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley, 2012 – bold fruit, including red apple, lemon and lime, greeted the nose, while notes of caramel tickled the palate. It was aged in 20% new French oak.
* Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2013 – this subtle Provençal-style wine offered a taste of spring and summer, with juicy goodness followed by food-friendly dryness. Drinking this wine with the valley spread out below was particularly nice. The fuchsia color came from leaving the wine on its skins for two days.
* Pinot Noir, Green Valley of the Russian River, Tina Marie Vineyard, 2012 – ruby-red in color, it smelled of raspberries and blueberries. It was smooth and approachable, with good tannins and acid. A favorite.
* Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, 2011 – inky red-violet color matched by notes of dark fruit, violets, and chocolate. Its good tannins will allow this wine to age beautifully in the cellar.
A stop at Barnett Vineyards is by appointment only. The journey – and view from the top – are well worth the windy roads and drive through a canopy of Sequoia trees. Join the wine club at one of five levels and reserve a moutaintop picnic at your next visit.
Until our next adventure in wine and food…
4070 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA 94574