Millions of years ago Napa was a fractured grid work of volcanic fissures, huge cracks emanating fire, molten stone, unbreathable gases and incredible amounts of ash. The ash settled and consolidated. Pacific plates collided with the continental mass forcing it to upheave and buckle, raising the compressed ash, now tuff rock. This is the amazing Plateau of Howell Mountain and home to the W.H. Smith Wines winery and estate.
At 1700 ft. elevation, well above the inversion layer, a 6.7 acre vineyard was planted in 1998. The vines are now mature and yielding the creation of two estate Cabernets. A dense spacing (3x6 feet) nudges the vines towards greater concentration. Modern root stocks grafted to taste-selected clones and a vertical shoot positioning trellis system brought Bill the Bordeaux fruit he wanted to work with. Seven clones of Cabernet are used dominated by 337 and BV4.
It is a salient point that there really is no said “soil” here, just that tuff rock in various stages of decomposition. Vine roots are very near the surface; another gift from Mother Nature to further concentration.
Never really wanting to settle in, with never ending dreams, last year the process of permitting the remainder of the estate's plantable ground began. In 2015 an additional 14 acres will be planted on this rock at the edge of the world…mostly Cabernet, but Bill has some surprises too! You never know what’s next…….. Howell Mountain’s ideal warmer nights and cooler days have his mind exploring these potentials further.
Pinot Noir Vineyards
If you visit the Sonoma Coast during the growing season you’ll stand in the shade of the redwoods and think of your sweatshirt in the car. Going to the car you’ll get warm in the sunlight and think of changing into your shorts. This constant amalgam of warm and cool provides a heaven for pinot noir needing moisture to retain the juices within the varietals thinner skins.
An early luminary of Sonoma Coast pinot noir, Bill now sources grapes from several small growers in areas he feels gives Pinots its truest expression. We work closely with these passionate growers to achieve fully developed fruit that showcases the varietal as well as the special terroir of the region. Just as a mixture of clones brings more complexity to Pinot Noirs, so Bill feels a mixture of various vineyards creates still more. This also allows for more consistent quality as Pinot Noir sites are finicky to be generous! Our style agrees with this approach. Staff packs up regularly into the truck with Bill to keep in touch with co-conspirators on the Sonoma Coast.