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Spring Mountain AVA

by Staff Writer - K. Ash | January 28, 2012

If one were to characterize the land properties found within California's Napa Valley the word "diverse" would be fitting. It is true that the Napa Valley lends itself almost exclusively to red wine varieties, but this does not mean that diversity among vineyard sites does not exist. Differences between vineyard sites include soil composition, elevation, rainfall, temperature and sunlight intensity. In more of a broad sense, differences can be seen between valley floor vineyards and mountain slope vineyards. The AVAs contained within the Mayacamas Mountain range are an example of this fact.

Approximately 8 miles inland from the flat shores of Los Carneros, the terrain changes to form the southern tip of the Mayacamas Mountain range. The Mayacamas Mountain range itself runs north from this point and is approximately 52 miles long. Concerning county boundary diving lines, the Mayacamas Mountain range serves as a natural dividing line between Sonoma County and the Napa Valley. Due to regulations and politics concerning AVA creation within the Napa Valley, AVA designations cannot be of the county overlapping type. That is to say that while the Mayacamas Mountains can be found within both the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, the AVAs that exist within the Napa Mayacamas Mountains cannot extend over the Napa county line. There are currently 3 defined AVAs located on the Napa Mayacamas Mountain range. They are the Mount Veeder AVA, Spring Mountain AVA and Diamond Mountain AVA.

The Spring Mountain AVA is sandwiched between the Diamond Mountain AVA and the Mount Veeder AVA. And even though the Mount Veeder AVA, the Spring Mountain AVA and Diamond Mountain AVA are all located on the same mountain range differences do exist between the three AVAs. These differences include soil makeup, temperature variations and sunlight exposure. Each difference contributes to different wine characteristics between the various AVAs. Among these three AVAs, Spring Mountain wines are distinguishable as they have high tannin characteristics as well as high fruit concentrations.

As far as actual mountain peaks are concerned, there is no peak named Spring Mountain. Napa Valley locals have long used the Spring Mountain name to identify the mid-section of the winegrowing region found in the Mayacamas Mountains. Certainly vineyards are not anything new for the Spring Mountain AVA. Out of the various hillside areas located within Napa Valley, Spring Mountain may claim to have the longest history with grape growing. It was here that the La Perla vineyard was established in 1874.

The fact that the Spring Mountain AVA coexists along side of the Mount Veeder AVA and the Diamond Mountain AVA leads to the logic that climate characteristics are very similar between the various AVAs. This is only partly true. Temperature variations are present between the three AVAs with Spring Mountain being warmer than Mount Veeder. This can be seen in the fact that Mount Veeder is located in the south most area of the Mayacamas Mountains. This places Spring Mountain further north and away from the cooling effects of San Pablo bay. Spring Mountain is not however without cooling effects. West blowing breezes are found in the Spring Mountain AVA during the afternoons. These breezes result in temperatures that are still cool enough to require specific vineyard sunlight exposures for optimum ripening. Also, due to the topography of the Mayacamas Mountains these western blowing breezes seem to only apply to the Spring Mountain AVA.

Of the various climate characteristics of the Mayacamas Mountains, sunlight and rainfall are very similar between the various Mayacamas Mountain AVAs. The Spring Mountain AVA receives approximately sixty inches of rainfall per year in the winter. This value can be seen across the Mayacamas Mountains but when compared to the rest of Napa Valley sixty inches of rain is a liberal amount. The Napa Valley floor vineyards receive approximately half of the aforementioned rain quantity.

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Soil types are typically different within the Spring Mountain AVA. Soils found within the southernmost portion of the Mayacamas Mountains are of a sedimentary nature with northernmost soils being volcanic in nature. Due to the fact that Spring Mountain lies between the northern and southern AVAs, soils found within the Spring Mountain AVA are typically a mix between sedimentary and volcanic soil types.

With the differences shown in climate conditions and Terroirs, it is no surprise that Spring Mountain stands out when compared against the rest of the Mayacamas Mountains. Wines produced within the Spring Mountain AVA have fierce tannins with high fruit intensity. Slight vegetal qualities that can be found in some Mount Veeder wines that are not present in Spring Mountain wines. Also absent are the mineral properties seen in Mount Veeder wines. Like the rest of Napa Valley, red grape varieties are the varieties of choice. In the case of Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is extremely popular. Additional varieties such as Merlot are very popular with some of Napa's best Merlot being produced within Spring Mountain. White wine varieties are almost non-existent, however there are some exceptions. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer are white wine varieties found in the Spring Mountain AVA.

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