One day while waiting in the car for the kids to finish school, I noticed a lovely photo on my Instagram feed of rolling mountain vineyards with a light dusting of snow. Later that same day, more grapes with snow covered grounds. Checking out the caption, I was shocked to see that these vines were here in California. Napa to be exact.
Time to schedule my next trip to Napa. Now, don’t go thinking that I scheduled a trip simply to test my altitude skills…I also planned on drinking some wine of course. I contacted Red Cap and made an appointment to visit & tour the property.
The name that always came up was of a young small family vineyard named Red Cap. My friends all know how I love a new small batch producer. I appreciate hard to find and appointment only tasting rooms for the complexity of the wines I find. I also appreciate the folks that I get to meet at these small family wineries who enjoy sharing so much more about the processes.
I live about 40 minutes from the top of the peak and I scheduled the trip for a rainy day for optimum rainbow sightings. Napa is known for its lovely rainbows in the valleys below Howell Mountain.
Tom Altemus, the head of the Red Cap family, met me out front and gave me a personal tour of the vineyards and Estate all the while explaining the vineyard construction project in 2003 and also reviewing their wine making techniques. I was also able to learn more about the unique terroir of the mountain top.
The Altemus family planted Red Cap Vineyards on a beautiful site near the summit of Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley. The rocky, volcanic soils and the uniqueness of the Howell Mountain micro-climate produce fruit of exceptional character and quality.
Planted on virgin land in 2003 at an elevation of 1900 feet, the rolling hills are a real sight with the looming Pine trees in the background. The soil is deep and red and as you walk around you can also see that it is peppered with fractured rock.
As we walked around the vineyards, the rolling plateaus that start at the top of the mountain are an awesome sight. With an eight degree difference in temperature from the end of one row to the other end due to the rolling plateaus, the grapes on the end of the row are harvested weeks before the grapes at the lower slope of the same row.
The Red Cap vineyard yields about two tons of grapes per acre. The grapes are organically grown and hand farmed and it shows both in the rows of vines and cleanliness of the grounds but also when sipping their wines.
Red Cap Vineyards also makes a lovely Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the McGah Family’s Alsace Vineyard located in Rutherford, an appellation widely considered to be one of the premier sources of Napa Valley fruit. These Napa grapes are nestled just north of Oakville and bordering the Silverado Trail.
Rudy Zuidema is the winemaker producing such balanced Cabernet Sauvignon at Red Cap Vineyards in Napa. In the vineyard, he follows organic and biodynamic farming practices to naturally enhance the flavorful diversity of the estate’s rich tapestry.
This natural approach continues in the winery, where Rudy emphasizes classic, small-lot techniques and gentle handling to craft balanced wines that embody a sense of elegance, purity and power.
Through luck, vision, and hard work the Altemus family has carved out an idyllic lifestyle in the mountains above Napa Valley at Red Cap. Living on the Estate surrounding by rolling plateaus of vines isn’t a bad way to grow up either. Not too shabby some might say.
They are a close family and raised their children on the Estate and continue to raise them. The image of the boy on the swing on their wine labels was chosen to reflect the feeling of youthful exuberance imparted by the Altemus children.
I found the visit terrific and very personable including a tasting at the family dining room table and a nice cheese & meats tray set out to enhance the flavors, they make sure to welcome you and make you feel cozy… then when sipping the wines…you are sure to take some home. The Red Cap website also features terrific recipes to pair with the wines from the family recipe box.
My favorite for the afternoon was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. I found both Cabs delightful and very different. With both years having such huge differences in weather patterns, it was evident in the wine vintages as well.
I took home a bottle of the 2008 and look forward to returning again soon to grab more. As I drove down Howell Mountain and the hills of Napa, I was presented with the sight I had been waiting for.
*Clink *Clink to the next visit to Red Cap and Napa.
Red Cap Vineyards – Website Here
Howell Mountain, Angwin, Napa
By Appointment Only: (707) 965 1145
Wines We Sipped On:
2009 Red Cap Cabernet Sauvignon
The richness of the wine is immediately apparent. The dark fruit, fresh earth, and blackberry aromas fill the glass. A solid core of mixed berries, kirsch, and mocha flavors anchor the mid-palate while subtle shades of oak, sage, and sweet leather offer a complex support system. The finishing texture is clean and full with firm acid and fine tannins that linger with the juicy currant, cedar, spice, and black cherry notes.
2008 Red Cap Cabernet Sauvignon
The deep rich fruit aromas jump from the glass leading into a complex mid palate made up of blackberry, mulberry, leather, licorice and coffee. The big, juicy finish lingers for minutes remaining balanced and juicy. Rich mocha, cedar, currant, licorice and spice continue with the crisp acidity and soft tannins.
2012 Sauvignon Blanc
Our 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is a single vineyard expression from a fantastic property in Rutherford. Kissed with a touch of Semillion the wine exhibits a beautiful nose of peach, honey, citrus and minerals. In the mouth the weight and texture of this wine are immediately noticeable. Even without oak influence, frequent lees stirring in neutral barrels makes this is a big, layered Sauvignon Blanc. The long, lingering finish is rewards you with flavors of apricot and pear and a consistent minerality.