Howell at the Moon
2014 Viticultural Season
The year began as dry as dry can be, beginning our third year of drought. The dry fall in 2013 provided us fantastic hang time and a remarkably long growing season. Now that same lack of rain, the longest on record for Napa Valley, became a huge concern. Would our aquifers hold out for the new growing season? Dry farming is only possible if the ground is charged with water the winter before, but we had had less than 4 inches of rain the entire year before, hardly enough for cacti, let alone for vines. On our mountain slopes the soil doesn't hold enough water to dry farm and we need to irrigate, relying on wells and ponds for our water. Thankfully, we had enough rain from a series of small storms between February and April to relieve the severe stress and avert to crisis, with rainfall totals by June about half of our typical amounts. The season overall was a warm growing year, with occasional heat spells that helped concentrate and develop the fruit flavors classic to Napa Valley Cabernet. Our fall was interrupted by two rainstorms in September, a fairly typical event, and we waited out the weather to harvest under sunny skies at the middle of October. Our crop, modest from the drought conditions, was further controlled by aggressive fruit thinning and a veraison green drop. Because of the dry early start and a warm growing season, we harvested a full ten days earlier than any previous vintage. The berries were relatively small and the grape skins were very thick, giving intensely flavored juice at harvest. The young wines, now just put to barrel, and dense in color, flavor, and well-ripened tannins.
Our Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon comes exclusively from a single mountain vineyard at approximately 1650 feet and faces west and south. The elevation keeps the daytime temperatures mild, but is warmed at night rising heat from the valley below. This temperature inversion and our volcanic soils produce the distinctive Howell Mountain character. Our Howell Mountain bottling is a blend of clones 337, 7, 191 and See, each adding its distinctive character to the blend.
We also source Cabernet Sauvignon for a separate Mount Veeder bottling. The vineyard is on the south western slopes of Veeder at 800 feet in elevation and has views of San Francisco Bay, with Berkeley and Mount Diablo to the East and San Francisco and Mount Tamalpais to the South. Cool bay breezes temper the daily heat, allowing us to ripen fully yet retain natural acidity and fresh fruit. This site has long been known for elegant, complex wines with refined structure and balanced acidity and is a welcome addition to the Howell Mountain fold.