School House Pinot Noir 2005
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.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
Tasting Notes for Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a dry red wine, typically diominated by red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles showing black plum and more delicate styles of Pinot giving citrus qualities. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age Pinot Noir can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice and dried fruit.
Perfect Food Pairings for Pinot Noir
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of salmon or texture of tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Sommelier Secrets for Pinot Noir
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.