Dick Steltzner ignored the prevailing wisdom of his time and planted this Stags Leap District vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon in 1964, using clones he cut from Louis Martini’s vineyard in St. Helena. Nearly everyone thought this area was too cold for Cabernet-until Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars won the 1976 Judgment of Paris. At the rematch 10 years later, the winning red was the 1972 Clos du Val Cabernet-sourced 100% from Dick Steltzner’s vineyard. Today, the next generation tends these storied vines with the help of viticulturalist Jim Barbour.
For decades, the family kept nearly all of this fruit for their own winery. But as they returned to their grower roots, they decided to share a small amount with trusted winemakers like Julien Fayard. Mature and deeply-rooted, these old vines produce elegant, complex fruit with ultra-black aromatics, very soft tannins, and signature Stags Leap earthiness.
|Appellation||Stags Leap District|
|Soil Types||Sandy loam with volcanic layer & rock|
|Average Vine Age||40 years|
This “little ranch” vineyard sits right on the boundary line between Oakville and Rutherford, on a sloping hillside west of the Silverado Trail. Originally planted by U.C. Davis graduates, the vineyard is now farmed organically and biodynamically by viticulturalist Steve Matthiasson and the current owners.
We source our fruit from the northernmost blocks closest to Rutherford, which were laid out in an unusual north-south orientation with lyre trellising. The sandy loam soils here provide excellent drainage and produce remarkably black aromatics-ripe blackberries, a bit of flint, and black fruit edging toward olive.
|Soil Types||Sandy, loam with some alluvial influence|
|Clones||685, and 15|
|Average Vine Age||7 years|
According to Napa County records, this peaceful creekside site was farmed as a vineyard as far back as 1881. The Wiley Sneed family produced Zinfandel, “Burgundy,” Malvoisie and Chasselas here before tearing out the vines during Napa’s first phylloxera epidemic. Christian Brothers/Mont La Salle Vineyards bought the land in 1969, and replanted with dry-farmed Cabernet Sauvignon vines. These provided the fruit for Christian Brothers’ top wines in the 1970s and 1980s, before the return of phylloxera in the 1990s prompted another removal.
Viticulturist Steve Matthiasson discovered the property after years of unfortunate neglect, but its potential was obvious. He introduced the site to its current owners, who began restoring the land with organic and biodynamic methods. Under their meticulous stewardship, the vines and earth have regained their health, producing fruit marked by its sweet, juicy red character and smooth tannins.
|Appellation||Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley|
|Soil Types||Sandy, alluvial; silty loam over pure cobble|
|Average Vine Age||20 years|
The Bettinelli family is known for viticultural innovation. When Larry Bettinelli acquired the Sleeping Lady vineyard—naming it for the slumbering shape of the ridgeline framing it to the west—he invented a new trellis system to optimize sun and air exposure for the fruit. Today, Larry and his sons work at the bleeding edge of modern technology to monitor levels of photosynthesis, stress and phenolic ripeness throughout the year, ultimately ensuring that every cluster achieves and is harvested at its peak.
This area at the western edge of the Yountville AVA was once a fast-moving river that deposited jagged rocks and sand from miles away, and created a thick layer of gravel beneath the topsoil. Our four rows of vines are located where this layer is closest to the surface. This superior drainage produces small berries with greater concentration and a juicy blue-fruit, floral finesse.
|Soil Types||Keefers gravelly, sandy clay loam of alluvial origin|
|Average Vine Age||18 years|
East of St. Helena, in the lower slopes of Howell Mountain, lies La Herradura Ranch. This property was originally a fine wine producer in the late 1800s, which fell into disarray as phylloxera devastated Napa Valley in the 1880s and 1890s. After World War II, Francis and Nell MacVeagh bought the ghost winery and transformed its buildings into a magnificent ranch and estate, where they hosted international jet-setters, Hollywood starlets, politicians, writers, artists, and intellectuals. Their parties at the lake were the stuff of legends; neighbors remember piling steaks into a pickup like cord wood, driving them up to the grill.
Today, La Herradura celebrates its viticultural roots with almost 30 acres of vines tended by Jim Barbour’s team of experts. The Petit Verdot vines we use are rooted in loamy soils, and produce grapes of grace and elegance.
|Average Vine Age||17 years|
Nestled in the forested curves of Mount Veeder, 2200 feet above sea level, Segassia Vineyard cultivates extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignon exclusively for Nicholson Jones. This hillside was first planted to vineyard in 1886, and the original hearth is still there, steps from the mountain spring that sustains the vineyard today. Owner Andrew Cates lives on the property and works with legendary viticulturalist Jim Barbour to tend the vines with sustainable, certified fish-friendly methods. Rejecting chemicals and weedkillers, they rely on beehives, earthworms, ladybugs, and bat boxes to maintain natural balance.
The vineyard’s shallow, sloping topsoil provides superior drainage, and its southeast orientation enjoys sun and warmth earlier in the day than the valley floor; afternoons and evenings, however, are typically 10 degrees colder. Wines from this site exhibit dark black fruit, intense structure and earthy spice.
|Soil Types||marine sea bed; volcanic|
|Average Vine Age||15 years|
Situated at the narrowest part of the Napa Valley hourglass, where the morning fog first begins to lift, the Crocker Vineyard has a rich historical legacy. James Dowdell planted grapes here in the early 1870s, and operated Dowdell & Sons Winery until Prohibition. His stately stone winery building still stands a few hundred yards from the vineyard block. Charlie Crocker (the great-grandson of Charles Crocker, one of the Big Four) purchased the old estate in the early 1970s, committed to restoring and preserving this agricultural heritage.
Today, Crocker’s wine business partner Pam Starr manages the organic farming of the vineyard. Vines from Block 23 are dry-farmed, and tended sustainably throughout the year. The fruit shows an incredible roundness—lush with fruit, white flowers, and aromatic tea leaves.
|Soil Types||Bale series clay loam|
|Clones||“farmer’s select” (likely Clone 1)|
|Average Vine Age||25+ years|
Dolly Vineyard perches on a rolling hillside of the beautiful Truchard family estate in Carneros, in the foothills of the Mayacamas just six miles from San Pablo Bay. More than 600 Angora goats roam the property, and this particular block is named for one of Tony Truchard’s favorites—an adorable young goat who was abandoned at birth, and grew up bottle-fed by the family.
Dolly Hill is one of the highest ridges in the area and sheltered from the wind, so vines face southwest to soak up the extra warmth and sun. Classic California sprawl trellising shields the clusters from direct sunlight, and promotes the measured development of sugar and phenolics. Chardonnay from this site preserves a vivid freshness, and brightens classic Carneros fruit aromas with a distinctive chalk minerality and floral spice.
|Soil Types||clay and sandstone|
|Average Vine Age||30 years|
John Caldwell is a true maverick of Napa Valley viticulture, probably best known for smuggling vine cuttings from France to start his vineyard with the best of Bordeaux. John also (legally) imported 43 ENTAV-INRA clones under contract with the French government in the 1990s, helping Napa Valley and America more generally gain an enormous boost in grapevine quality.
Caldwell’s rolling oak meadows and steep hillside vineyards perch inside an ancient volcanic caldera 300-600 feet above sea level in Coombsville, Napa Valley’s southernmost sub-appellation. The proximity to San Pablo Bay ushers in cool, dense morning fog, which the caldera’s half-bowl shape collects and holds. This cooling effect creates a longer growing season and slower, more complete ripening of the grapes. Caldwell fruit is known for its rugged intensity and luxurious ripeness.
|Soil Types||Aiken series, alluvial bands of volcanic ash and rhyolitic tuff|
|Varietals||Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon|
|Clones||Syrah 470 & 877; Cabernet Sauvignon 169|
|Average Vine Age||Syrah: 18 years; Cabernet Sauvignon: 11 years|
The Sugarloaf Vineyard was developed by vineyard visionary Bill Hill in in the late 1990s. At the time, no one believed that a Napa Valley vineyard as far south as this one—it’s on the same latitude as Carneros—could fully ripen Cabernet Sauvignon. With time, however, Hill was proven right.
The key to Sugarloaf’s success is its rocky underpinning. The vineyard development team had to use a rock crusher to break up the ground enough for vines to take root, because topsoil is so sparse. This exposed spine of volcanic rock acts as a solar panel during the day, storing up the heat and radiating it well past sunset. Our rows of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are on a steep slope facing southwest, which maximizes their exposure to afternoon sun. Wines from this challenging site are dark and richly textured, gaining sleek polish with time.
|Soil Types||Basaltic igneous rock|
|Varietals||Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon|
|Clones||Syrah 877; Cabernet Sauvignon 7|
|Average Vine Age||18 years|
All of Nicholson-Jones wines are made at Covert Estate, a Coombsville vineyard and winery owned by Cal Nicholson, Dave Nestor, and winemaker Julien Fayard. All winemaking production is underground within the caves.
We also source Cabernet Franc for our Cuvée from the Covert site. Here, the minimal topsoil is composed primarily of volcanic ash from Mt. George, and the layered subsoil of rich loam, ash, and volcanic rock is punctuated by cobblestones. The loam and rocky volcanic soils drain easily, while the ash subsoils hold water to sustain the vines during dry growing seasons.
The Cabernet Franc block nestles on a gentle slope that enjoys full eastern exposure to the morning sun, allowing for cooler afternoon temperatures that preserve fresh acidity and aromatic finesse.
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