School House Mescolanza 2011
In 1940, John’s father purchased the property of 160 gross acres, of which 35 acres were un-irrigated vineyard. In 1940 the only operating vineyards on Spring Mountain were Herman Hummel’s Vineyard (now York Creek), Jerry Draper’s vineyard which was originally known as La Perla and is now a part of Spring Mountain Vineyard, School House Vineyard, the Jos. Volpi Vineyard located directly above School House, and the Summit Vineyard (now Pride Mountain). During Prohibition followed by the Great Depression many families moved away and abandoned their vineyards and prune orchards. Following the Great Depression, the farmland on Spring Mountain could be purchased for $25 per acre – top price.
Today the second generation, John M. Gantner and Nancy Walker, tackle all of the vineyard operations at School House Vineyard where they make their home. John and Nancy implement the dry-farming technique in order to intensify the character of the wines, sacricing quantity in order to maximize quality. Their passion for the grapes they nurture coupled with their strong connection with the land is beautifully revealed in the expressions of the wines produced from the vineyard.
Above the town of St. Helena on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains sits the Spring Mountain District.
A dynamic region, its vineyards, cut by numerous springs and streams, vary in elevation, slope and aspect. Soils differ throughout with over 20 distinct types inside of the 8,600 acres that define the appellation. Within that area, only about 1,000 are planted to vineyards. Predominantly farmed by small, independent producers, the region currently has just over 30 wineries.
During the growing season, late afternoon Pacific Ocean breezes reach the Spring Mountain vineyards, which sit at between 400 and 1,200 feet. Daytime temperatures during mid summer and early fall remain slightly cooler than those of the valley floor.
Spring Mountain soils—volcanic matter and sedimentary rock—create intense but balanced reds with lush and delicate tannins. The area excels with Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and in some cooler spots, Chardonnay.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.