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News

Dear Friends,

When writing about our present and future it is always inspiring to look to the past. Fifty years ago, Jack Taylor – the owner of Mayacamas Vineyards from 1941 until 1968 – distributed a newsletter to his customers very much like this one. It was dated September 1965 and titled “Bulletin #70.”

Bulletin #70, like all the newsletters from that fascinating era, offers a wonderful glimpse into the pioneer spirit of Napa winemaking at a time when the industry we know today was largely unformed.  

In his letter, Mr. Taylor offers a peek into his world as winemaker – lamenting lighter than desired crop loads and the high cost of doing business in Napa. But he takes pride in his small production levels and his caring, “traditional” approach to produce only the finest wines. He talks about the physical strain of harvest and the long hours that accompany it, but that the finished product – still years from being ready - makes it all worthwhile.

Fifty years on, the 2015 harvest season is coming to a head, with OUR crews working overtime as fruit arrives into the winery much earlier than normal.  As of the first day of September, all of our Chardonnay grapes had been picked, along with the first lots of Cabernet and Merlot. Much like Mr. Taylor experienced 5 decades ago, the harvest while very high in quality, is unfortunately very small due to an uneven fruit set in spring. 

Whether it is small crops, long arduous hours during harvest, or the peculiarities of winery life, one can’t help but notice the similarities the stewards of Mayacamas share. Today’s conversations, problems, and successes are not unique to us. Wine proves, over and over again, to be a consistent cycle, and a long measure of time.  

In his newsletter, Mr. Taylor takes care to remind his readers that they, as the buyers of his wines, are an integral part of the success of the business he looks after so carefully.  And just as he did fifty years ago, we offer all of you who support this winery and our efforts as its caretakers, a great debt of gratitude.

All Our Best,

The Mayacamas Team

 

 

 

 

 

The transition from Winter to Spring in the Napa Valley is always one of the most exciting times of year - dormant vines come alive, and a new year’s cycle of winegrowing begins.  There is no exception at Mayacamas – the Spring shoots are out and our new team embarks on what will be our first full year of stewardship on this most amazing of properties.

2014 began in the midst of the driest weather in California history.  Quite fortunately, by the beginning of March more rain had fallen than in all of 2013 combined, offering the stressed vines much needed relief.  What had been an arid and dusty landscape quickly turned green as new cover crops began to sprout in the recharged soil.  Bud break came early and our attention was focused on the busy year ahead. 

While of course each year brings with it unique qualities, the importance of tradition and legacy should never be overlooked, especially at a place like Mayacamas.  The more time we spend here, the clearer (and more empowering) that idea becomes.  Our winemaking team’s first vintage, 2013, is resting comfortably in the cellar.  Outside of a few minor equipment updates, these wines were made in the classic Mayacamas style – something we will continue to do as long as we steward this historic property.  We look forward to sharing these, as well as the iconic wines produced by Bob Travers, for years to come. 

While the property remains temporarily closed to visitors, we will look forward to welcoming you back this summer. Over the next few months we will make some property improvements to ensure our guests and staff are as comfortable as possible.  If you have ever visited the Estate, you know how beautiful it is; the old-world charm found here since 1889 is something we all love dearly, and our singular inspiration as we plan for the future. 

Please accept our thanks and appreciation for your continued support of this iconic Napa Valley story. 

Jimmy Hayes

Estate Director

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History

Mayacamas Vineyards is located in the Mayacamas Mountains that divide the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Near the summit of Mount Veeder, the old stone winery was dug into the side of a dormant volcano crater in the late 19th century. Fifty-two acres of vineyards are planted on mountainsides ranging from 1,800 to 2,400 feet above sea level. Obsidian arrowheads and stone grain-grinding bowls found on the property bear silent testimony to Mayacamas' first human inhabitants, the Native Americans of the Wappo tribe.

It is from the Wappo language that the name "Mayacamas" derives; believed to have meant "the howl of the mountain lion". But other possible meanings of the word exist: "the source of the water", referring to the springs and headwaters of creeks that feed the Napa and Sonoma Rivers, a "standing place" referring to a trail marker, or a human scout. Perhaps, in some way lost to present understanding, "Mayacamas" meant a combination of all of these ideas to the Wappo. But, as the language was never written, and its speakers are no longer with us, the original sense of the word Mayacamas remains shrouded in the past. What remains today is a homage to the first meaning, "the howl of the mountain lion," on the Mayacamas label, in the emblematic "M" which bears two lions dancing within.

 

Nestled in the Mayacamas Mountains overlooking the Napa Valley is a small (25 square-mile) appellation that produces wines of elegance and rustic mountain power.  The Mount Veeder American Viticultural Area (AVA) stretches about 13 miles from north to south in the Mayacamas Range on the western edge of Napa Valley; almost one-third the length of the valley.

The vignerons of Mt. Veeder range from recluses and dairy farmers to artists, musicians and businessmen.  It takes a love of the vine, unrelenting patience and sheer guts to grow grapes on this rugged, volcanic mountain.  The slopes are steep, the soils are thin and the viticulture is back-breaking, but, the result is intense, chewy wines with distinctive wild berry fruit flavors and magnificent spice.  The region’s area totals around 15,000 acres, with over 1,000 acres under vine.  Some vineyard slopes here are as steep as 30 degrees, allowing more direct exposure to the sun, as well as providing superior air drainage thus reducing the climatic extremes.  The wines of Mt. Veeder are a testament to the efforts of vignerons with true passion.

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Vineyards

The mountain terroir at Mayacamas Vineyards, ranging from 1,800 to 2,400 feet above sea level, provides our grapes with their distinctive, intense flavors. Mount Veeder is a volcanic peak, and the soils on the mountain are complex; they include ash, tufa, sedimentary soils, and lava. Many of the slopes are steep, requiring vineyard terraces.

Annual rainfall averages 50 inches, roughly double that of the adjacent Napa Valley floor. With this abundant rainfall, we are able to dry-farm all of our mature vineyards, only irrigating our young vines for the first five years to establish their roots. Dry-farming on our steep, rocky hillsides produces crops of small, highly flavorful grapes.

The vineyards at Mayacamas have been planted in many stages throughout its history.  The oldest wine-producing vineyards are the Chardonnay terraces, planted from 1950 to 1952. The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards that surround the winery were planted in the early 1960s. Blocks of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and more Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted through the late 1980s.

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Winemaking

The steep rocky slopes of the vineyards at Mayacamas yield small crops of tiny, intensely flavored grapes that result in full character development in the wines.  Classic winemaking methods allow the essence of the terroir to be fully expressed.  Each varietal preserves a purity, intensity and ageability that is a characteristic of Mayacamas wines.

About 1,500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon are made each year. Following fermentation, the wine spends two years in large American oak casks followed by a year in 60 gallon French oak barrels. The wines are released at about five years of age and we recommend that Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon be consumed at twelve to twenty five years of age; although some vintages will be at or near their best for even longer.

Annual production of Chardonnay also averages nearly 1,500 cases. A year of aging in 60 gallon French oak barrels precedes bottling. These wines usually reach maturity at five to eight years of age but some hold near their peak for many more years.

Just a few hundred cases of Merlot are made each year.  Mayacamas Merlot is an uncommonly serious and complex expression of this varietal.  The structure and soil expression complementing Merlot’s dark fruit, tobacco and cedar.

The legendary winemaking style of Bob Travers continues onward under our watch; keeping alive this great tradition of age-worthy, classic mountain wines remains a cornerstone of our winemaking philosophy.

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Inside information

"Mayacamas Vineyards is among the classic wineries that have made California wines among the world's finest. The original stone winery is a Napa classic. The Mayacamas wines remain extraordinary...they offer a freshness almost unparalleled in Napa, along with an intensity of tannin that can invigorate fans of the valley's classic wines...what's clear about the Mayacamas wines is their durability---the legendary 1974 is still young...-not just Cabernet, but Merlot (one of Napa's treasures) and the vibrant Chardonnay. Recently I tried Chardonnays from the early 1990's, which were holding up far better than many Burgundies from the era."

---Jon Bonne
The San Francisco Chronicle
Reviewing in 2013

 

 

Today is a day I will remember for the rest of my wine career, the day the 2007 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon was released...this is one of the greatest Cabernets from this winery in recent memory. I was thrilled to taste this...Mayacamas is a legend in Napa Valley winemaking...distinctive and powerful and unique...the nose made me want to cry, it is so utterly pure and clearly, unmistakably Napa Cabernet...it is brooding, in the sense you know there is a mass of stuff in there...so deep, so concentrated...it's mysterious...this is serious, intense, cerebral stuff, but it is not particularly chewy or rough...it is rather a beautifully concentrated yet medium-bodied, balanced and uber-complex mountain wine."

---Stefan Blicker
of BP Wine and The St. Helena Star
on the 2007 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon

 

 

"Really, you can't do better than Mayacamas Vineyards for California wine profoundness...the source of some of Napa Valley's most significant wines, both red and white...Mayacamas Vineyards makes some of California's greatest Cabernets, period...original, dramatically fine Chardonnay like almost no other in California---or anywhere else for that matter...it's one of America's greatest Chardonnays, bar none...Mayacamas Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc's high-elevation, low-yield stoniness and diamond-sharp delineation is virtually unrivalled in California."

---Matt Kramer
of The Wine Spectator

 

"Mayacamas Vineyards is legendary...it's reputation for producing amazingly complex, long-lived wines is well-deserved...Mayacamas Cabernets are deeply colored, enormously rich and concentrated wines...these wines live up to their billing. The rewards of cellaring can be awesome. Mayacamas Cabernets are as rich, complex, and structured as any produced in California."

---James Laube
of The Wine Spectator

 

 

" It is the exceptional quality of this ensemble, year in and year out, that has compelled me to place Mayacamas Vineyards in a unique category of greatness I have not heretofore accorded any other American winery. Thoroughly French in style straight cross the board, big, complex, assertive, yet always impeccably balanced, opulently fruity, delicious, and wonderfully rewarding on the palate, these in my view are flawless creations. The Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnays are stupendous---high in acidity, with mouth-filling, vanilla-tinged, pear-and-lemon-like fruit components...stylistically akin to a first-class Chevalier Montrachet, ample in scale, with delectable vanilla and melon taste components-absolutely superb. A vintage-by-vintage comparison between Chateau Latour and the Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon discloses that in every case the Napa Valley entry will substantially outlive the magnificent Paulliac. To put it simply, no Bordeaux or American Cabernet Sauvignon made since the 1960s, other than Chateau Latour from time to time, can approach within fifteen years of the potential longevity of all but one (1972) of the Mayacamas Vineyards examples. I regard it as a rare privilege to be able to be able to savor the wondrous beauty of these Mayacamas Vineyards reds."

---Martin Gersh
Wine and Spirits

 

 

"Thankfully, high-end producers such as Stony Hill, Hanzell, Mount Eden, Mayacamas and Chateau Montelena have stayed their original courses, producing flinty, lemony, structured Chardonnays that have palate-cleansing acidity and the capacity to improve in the cellar. When placed on the dinner table, they dazzle with their balance, backbone and minerality."

---Linda Murphy
Decanter

 

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People

  • Kelli White

    The World of Fine Wine
    "This is, simply put, one of the greatest California wines ever made. Still vibrant and youthful, it is highly aromatic: black tea and plum. Full-bodied, luscious, and accessible, yet quite complex. Long, stony finish. Iconic.
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