Viewing entries tagged
Diamond Mountain AVA

Vineyard511 pt2

Vineyard511 pt2

"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:

Be sure to add your Vineyard {511} Wine experiences in the VAULT29 app

"Like" Vineyard {511} on Facebook and "follow" them on Twitter @Vineyard511

Vineyard511 pt 1

Vineyard511 pt 1

"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 are proud to feature Vineyard {511} a family owned and operated winery rich in history, high in the hills of the acclaimed Diamond Mountain AVA who believes, "Like a great restaurant that is a reflection of its chef, a great wine is a reflection of its winemaker, as well as of its vineyard‏."

Vineyard {511} and the Wines of Diamond Mountain District by Ed Ojdana

Napa Valley Map | VULT29

Located just two miles southwest of Calistoga, CA, Diamond Mountain has a long and rich winemaking history in Napa Valley.  Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards, laid out near the mountaintop at 2,200 feet above sea level, is one of the oldest vineyards in Napa Valley, dating back to the late 1890s.  The Diamond Mountain District AVA, created in 2001, is unique with only 500 acres of vines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, although small amounts of other varietals, such as Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc, are also grown. Wineries located in the Diamond Mountain District (DMD) AVA are small production wineries, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand cases each year.  Diamond Mountain Ranch, owned by Sterling Vineyards, is the largest vineyard on Diamond Mountain, with about 200 acres of grapes on 307 acres of property.

Vineyard {511} on Diamond Mountain

Vineyard {511} on Diamond Mountain

In 2008, Ed and Irene Ojdana purchased a 6-acre estate on Diamond Mountain, which included a small vineyard, originally planted in 2001, with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  Although Ed had some experience in the alcohol beverage industry, having worked at Olympia Brewing Company in the 1970s, neither Ed nor Irene had a background in the wine industry other than knowing they liked great wines.  Over the years, they had visited Napa Valley many times and always thought it would be a great place to live when they gave up their day jobs.  Since then, they have learned a great deal about farming vineyards and producing wine, and particularly what makes mountain wines so different from other valley wines.

What to Do With an Acre of Grapes?

The prior owners of the Ojdana’s estate had planted the vineyard in 2001.  The vineyard, planted on a steep, west- facing hillside, draws the warm afternoon sun, allowing the grapes to slowly ripen during the growing season. A vineyard management company farmed the vines, and the grapes were being sold to the Duckhorn Winery at the time Ed and Irene purchased the property.  Dan Duckhorn was a close friend of the prior owners.  In 2007, however, GI Partners, a private equity group, bought a controlling interest in Duckhorn Winery, and Dan retired from active management in the winery. Because of the relatively small annual harvests (2 to 3 tons of grapes), the new management at Duckhorn was not interested in further purchasing the grapes.

Ed & Irene Ojdana, Owners Vineyard {511}

Ed & Irene Ojdana, Owners Vineyard {511}

Ed and Irene closed on the property in early 2008.  There was much to do as the house on the property was in need of remodeling and updating, which became their focus for the remainder of 2008.  Consequently, they sought another buyer for the grapes.  They quickly learned how easy it was to make connections in the valley. Through Paul and Sue Frank, friends from Los Angeles and owners of Gemstone Winery at the time, they eventually met Pam Starr, one of the superstar winemakers in the valley, whose resume includes Winemaker at Spottswoode Vineyard and Winery prior to founding her own winery, Crocker Starr.

Through Pam, Ed and Irene sold their 2008 harvest to boutique winery Garric Cellars, with Pam as their consulting Winemaker. Their 2008 harvest was disappointing, yielding only one ton of grapes from a vineyard that historically produced 2 to 3 tons.  They eventually learned that the vineyard management company had not properly irrigated the vineyard during the growing season, which resulted in the low yield.  An important lesson was learned about staying involved in the active management of their vineyard, rather than totally relying on a farming company.

As part of their agreement with Garric Cellars, Ed and Irene received 5 cases of wine made solely from their 2008 harvest. They will occasionally open a bottle for visitors to Vineyard {511} so, if you are able to get an appointment to taste their wines, be sure to ask about it.

With 2008 under their belts, it was clearly time for a change in direction for the vineyard. The storm clouds of the Great Recession that rolled through in 2009 had a devastating impact on Napa Valley and on the 2009 harvest. As wine producers cut back on their 2009 production plans, growers were hit hard.  Signs began appearing along Highway 29 advertising large quantities of grapes for sale – something unheard of in the valley.  Ed and Irene found themselves without a buyer for their 2009 harvest, as Garric Cellars also cut back on its production for 2009.

And so, the idea of producing wine under their own label took hold.  In the turbulent economic times of 2009, this was a risky decision.  However, given the time it takes to age an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, Ed and Irene rightly thought that the economy would be well on its way to recovery by the time their Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon was ready for release in early 2013.

Rob Lloyd, Winemaker Vineyard {511} 

Rob Lloyd, Winemaker Vineyard {511} 

Finding a Winemaker

The next challenge was to find the right winemaker.  Like a great restaurant that is a reflection of its chef, a great wine is a reflection of its winemaker, as well as of its vineyard.  Ed and Irene wanted an experienced winemaker, who believed in their vineyard and who could make a wine that reflected the Diamond Mountain District terroir.  As luck would have it, family connections played a key role in their search. Irene’s nephew, Geoff Silverman, had grown up with Paul Frank.  Paul is the son of Rich Frank and a highly-talented entertainment executive.  He and his father Rich currently are executive producers of Royal Pains, now in its seventh season on the USA Network.  Rich Frank, one of Hollywood’s most creative executives and longtime Disney executive, is also the owner of Frank Family Vineyards, near Calistoga, CA.  Geoff arranged a private tasting for Ed and Irene at Frank Family Vineyards during one of his visits to Napa Valley.  They were graciously hosted by Dennis Zablosky, the winery tasting room manager, who is often touted as one of the valley’s “legends.”

When Dennis heard that Ed and Irene were looking for a winemaker, he promptly volunteered that he had just the person for them – Rob Lloyd.  Rob is a graduate of UC Davis, where he received a master’s degree in Enology in 1999.  He subsequently worked at LaCrema as an Assistant Winemaker and then at Rombauer Vineyards, from 2001 to 2008, first as Assistant Winemaker and then as Winemaker.  While at Rombauer, the winery received many new accolades and awards for its wines, including being named by Wine Spectator as one of the Top 100 wines in the world in 2007.  In 2009, when Ed and Irene met Rob, he was, and remains, the Winemaker for Jessup Cellars and consults for several other wineries, including Humanitas, John Anthony Vineyards, and Handwritten Wines.  He also has own label: Lloyd by Robert Lloyd.

During the “courting” process, Rob visited Ed and Irene’s vineyard a number of times in the summer of 2009, tasting and analyzing the grapes from various parts of the vineyard. After much suspense, Rob told Ed and Irene that he thought he could make a “pretty good” Cabernet Sauvignon from the grapes, one that would reflect the traditional Napa cabs before the high alcohol, jammy, fruit forward wines became the trend.  Although mountain fruit is known for its tannins and often requires years of aging in the bottle, Rob felt that he could make wine that was drinkable upon release, as well as age well over a 10 to 15 year period. The wine would need to be aged in French oak considerably longer than the typical Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is aged to accomplish this.

Rob also recommended that Ed and Irene hire a new vineyard management company, one that he knew well, worked with, and trusted.  They subsequently hired John Truchard’s Vinewerkes company to farm their vineyard.  John’s family is well known in the valley (Truchard Vineyards).  John grew up in the valley, and it was only natural that he would continue their farming and winemaking tradition with his own vineyards and label (John Anthony Vineyards)...To Be Continued...

Please tune in next Monday for part 2 of Vineyard {511} and the Wines of Diamond Mountain, as Ed discusses topics like:

  • What to Call It?
  • Designing the Vineyard {511} Logo and Label
  • Getting to Know the Diamond Mountain Neighborhood
  • Mountain Wines vs Valley WInes

Be sure to add your Vineyard {511} wine experiences in the VAULT29 app!

"Like" Vineyard {511} on Facebook and "follow" them on Twitter @Vineyard511