How many wineries have been born from their initial grape growing to their “Let’s put it in a bottle?”
Scads… I can’t blame them, either. Most of the brands I work with have gone this route. It’s just a natural progression. Sometimes it happens in the current generation, sometimes it’s the next… From Mounts Vineyard to Mounts Family Winery , it’s the latter. Richard Mounts is a second generation grape growers in west Dry Creek Valley. His father bought the original 60-acre lot in 1946, then bought another 40-acres in 1952, and, little by little, purchased what has become 140-acres of prime real estate.
Mounts Vineyard sits on a knoll, and has a glorious view spreading down hill where the family home is situated…. It’s rural farm country, completely off the wine road charts.
Now, imagine growing up on this wine grape farm as a third generation kid, helping his dad Rich work the land, all the while wondering about where these grapes were going. As Dave Mounts matured, so did his curiosity for what the potential of these grapes could be, if he were to make wine from these Dry Creek Valley grapes. This is what gives birth to another winemaker, whose roots were already firmly planted in a vineyard, the day he was born.
How I hooked up with David and Lana Mounts is that Dave’s first vintage of Petite Sirah was coming on line, and they decided that they’d join PS I Love You . When I put out the word that Sergeant First Class Cheryl Dupris wanted to come to California to taste only Petite, Lana Mounts immediately volunteered to host her for a Bar-B-Que lunch. Once I set up the 10 day extravaganza for Cheryl, I realized that there was no way Cheryl would be able to navigate the course I had set her upon without a guide… so off we went. We spent Tuesday, April 10 in Healdsburg, with the day beginning at the Mounts’s.
Lana, Dave, and Rich met Cheryl and me as we arrived. We first toured their sprawling acreage in an old, open-air vintage Jeep, giving Cheryl the Vit 101 session… From vines to trellising to irrigation et al. Besides the fact that Cheryl had just returned from Afghanistan, she’s also based in New York City, having been raised in South Dakota. Viticulture for Cheryl was a bottle of wine, so Dave took the time to explain the entire process. As I toured with them, I realized how fortunate Cheryl was, remembering the 1980s, when I’d visit California from Maine. Like so many who come to California to commune with wine, it was a tasting-room-only experience. Cheryl’s first trip consisted of a 10-day, all-access, back stage pass…
It was very privileged, and it also allowed me to get to know many of the PSILY members with whom most of my conversations are through E-mail. Couple that with the Mounts being new members, and this day became an immersion into their lives. Together Cheryl and I came to understand the passion behind this family.
Mounts Vineyards has a range of slopes, soils, and exposures that makes farming the property far from cookie cutter. Here, in bucolic Dry Creek Valley, the Mountses grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel… and what brought us there, Petite Sirah. For the last 52 years, the Mountses have sold that fruit mostly to Gallo, but also smaller amounts to Amphora, Blackstone, Clos du Bois, Hop Kiln, Ravenswood, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Simi. They still sell most of their grapes to others, but are dabbling in their own brand at Mounts Family Winery. New wine clients continue to purchase their grapes: Michael Mondavi’s Folio brands (son Rob Mondavi, also a PSILY member, produces Spellbound Petite Sirah, although I don’t know if his grapes come from Mounts) and Francis Ford Coppola.
Dave has created a small wine cellar in a century old barn. His playful nature led him to place a small duck on a low archway that leads into his cellar. (If you don’t immediately get it… you’ll shortly get it, unless you’re short, of course.) Starting out with only 500 cases, Dave has an eye toward small and measured growth. Mounts Family wines retail between $22.00 to $28.00 a bottle (great pricing for hand crafted wines), and his wines really rock. Dave’s experimenting with oak… same wine in different barrels… a palate of pleasures… a delightful learning curve for Cheryl, who only knew what wine looked like as it poured from a bottle. Using his “thief,” we tasted all of his wines. Yes, Cheryl did step outside of her Petite comfort zone to discover that other reds are okay, too.
Cheryl and I were treated to a fabulous B-B-Que lunch by the entire family, while overlooking the Dry Creek Valley floor below. Every attention to detail was cared for; Rich had been Bar-B-Queing, and Dave’s mom Diana prepared the rest of the banquet for all of us, while we were touring their vineyards and tasting their wines. The kids were hopping about and ready when we arrived… anxious to get on with lunch. It was a picture perfect day in Sonoma County.
With an eye toward the future, Dave Mounts proudly states that they’re four generations of farmers… while his young son is scampering around the property, more involved with chasing butterflies, all the while terroir is being deeply infused into his soul. Mounts Family Winery: 3901 Vine Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA ~ 707-292-8148. They’re open by appointment, only.