Farmed by Calistoga’s Meyer family since the first part of the 20th century, the Charbono vines on this property were first planted to supply John Daniel, Jr.’s Inglenook winery with grapes for its varietal Charbono. In fact, some of the oldest of the vines on the property are 40-50 years old, and date to the Inglenook era. The old age of the vines and the drought-resistant rootstock on which they are grafted allow the vineyard to be dry-farmed—that is, the grapes receive only winter rainfall as irrigation. This intensifies the flavor potential of the grapes and tempers their sugar accumulation, helping to produce a wine with natural balance.

The Meyer vineyard sits in an ideal spot for the cultivation of Charbono, in the Calistoga AVA, at the northern tip of the Napa Valley. Up in the northern reaches of the valley, the climate becomes too hot (up to 105 degrees at midday) for most varieties of grapes, including the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines for which Napa is famous (the legendary Napa winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff is said to have personally directed the planting of Charbono grapes in a number of Calistoga vineyards, rather than Cabernet); however, this hot climate is perfect for Charbono, which ripens extremely late and needs as much heat as possible. At night, however, the hot air accumulated over the day rises quickly and drags in cold air from San Francisco bay, making the nights very cold (as low as 40 degrees in the summer). This huge swing in temperature deepens the color and aromas of Charbono, preserves its bright acidity, and slows down sugar accumulation. Thus, despite loving the extreme heat, Charbono never reaches excessive levels of potential alcohol.


Sitting on the historic 52-acre Rossi property at the northern end of the Rutherford Bench, the Riesling vines that go into the Calder Dry Riesling are holdovers from an earlier age of grapegrowing. Though the variety was once widely-planted, the 1/3-acre block in front of the ranch’s iconic white water tower is now part of only a handful of remaining acres in Napa. Farmed by the Rossi family for over 100 years, the care of these vines is now overseen by Frog’s Leap Winery, which continues to apply the traditional organic and dry-farmed practices classic to this site — and since my day job involves working in Frog’s Leap vineyards, I am able to personally work with these vines throughout the year.

The Rachel Rossi vineyard is named for the family that bought the property in 1903 from J.M. Thompson, whose ownership in turn dates to the era of the Mexican ranchos. Rachel Rossi was the matriarch of the family, who continued the property’s tradition in viticulture and lent her name to the family’s winery, which operated from 1907 to 1950. Old fermentation notes, written in chalk on redwood walls, can still be seen in the winery building that sits behind the Riesling block. The farming of the ranch continued to be managed by Ray and Louise Rossi, Rachel’s children, until Louise’s passing in 2007. The presence of Riesling on the Rossi property is a link to the history of the Rossi vineyard. Though northern Rutherford would normally be considered slightly too warm for Riesling, the combination of old vines, a late-ripening Riesling clone, and careful farming practices designed to limit the rate of ripening combine to preserve acidity and freshness in the grapes.