This is the second of our three-part series on visits to mountain wineries in the Napa Valley.
We left Stony Hill Vineyard on Spring Mountain and traveled across the Valley on Deer Park Road, then up the mountain turning left onto White Cottage Road to Ladera Winery. Talk about opposites in wineries! Stony Hill’s first vintage was 1952, Ladera’s was 2000. At Stony Hill the winery is still hanging on to equipment used when the winery was first established with no signs of any high-tech equipment anywhere. At Ladera, it is quite the opposite with no expenses spared in this state-of-the-art winery facility. Here you find beautiful stainless steel fermenting and aging tanks, gravity floor crush equipment, and a beautiful and elaborate cave system lined with oak barrels.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Ladera is the renovation of the original stone winery built in 1886. Irene W. Haynes describes it in detail in her book “Ghost Wineries” on page 61. It was originally called the Howell Mountain Winery and closed it doors during prohibition. The winery has been a mixed bag since then, owned by several people until rescued, so to speak, by Pat and Anne Stotesbery in 2000 and renamed Ladera. The winery building has been restored, retrofitted, and made to look like as it was in 1886. Currently the tasting is done in the cellar where it was very chilly on our visit in December, but there are plans to build a visitor center. The surrounding grounds and vineyards are beautiful, with the old stone winery as the focal point.
The wines are mainly sourced from two vineyards. One is on Howell Mountain and the other, Lone Canyon Vineyard, on Mount Veeder to the south and across the Valley. Recently the winery purchased a Pinot Noir vineyard from Dan Duckhorn and is producing a small amount of Pinot Noir.
We tasted several wines and thought there were all delicious and well made. The Sauvignon Blanc was quite good, but I think too expensive when compared to the many delicious same style S.B.’s you can get for less than $20 a bottle. It is barrel fermented and a percentage is aged in neutral barrels, giving the wine a unique character.
The two best wines we tasted were the Howell Mountain Cabernet at $70 and the Lone Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at $65. Both were delicious and show great aging potential.
Tasting at Ladera is by appointment only from 10 am to 3:30. There are estate tours at 11 am and 2 pm daily.
You might want to watch this tongue-in-cheek video on Ladera’s take on how wine is made in the vineyards.