Spring Mountain Vineyard Estate Reserve (stained label) 1996
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Barrel Sample: 91-93
The upper most property on the estate, La Perla, was founded in 1873 by Charles Lemme and expanded by the Schilling Spice family. Originally 285 acres it had the first Cabernet Sauvignon planted on Spring Mountain. The old winery remains today along with much of its original equipment and horse drawn carriages and wagons. Immediately below La Perla, and eventually added to it was the first vineyard planted by Fredrick and Jacob Beringer in 1882. These terraced hillsides were planted in a wide assortment of grape varieties to support the Beringer brothers fledgling winery.
Adjoining to the north of the Beringer vineyard was a Frenchman, Fortune Chevalier, whose stone winery, Chateau Chevalier, was making wine in 1891. And finally, next door to Chevalier was Tiburcio Parrott who grew olives, citrus and grapes. Parrott built a grand home on the estate which he named Miravalle.
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.