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Historic School House Vineyard

School House Vineyard is located on Spring Mountain above St. Helena at the intersection of Langtry and Spring Mountain Roads. The vineyard was named after a one-room 1890s schoolhouse on the property which was destroyed by fire in the mid 1980s. The original vines, a mixed field blend, were planted in the 1890s and all of the grapes were blended into a single red table wine. Today some of the vines have been replanted to produce School House Mescolanza, a modern interpretation of the field blend.

John Daniel, owner of the Inglenook Estate, gave his friend, John Q. Gantner some Pinot Noir bud wood (said to be from Domaine Romanee-Conti) and Gantner planted the Pinot Noir in his School House Vineyard in 1953. The first School House Pinot Noir was released in 1957. Chardonnay was planted in the School House Vineyard in the late 1960s, using bud wood from Fred McCrea’s Stony Hill Vineyard. The non-irrigated vineyard is located in a cool and unique microclimate at 1,500 foot elevation with well-drained soils.

Currently, John M. Gantner and Nancy Walker farm the vineyard and live on the property. The School House wines are vinified at Pride Mountain Vineyards under the direction of winemaker Bob Foley and his assistant, Romel Rivera.

2003 School House Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Pinot

Table wine, 9 barrels, $75. Label says, “From mountain grapes grown on School House Vineyard, St. Helena, by John M. Gantner. Cellared and bottled by Gantner and Walker, St. Helena.” Low yields (just under a ton per acre). Fermented in open-top bins after destemming. Aged 18 months in French oak and bottled by hand. · Deep ruby in color. A dirty diaper fragrance blows off to reveal a rich perfume of ripe cherries, Mocha java and forest floor. The concentrated flavors follow in step with added notes of cranberry, roasted plums and game. There is plenty of earthiness at heart. A touch of alcohol on the nose and finish is not intrusive. A highly distinctive wine of great character and clearly unlike a “typical” California Pinot Noir.

1993 School House Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Pinot Noir

Label says, “From mountain grapes grown on School House Vineyard, St. Helena, by John M. Gantner. Cellared and bottled by Scotland Craig Partners, St. Helena.” · Mahogany color with an orange rim. Impressive aromas of dark chocolate-covered cherries with hints of toast. Tart cherry flavors with noticeable tannins lead to a finish with brisk acidity. The wine is fading and the fruit is tired and thin on the backend, but it still has some charm left.

School House Vineyard is located at 3549 Langtry Road, St. Helena. The wines are available on the website at www.schoolhousevineyard.com. Tasting by appointment (707-963-4248).

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