"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. This week we pick up from last week's part 1 of the Vineyard {511} story. Click here to read part 1 which covered the Diamond Mountain AVA, ownership, what to do with an acre of grapes, and meeting the winemaker. . 

Vineyard {511} and the Wines of Diamond Mountain District (cont'd) by Ed Ojdana

What to Call It?

Before designing a logo and label for their wine, Ed and Irene needed to decide what to call it. Surveying other wine labels, they concluded that wine labels typically fall into several categories based on 1) the winery owner’s or family's name (e.g., Peter Michael), 2) geography, location or topography (e.g., Rutherford Hill), 3) critters or trees (e.g., Frog’s Leap or Silver Oak), 4) whimsical or humorous (e.g., Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon), 5) sensation oriented (e.g., Thumbprint Winery’s Four Play), or 6) foreign language derivative (e.g., L’Angevin Wines).  They chose the name Vineyard {511} to reflect that the grapes come from a single vineyard and, more specifically, from their property at 511 Kortum Canyon Road, on Diamond Mountain.

Designing the Vineyard {511} Logo and Label

Irene describes the Vineyard {511} label design as follows: “We wanted our bottle and logo to reflect not only our pride in our wine, but also to reflect the beauty of Diamond Mountain and our love of art. Our home and vineyard are surrounded by lovely mountains and colorful sculpture. So with the help of our talented designer Christian McDaniel, we presented ten designs to our friends and family for their input.  Because it does take a village, we blended their ideas with our own and came up with a subtle and graceful, diamond-inspired image reflecting both Diamond Mountain and, of course, that diamonds are a girl’s best friend! We used color for drama and silk screening (rather than a paper label) for elegance. We hope our bottle and label enhance the already-wonderful experience of our Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. “ 

Getting to Know the Diamond Mountain Neighborhood

When purchasing their property, Ed and Irene knew that they were outsiders moving into a well- established community of wineries and generations of families.  They were concerned about how their Diamond Mountain neighbors would accept the “newbies” with Hollywood and internet-tech backgrounds.  Their fears soon vanished as they made friends, first with their most immediate neighbors, Norm and Suzie Kiken, owners of Reverie Winery, that abuts Vineyard {511}.

Norm acquired Reverie in 1993.  Today Reverie has nine varieties of grapes–Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Barbera, Tempranillo, Grenache, and Roussanne.  Although all of Reverie’s wines are great, Ed and Irene particularly favor Norm’s Barbera and Roussanne.  The limited production of these wines sells out quickly with each new vintage. 

Norm and Suzie, Owners Reverie Winery

Norm and Suzie, Owners Reverie Winery

Through Norm and Suzie, Ed and Irene were invited to the annual Diamond Mountain Holiday Party, where they were welcomed by many of the winemakers and residents of Diamond Mountain. Like Norm and Suzie, no matter how well- known their wines or reputations in the wine industry, Ed and Irene discovered a group of neighbors always willing to help a neighbor or provide practical advice regarding their wine.  Boots Brounstein, who with her late husband Al's efforts, are credited with bringing recognition to Diamond Mountain Cabernet.  Diamond Creek Cabernet, with its inaugural 1972 vintage, set the standard for Napa Valley Cabernets made exclusively from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Their vineyard designate Diamond Mountain District Cabernets are among California’s most sought after wines:  Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and Lake Vineyard.  Boots, along with her son Phil Ross and his wife Susan, who now run Diamond Creek Winery, are always approachable for help and advice, or for just a great evening having dinner and drinking wine.

Bill and Dawnine Dyer are probably the most famous winemaker couple on Diamond Mountain. Bill made wine at Sterling Vineyards for 20 years, from 1976 to 1996, starting as Cellarmaster and becoming Winemaker in 1985.  He was responsible for developing its single-vineyard wines, including a Cabernet from Diamond Mountain.  Dawnine spent 25 years as Winemaker at Domaine Chandon, where she introduced many original sparkling wines and wine styles.  They purchased 12 acres of land on Diamond Mountain in 1992.  With considerable effort, they cleared 2.3 acres and planted Cabernet Sauvignon (78%), Cabernet Franc (16%) and Petit Verdot (6%).  Later they built a home on the property, with the vineyard as their front yard.  Bill and Dawnine are highly engaged in the Napa Valley and Diamond Mountain communities.  Besides offering Ed and Irene advice on marketing their wine, they can always be counted on to keep updated on the many community and political issues in Diamond Mountain and Napa Valley.

Last summer Ed and Irene hosted a Diamond Mountain Neighborhood End- of- Summer Party and were delighted to entertain so many of their neighbors, famous and not so famous!

Mountain versus Valley Wines

The debate regarding mountain versus valley floor wines, is “a slippery slope.”  Both can produce excellent wines but with differences:

  • Napa Valley Mountain AVAs tend to be above the fog level and are bathed in sunshine, when the valley floor is covered in chilly fog.  Evening temperatures are also warmer for mountain sites than they are for those on the valley floor.  With fewer dramatic swings (diurnal) in temperature, mountain grapes build acid and sugar slowly.  The wines tend to have a good balance of alcohol and acid as a result.  Tannins tend to be more prevalent for mountain wines.

Vineyard {511} grapes

Vineyard {511} grapes

  • ·Most Napa Valley Mountain AVAs consist of volcanic soil, with Mt Veeder being the exception.  Valley soils tend to be deep and rich, sedimentary and alluvial.  Hillside or mountain vines are highly stressed, as their roots must go deeper for water and nutrients. Consequently, hillside vineyards produce smaller grapes and fewer berries than do valley floor vineyards. Hillside wines thus tend to be more concentrated with intense aromas and flavors.  Alcohol levels of mountain wines tend to be lower than that of valley wines produced from grapes that are larger and more juicy than are mountain grapes.  Tannins also tend to be more intense in mountain wines with smaller grapes increasing the amount of wine skins relative to juice during the fermentation process. 

Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon exemplifies these characteristics of mountain wines.  The low-yielding vineyard produces small, intense berries with flavors of cherry cola mixed with cocoa powder and rich tobacco and cedar notes. Its intense, dark, garnet color is accompanied by aromas of dark roast expresso, dark chocolate-covered cherries, and new oak.

Three Vintages Later

Fast forward and Ed and Irene have released three vintages of Vineyard {511} Diamond District Cabernet Sauvignon:  2009, 2010, and 2011.  They’ve also started a wine club called Encounter {511}, that celebrates each harvest with a Harvest Party at Vineyard 511 for club members.

Here’s what their winemaker says about each vintage:

2009 Vineyard {511}:  "This wine should be able to age for 20 years, but I always go back to the story of my dad and me. When we go down to the cellar, I want to pull cabs from 1990-1992. He wants to pull from 2005-2008. He wants to have the bright fruit, while I like the smoothness and richness that aging gives a wine. Luckily for us, we just open two bottles."  92 points, Wine Enthusiast

2010 Vineyard {511}:  "What I love about the 2010 is that it is a classic Napa Cabernet.  It has notes of tar, black currant, and a bright acidity. It is a rich, clean, powerful Cabernet that shows the effort we made in taming and smoothing the classic Diamond Mountain tannins.  The clean fruit makes me want to drink this wine now, but I know how much more I will like it with 10+ years of aging." 90 points, Wine Enhusiast, Gold and Double Gold Medal Winner, Orange County (CA) and Florida State Fairs, respectively

2011 Vineyard {511}:  “2011 was a late year for Napa Cabernet.  The growing season started late due to winter conditions lasting into spring.  We were lucky that warm conditions followed, and with Vineyard {511}’s nice hillside and western exposure, the vines were able to ripen, even with their slow start.  The grapes were picked on October 26th,in 2011, as compared to October 1st, in 2009.  So, while we started late, we also finished late, so that the grapes not only had time to get their sugar, but also had time to get their ‘ripeness’.  I love the 2011 for its smooth tannins and rich finish, which should drink well even upon release.” Release date: March 15, 2015

For more information, visit the Vineyard {511} website:  www.vineyard511.com.

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