Winery Spotlight: Mayacamas Vineyards
The drive into Mayacamas Vineyards is breathtaking and serves as a sign of what’s to come as you meander a seemingly never ending maze of tight turns up Mt Veeder, edging along with a steep drop to the valley floor off to your side. You just keep going up and up until you catch a couple of hidden turns and finally see signs that you’re in the right place.
It’s hard to believe that wine has been produced on this property since the late 1800’s given its location. Mayacamas remains one of the oldest wine operations in the Napa Valley, and the property still carries signs of the rich history, from the old stone buildings, designed for natural gravity flow winemaking, to the ancient barrels that line the caves.
Only inside one of the main buildings on the property are touches of modern design to be found, and those are so tastefully executed that they blend right in.
We started by jumping into a Yamaha Rhino side by side and cruised up gravel trails, visiting one vineyard after another. The size of the estate is astonishing, full of rolling hills that continue on into the distance, all planted (or being replanted) on top of the volcanic soil from the dormant volcano next to the estate. This soil is a big part of what creates the remarkable character of these vines.
We travel from site to site, vineyard to vineyard, with a stop at an observation booth overlooking the entire south valley with San Francisco in the distance. Later, we are just a quick drive away from the popular Terrace vineyard, known for exceptional Chardonnay. In fact, Mayacamas primarily focuses on just two varietals, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. In some years they’ve produced other varietals, but Chard and Cab remain the core two. That focus, and an old world history and traditional approach, are what set these wines, and this vineyard apart from any other in my view.
When the tour concluded a few hours later, we ended up in the cellar room barrel tasting the 2013 Cabernet along with the ’10 and ’12 Cabernet, and the ’14 Chardonnay. We tried a vintage release of the ’10 Chardonnay as well that was delicious and convinced me to age the new vintages of Chardonnay that I ended up purchasing for a few years.
The wines of Mayacamas are old school, traditional, old world in their approach. In some regard, you could say more French inspired than U.S. influenced. Their Chardonnay (retail about $50) has never been an oak monster. They never jumped in that game, preferring to stick to a traditional approach when others were adapting to the changing tastes of the American consumer. To that extent, the Chardonnay from Mayacamas tasted almost French Burgundian to me.
The Cabernet (retail about $100) is balanced, structured, not too much of any one element, juicy with oak, but elegant and pure. Built for the long haul, but with such character they can be fairly enjoyed now.
All in all, this was a special tour, perhaps one of my favorites in the several dozen wineries I’ve visited in Napa. The wines aren’t easy to find, but now that I’m looking for them, I seem to find them pretty easy including at Total Wine in Atlanta, and Wine Exchange in Orange County. The 2014 Chardonnay even made an appearance at Costco at an excellent price point.
The winery was recently purchased and the new owners are thrilled to have the opportunity to keep the history and legacy of this important property alive and thriving.
Has anyone else visited Mayacamas? Or tasted their wines? Let us know what you think in the comments below.