The Founding Story of Mount Veeder Winery

The Founding Story of Mount Veeder Winery

In 1963, Napa Valley was a quiet farming community that was best known for growing walnuts and prunes and for raising cattle – not for growing grapes and making wine.  There were a few daring souls planting vineyards down on the valley floor who dreamed of  making great wines here, but it wasn’t what the Bernsteins had set out to do when they purchased a 20-acre prune farm on Mount Veeder, nestled high in the Mayacamas Mountains.

Legend has it that, a year later, a farmhand who lived on the property gave the Bernsteins a bundle of cast-off grapevine cuttings which they stuck in the ground and promptly ignored. To their great surprise, the cuttings thrived in the hostile mountain surroundings.

In 1969, the Bernsteins purchased another farm up the road and began transforming it in earnest into a five-acre vineyard planted to all five of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties – a first in Napa Valley. They expanded their original holdings to include three unique vineyards – Winery Ranch Vineyard, Rosenquist Ranch Vineyard, and North Ranch Vineyard – that range from 1,500 - 1,600 ft. in elevation.  

The Bernstein’s first vintage, 1973, was comprised of 375 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, and was the first wine to bear the Mount Veeder designation. The Mount Veeder AVA wouldn’t be established for another 20 years.  With this bottling, Mount Veeder Winery joined the ranks of a small group of dreamers and visionaries who laid the foundation for the modern era of the Napa Valley wine industry. They were the first in California to release a wine, in 1977, that was comprised of a Bordeaux-style blend of all five varieties. 

Today, we continue to make wine at Mount Veeder Winery in the spirit of adventure that led the Bernsteins to go up Mount Veeder in the first place. At a time when planting vineyards on the valley floor was a daring endeavor,  growing grapes up here, above the cloud line, was downright audacious.  The gamble paid off. Though the farming is laborious, as it must be done by hand, and the yields can be heart-breakingly low, the wines from our Mount Veeder estate vineyards are, in a word, captivating.  Energetic, bold, and layered, our wines are inspired by the wild beating heart of the mountain at their core. At Mount Veeder Winery, we have been championing wines with altitude for 50 years. 

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