Howell Mountain Park Muscatine Vineyard
It took a few years to convince Randy Dunn, Mike’s father, to sell them some Petite Sirah grapes from the historic Park Muscatine vineyard on Howell Mountain.
The 4 acre-vineyard was planted originally in the 1890’s and has stood as a sentinel on Howell Mountain for more than a century. DNA testing shows that most of the vines are the Durif clone of Petite Sirah, and some are Peloursin, the original cross with Syrah that produced Durif.
In the 1980’s the fruit was sold to Ridge Vineyards, and blended with Zinfandel, producing a wine famous for its “cult” following. During the 90’s the grapes were sold to Stag’s Leap Winery, La Jota and Elyse, who also blended the grapes with others to make their wine.
Quality wine starts in the vineyard. The French know this, with their concept of “terroir”, a wine’s expression of the place of origin in the bottle.
The Howell Mountain sub-appellation of Napa Valley was established in 1983, when Randy Dunn (Dunn Vineyards), Mike Beatty (Howell Mountain Vineyards) and Bill Smith (La Jota) petitioned the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Randy, a pilot, surveyed the region from the air and observed the climactic and geological uniqueness of the area above 1400 feet in elevation to the east of the town of St. Helena. Volcanic soils, milder temperature-swings from day to night, and being above the fog-line are factors contributing to the uniqueness of the area, as compared to the Napa Valley floor. Today, there are many vineyards and wineries in the appellation producing the “big mountain reds” the area is known for. The Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Association promotes the appellation. Click here to visit their website.
For further information on the Howell Mountain appellation, here’s a link to an article by Steve Pitcher from the San Francisco Chronicle entitled, “GROWLIN’ GOOD GRAPES – Howell Mountain’s intense fruit attracts winemakers and bears alike ” Click here.
In 2005 Mike took budwood from the original Park Muscatine Vineyard and planted one acre of Petite Sirah next to the winery cave. As it turned out, there was a considerable amount of Peloursin in the budwood, so the resulting vineyard has about 15% Peloursin vines. The Peloursin adds a nice acidity to the wine, creating more balance and elegance than is typically found in Petite Sirahs. We call this vineyard “Los Abuelos”, meaning “the grandparents” in Spanish.
Starting with the 2012 vintage, we added the name “Elevation” to our Howell Mountain Petite Sirah label. We want to bring attention to the fact that the grapes for this wine are grown between 1800 – 2100 feet elevation on Howell Mountain. We also began moving toward a blended wine, adding some Syrah from the one acre vineyard next to our house on Summit Lake Drive, and some Zinfandel from the Rust Ridge vineyard in Chiles Valley to the east of us.
Napa Valley Iron Corral
Starting with the 2007 vintage Mike sourced 4 tons of Petite Sirah from a ranch in Pope Valley, the valley to the east of Napa Valley within the Napa Valley appellation. The principal difference between the old vine Howell Mountain and the Pope Valley Petite Sirah is the terroir. The Pope Valley vineyard is about 1,300 feet lower in elevation than our Park Muscatine Vineyard on Howell Mountain, has more alluvial soil than the iron-rich red clay of Howell Mtn., and has a warmer growing season and younger vines which produce great fruit without the heavy tannins. 195 cases were produced that vintage, and have met with great enthusiasm by restauranteurs in particular who are looking for a more fruit-forward Petite Sirah. We are especially pleased to have the wine on the list at the famed French Laundry.