Great vibe at Dell’uva wine bar at 565 Green Street in San Francisco, loyal Random Ridge customers. En route to a poetry reading at Berkeley Art Museum with Brian Howlett and Steve Simpson in tow, found Dell’uva celebrating three years of business in a tough economy. Enjoyed a bottle of our Olas Sauvignon Blanc 2008 with owners Juri and Jason and server extraordinaire Paulina in lovely North Beach afternoon light.
On the edge of an ancient caldera on the western border of the Mount Veeder District, Random Ridge is a 47-acre ranch that straddles the Napa and Sonoma county line at an elevation of 2300 feet. Bill Hawley built the family home with recycled materials in 1980 and planted the first vines in the spring of 1982. The vineyard is currently 10 acres densely planted with a simple vertical trellis system, yielding roughly 1.5 tons per acre. The soil is decomposed volcanics, tuff, and solid rock.
At the heart of the appellation stands the 2,677 ft. high volcanic peak of Mount Veeder - named for a 19th century Presbyterian pastor who enjoyed hiking in the area. Over 90 percent of the appellation remains relatively wild, wooded with oak, madrone, laurel, fir and redwood and inhabited by mountain lions, coyotes and pileated woodpeckers.
Precipation averages between 35 - 50 inches per year. Several special climatic conditions provide vines with a long, cool, even ripening period. Elevation places Mount Veeder above the morning fog bank, bathing vineyards in gentle sunshine. The mountain slopes protect vineyards from afternoon heat, and evening brings on a temperature inversion - making Mount Veeder nights warmer than those in the valley and limiting spring frost.
Tending a mountain vineyard requires extra time and care. Growers use little machinery, and pick all of their grapes by hand - an unbeatable method of quality control. The open structure of Mount Veeder soils limits moisture retention in the grape ripening period. This built-in restraint, combined with thin soils and a general lack of groundwater, enables vineyard managers to induce a degree of stress critical to the production of high quality fruit. The ratio of berry skin surface area to liquid volume is high, yielding intense and concentrated juices.
Mount Veeder's vintners share a commitment to quality. Though appellation wines are diverse as their winemakers and the mountain's microclimates, they share some special qualities. For red wines, it's the briary, brambly flavors of wild berries; the hint of spice, pepper and herbs like lavender, anise and sage; and more structure than the average wine. The region's Chardonnays display reserved tropical and stone fruit flavors with a touch of citrus, and are often longer lived than their valley counterparts.
Today, the mountain's vintners are proudly adding "Mount Veeder - Napa Valley" to their labels so that winelovers everywhere can choose the fine wines of this distinctive appellation.