Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mt Veeder Appellation Trail - Yates Mt Veeder Family Vineyards

Finally after more than a dozen years of wine trips visiting various wine regions, we learned the discipline and organization of focus! When we now visit Napa Valley, we focus on one appellation at a time. Recent Napa Valley trips focused on Howell Mtn, Spring Mtn, and Atlas Peak. This trip we dedicated to Mt Veeder, with a day also so dedicated to Diamond Mountain. We have long known and enjoyed Mt Veeder wines - notably the legendary Mayacamas, the popular Hess, the producer namesake Mt Veeder, and the popular Robert Craig Mt Veeder cabernet, one of his collection of single mountain designated cabs. According to my Cellartracker records, we hold Robert Craig Mt Veeder cabernet for every vintage from 1993 thru 2007 with the sole exception of 2003. Can you spell library? And this weekend we dropped in at Craig's tasting room and tasted the 2008 vintage!

If not for simplicity, from a logistical standpoint, we start at the top of the Mountain and work our way down. You can select the metaphor for this strategy. To that end, we started our assault of Mt Veeder at the top at Yates Family Vineyard. Note the designation Vineyard, over Winery, as the Yates family have been farming the property for sixty years producing and selling top quality fruit to producers who bottle under their own label - no doubt popular producers we know, and others. Due to the heritage of the original developers from Europe back in the 1800's, the property was originally planted in German and Alsatian varietals. Over time these have been replaced with the traditional Bordeaux varietals that are now most popular on Mt Veeder - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,and some Cabernet Franc.

Yates Family Mt Veeder Vineyard

In recent years, Proprietor Mike Yates aided by his daughter Whitney Yates Hanes have worked together as Co-Winemakers to produce wines under the Yates label. They estate bottle under a standard varietal designate labels as well as a Reserve. They also produce a St Emilion style blend and a left bank Bordeaux blend Alden Perry Reserve named for family patriarch Mike's grandfather, Perry and father Alden, who shifted to the Bordeaux varietals in the early fifties, (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc). Produced in small quantity of less about 200 cases, we tasted from a 375 as this was SOLD OUT in standard bottles. We also tasted their Viognier 2009.
Yates Family Vineyards historic wine-house.
We were greeted by Mary Yates who otherwise handles the books, and her husband Todd Jones who has taken over sales and marketing duties. On the property still sits the historic ghost winery built back in the 1800’s and operated then as “Castle Rock Vineyard”, which we toured. Ironically, early product was shipped in barrel to Chicago where it was then bottled and sold as Claret from a retail store on Wells Street, although its not known whether that was North or South Wells.

W/ Mary Yates Jones and Todd Jones of Yates Family Winery and Vineyards.
Mike Yates of Mt Veeder Yates Family Vineyards


Yates Family Wines tasted:

Recommended Wines - 

Yates Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 

Dark deep inky purple color - complex and full bodied, the black berry and black cherry fruits were accented by dusty rose petals, tones of dark bittersweet chocolate, spice, and a layer of leather on a smooth tannin finish. This should integrate and gain polish over five years and last ten more. RM 91 points.

Yates Family Vineyard Cheval Cabernet Franc 2007

Spicy black berry, clove and cassis. Winemaker Tasting Notes - A deep, dark ruby appearance with hints of graphite and toast on the nose that finish with dry rocks and cigar tobacco. Strong flavors of espresso with small splashes of clove and cardamom. Dark chocolate covered cherries with cassis. Intense mountain fruit lingers on the palate and finished with supple tannins. RM 91 points.

Yates Family Vineyard Fleur de Veeder Merlot 2007

Winemaker notes - Nicely balanced and plush Merlot, beautifully exhibits the quality we’ve come to expect from Mount Veeder. The enticing bouquet of red berries, smoldering spices and mint lead to intense flavors of crushed raspberry and black cherry. Dark chocolate and a hint of anise add to the complexity. Round and full mouth tannins complete the smooth and lingering finish. 202 Cases Produced - RM 90 points.

Tasting Yates Family Wines

Check out Yates Family wines - small production crafted wines that reflect the true terrior of Mt Veeder. We look forward to receiving our Yates wines and trying upcoming vintages and offerings to come.

Our Mt Veeder Tasting Group at historic and picturesque Yates Family Vineyards


Mt Veeder Appellation Trail - Rubissow Mt Veeder Vineyards

Mt Veeder Appellation Trail - Rubissow Mt Veeder Vineyards


Perhaps the highlight of our Napa Valley Mt Veeder appellation wine experience was Rubissow Vineyards. Founded by George Rubissow and Tony Sargent, the Mt.Veeder estate is planted in Bordeaux varietals. George and Tony go back to the 1960's when George also struck up a friendship with, and gained invaluable advice from, the legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Today, after twenty-five years, George has handed over operations to the next generation, Ariel and Peter Rubissow who are in their third year carrying on the family tradition of quality crafted mountain vineyard wines.

George Rubissow and the original Rubissow Sargent Label.
Rubissow Wine Flight

Wines tasted:



Rubissow Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - Complex, concentrated, full bodied - winemaker notes - deep brambly richness, black currant, graphite, clove, kirsch, raspberry jam, smoke, dark caramel. The Bordeaux blend is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot , 3% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. RM 92 points.

Rubissow Mt Veeder Merlot 2006 - Soft, elegant, polished - flavorful - winemaker notes - rich flavors of brandied cherry, red raspberry, plum, herb, bay, cocoa nibs, coffee, roasted morels. RM 91 points.

Rubissow Trompettes 2005 - Medium bodied - subdued elegance - winemaker notes - Forward, perfumed aromatics of blueberry, coffee, and cocoa, amidst a rich floral background. Plush blueberry / vanilla flavors, balanced tannins, good acidity and soft minerality carry through the very long finish. The blend is Cabernet Franc 65% Merlot 25% Cabernet Sauvignon 10%. Less than 200 cases were produced. RM 90 points.

Rubissow-Sargent Reserve 2006 - Dark, full bodied, complex, rich and powerful - blackberry, blackcurrant, layer of vanilla bean turns to sweet, toasted oak and subtle herbal notes with balanced tannins on a long complex finish. RM 90 points.


The Rubissow hilltop vineyard looks to Carneros south with views in the distance of Mt Diablo to the west of San Francisco Bay and Mt Tamalpais in Marin to the north of the golden gate.


Rubissow Hilltop Vineyard looking out to San Pablo Bay


Bill C and Bill C Tasting With George Rubissow



George telling the Rubissow Story to porch tasters



Rick and Linda with George Rubissow
Rick and Bill with George Rubissow

Rubissow Hilltop Vineyard
Rubissow Road Vineyard

Tasting on the porch at Rubissow






Picturesque Mt Veeder Rubissow Vineyards

Rubissow's Barbara Jura leading estate grounds walk