A perfect day for great wine, music, and food

The Howell Mountain Association held their 2012 Harvest Celebration at the V Wine Cellar in beautiful Yountville. 17 different wineries were pouring their wines sourced from the Howell Mountain AVA. Before we get into the event, here’s some info on the AVA and its history:

The Howell Mountain AVA

Nestled high above the Northern Napa Valley, the Howell Mountain AVA produces some of the best red wine in the world.  These wines do not yet have the cachet or notoriety of reds produced in The Valley, but it won’t take long for the public at large to discover that these wines stack up to the best reds produced anywhere.

Howell Mountain was granted its AVA in 1983 and has since grown in both stature and in the number of wineries producing wines from this region.  Vineyards here sit between 1,400 and 2,300 feet above sea level and are thus quite different in character from vineyards only a few miles away.  The growing season here begins much later than in the valley.  Early on, cool foggy nights and day time temps as much a 10 degrees cooler than the valley are common.  By mid-summer, however, the mountain enjoys much warmer temps as it is above the fog layer that dominates the valley in mid to late summer and early fall.  This produces big, bold, and very complex wines that have a unique character all their own.  Howell Mountain wines are truly unique and are among our favorites.  While the quality of these wines can rival any, their price points are quite a bit less than most top valley wines adding value to the list of reasons to try these fantastic wines!

The Event

For starters, the weather was absolutely perfect. Bright sunshine and warm temperatures gave no indication it was November but rather felt more like a rare non foggy day in June. The 17 wineries were spread out quite well both indoors and outdoors. To be honest, after attending the Atlas Peak tasting a few months ago, we wondered how they would fit 17 different stations in the smallish V Wine Cellars space but they did a fantastic job of spreading things out and making it comfortable to navigate between each producer. Inside there were two food stations providing tasty bites courtesy of Winery Chefs.

We were greeted enthusiastically by the folks out front, checked in, and with glass in hand began our journey. Below we will highlight some of our favorites but please know that all the wineries pouring at this great event are very much worth seeking out!

The Wineries

Blue Hall
Bremer Family
Charles Krug
Howell at the Moon
John Robert Eppler
Notre Vin
Pestoni Family
Red Cap
Robert Craig

The Music

Once again, the music was a home run! As we found our way around the event, we were treated to tremendous music performed by Farsheed Etniko and Sue Jewell. As you may recall, we loved listening to Farsheed’s incredible guitar playing at the Atlas Peak tasting. This time he was accompanied by Sue Jewell who expertly alternated on keyboards and percussion. The highlight was a fantastic instrumental rendition of Sting’s Fragile off the Nothing Like The Sun Album.  The music truly was the perfect pair for the great wine and food we were enjoying.

For more info: http://farshidetniko.com

Wine and Food

Inside, there were two stations of wonderful bites consisting of fresh cheeses, nuts, and meats including the freshest and best prosciutto I’ve had in a while. All the bites paired perfectly with the wines being poured. Once again, A+ to Winery Chefs for the terrific food!

More Info: Winery Chefs

We must reiterate that every wine we tried was fantastic. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Robert Craig and Bravante Vineyards
As we noted in our review of the Howell Mountain Benefit, the current Howell releases for both Robert Craig and Bravante were one of the stars of the show. Craig’s 2009 Cab and 2010 Zin were exceptional as were the Cab, Merlot, Sauv. Blanc and TRIO red blend from Bravante. Click here for a detailed review of the Howell Mountain Benefit and their fantastic wines.

Dunn Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Vineyard: Estate – Howell Mountain
Price: $110.00

A old world throwback from right here in Napa. Currant and dark berry with perfectly subtle hints of earth on the nose give way to dark currant and dark mountain berry on the mid. This is a dry complex and very age worthy effort that one could almost say is Bordeaux like in its refinement. Make no mistake though, the big mountain fruit comes through nicely. This is a very food friendly Cab that will be a perfect pair for grilled steak, or rack of lamb. Exceptional!

Red Cap 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Blend: 100% Cabernet
Vineyard: Estate – Howell Mountain
Price: $65.00

This was the biggest surprise of the event as we had never heard of Red Cap previously. A fantastic wine and a new favorite including the very tasty Sauv. Blanc. Tom and Desiree Altemus ended up on the wine business more as a result of finding a great place to raise their family rather than dreaming of 98s from Robert Parker. We’re so glad they did as they, with winemaker Rudy Zuidema, have created a simply stunning array of wines. The Cab is lush, big, and complex with a nose consisting of dark mountain berry, cola, and earthy spice. The mid is full of big dark mountain fruit and finishes long with tobacco and minerals. The $65 price point is another big plus for a wine this elegant. Tanins show this will age very nicely for quite awhile.

Notre Vin 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard: Hughes Vineyard – Howell Mountain
Price: $36.00

You would be hard pressed to find a more distinguished wine pedigree than Notre Vin proprietors and winemakers Dennis and May-Britt Malbec. Hailing as the third generation of their family to produce wines for First Growth Bordeaux giant Chateau Latour, they have brougth their considerable talents to Napa and are producing an amazing array of wines.

The 2008 Cabernet Rosé is such an example. This is a true Rosé in the French tradition that has made it so very popular in Europe. Dry but with a very lush mouthfeel. On the nose, bright berry and pomegranate abound. The mid has beautiful and complex raspberry and strawberry with a delicate and satisfying finish with hints of blueberry and minerals. This wine will pair perfectly with grilled chicken (red bbq sauce), pork loin roast, or cornish game hens. Among the best of the best in California Rosé!

Notre Vin 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Blend: 93% Cabernet, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot
Vineyard: Hughes Vineyard – Howell Mountain
Price: $150.00

Another surprising wine from Howell Mountain. This, not surprisingly, is a Bordeaux that happens to be sourced from Napa fruit. Elegant, refined, and as food friendly a Cab as you will find from these parts. Lush notes of dark huckleberry, dark cherry and hints of licorice on the nose with plenty of more dark mountain berry, cherry and hints of cedar on the mid. Finish is balanced and long with bright stone and graphite. A fantastic wine that is made for grilled steak, braised ribs, or beef roasts. Although the $150 price tag is too steep for us, considering that this is a 2004 and is an exceptional wine, the price is more than reasonable.

Pestoni Family Vineyard 2007 / 2008 Merlot
Blend: 100% Merlot
Vineyard: Three Tears Vineyard – Howell Mountain
Price: $50.00

We first have to mention that their Cabernet was also exceptional but are highlighting the Merlots as they are near life altering. Big and bold but refined and complex best describes these wonderful wines. The differences the 07 and 08 also illustrate how cellar worthy they are. Dark mountain berry and hints of dark chocolate on the nose give way to dark plum, berry and cocoa on the mid. Finish is smooth and plenty long with hints of oaky spice. Perfect for grilled steak or beef stew.

CADE 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Blend: 96% Cabernet, 4% Merlot
Vineyard: Estate
Price: $80.00

An outstanding big bold Cab just the way we like it! Big dark berry, plum, and oak abound. A true mountain masterpiece as a wine this big should not be able to be so complex and elegant but is. Highly recommended!

Other Standouts
Included a wonderful 2008 Old Vine Syrah from Retro Cellars and amazing Cabs from Howell at the Moon, Cimarosa, Cornerstone, and SPENCE.  All worth your attention!


The SF Giants we’re not the only ones sweeping this year. Sam Peters and his staff have now completed a sweep of their own. Producing the best and most wine fan friendly tasting events in the valley. We can’t thank them, the wineries, winery chefs, and Farsheed and Sue enough for a truly enjoyable day. We made new friends, found new wines, and couldn’t help but drive home with a smile.