The Vinous Secrets of Napa’s Mount Veeder

Mount-VeederMount Veeder was named for the German Presbyterian pastor, Peter Veeder, who lived in Napa, Calif., during the Civil War Era and enjoyed hiking on the mountain, where the Douglas Firs and Bristlecone Pines reminded him of the forests of home.

It was during those Wild West days that winemaking on Mount Veeder was first recorded; in 1864, Captain Stelham Wing presented the first Mount Veeder bottling at the Napa County Fair, a wine hailing from today’s Wing Canyon Vineyard.

The Germanic thread continued with the founding in the 1880s of the Streich Winery (today’s Yates Family Vineyard) by Ernest Streich, and the Fisher Winery (today’s Mayacamas Vineyards) by John Henry Fisher of Stuttgart.

Commercial scale production arrived on Mount Veeder in 1900 when Theodore Geir, a colorful and flamboyant German-born Oakland, Calif., liquor dealer, bought the property that would later become the Christian Brothers’ Mont La Salle Winery (today’s Hess Collection Winery).

By the late 1890s, there were some 20 vineyards and six wineries on the slopes of Mount Veeder.

Prohibition diminished the vineyards, which revitalized beginning with Mayacamas Vineyards in 1951 and Bernstein Vineyards in 1964.

During the 1960s, Mount Veeder became a haven for people seeking a lifestyle closer to nature. Among them were Arlene and Michael Bernstein, whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine to bear the Mount Veeder designation on the label.

With the first California vineyard planted to all five of the classic red Bordeaux varieties, the Bernsteins also were the first in the state to produce a Meritage-style wine using all five grapes.

Based on Mount Veeder’s incomparable mix of steep slopes, predominance of seabed soil, and proximity to San Pablo Bay, the area was deemed distinct enough that American Viticultural Area status was granted in 1993.

From the deep roots of the pioneering German farmers, Mount Veeder wines continue to reflect the impassioned spirit of the vintners who grow them.

Update:  Vinesse Today reader Jim Caudill of The Hess Collection wrote in with this correction:

…a small botanical correction is in order….There are no bristlecone pines in the Mount Veeder AVA or anywhere in Northern California for that matter. We do have a few Knobcone Pines around here but even those are not particularly common.

I know this does not matter to most people, but to anyone who knows anything about native vegetation, this kind of error keeps us up nights. (I do care, but I’m sleeping quite well, thank you.)

The Mt. Veeder Appellation Council brochure contained the same error in its draft stage, but it was corrected so that it now reads “Douglas Fir, Knobcone Pine and Redwoods.”

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