Yesterday, while touring vineyards with Celia Welch Masyczek, we visited one of her Cabernet sites, Sage Hill Vineyard. This is the former Long Vineyards property and is several hundred feet in elevation. It’s one of three vineyards she uses for her Corra Napa Valley Cabernet.
Sage Hill is on Pritchard Hill, east of Rutherford and the Napa Valley floor. It’s home now to many famous vineyards, including Chappellet, Bryant and Colgin, to name three. When the Chappellets planted their vines in the 1960s, Pritchard Hill was out in the sticks; Bob and Zelma Long were also pioneers and favored Chardonnay first, and later Cabernet. But now there are dozens of vineyards and many wineries and for good reason—this is great Cabernet country.
As Masyczek showed me the ripening Cabernet clusters—this is a very mixed year given the severe spring frosts—Lake Hennessy rather suddenly came into view, so we took a few minutes to talk about its influence on the nearby vineyards.
This large body of water is the main source for the city of Napa. You can see the surrounding hills are mostly barren, very dry and golden brown. But the lake acts as an air conditioner. Standing where we were, more than a mile away from the water, we could feel the cool air rising up the hillside, which was a marked contrast to the warm sun at our backs.
The lake has great influence on the terroir of this area, since without it the climate would be much warmer, as it is as you move east and inland. It also keeps the temperature a bit warmer in colder winter months.
One day this area will become an appellation since the wines are very distinctive. One question, though, is whether it’s best-called Pritchard Hill or Lake Hennessy. Both the hill, its elevation, exposures and the water define the area. Yesterday I would have voted for the lake.
Mike Bostancic — August 1, 2008 8:01pm ET
Corbin Butler — August 3, 2008 12:03am ET
John Gavin — CA — August 9, 2008 4:10pm ET
Keller Ford — MO — August 16, 2008 1:01am ET
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