Located around the top of the Diamond Mountain Viticultural Area and just west of the town of Calistoga, Sterling Vineyards offers an incredible view of the rich Napa Valley. The reputation of the vineyards is apparent from the first view that visitors get when they take the aerial tram to the winery itself which is based on the beautiful architecture found on Mykonos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea.
The towers of the winery hold eight bells that were part of the Church of St. Dunstan’s-in-the-East that was originally built in the 10th century, destroyed by fire in 1666, and destroyed again during World War II. The tolling of the bells provides a unique atmosphere that is offset by the rich, white stucco of the walls. You can take a self-guided tour of this remarkable winery and take in the rich history that it offers.
The vineyards were founded by Peter Newton, an English expatriate in 1964. It took five years before Sterling Vineyards produced its first wines. At a time when most vineyards in the region were producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Newton planted Merlot and Chardonnay which in turn cause many new vineyards in Napa Valley to do the same. Winemaker Ric Forman released the first Merlot with a vintage date in California and the reputation of Sterling Vineyards grew considerably.
So popular was Sterling Vineyards that it was purchased in 1977 by Coca Cola, then in 1982 by Seagram, Diageo in 2001, and recently the Treasury Wine Estates purchased most of Diageo’s property in the US in 2016. What really put Sterling Vineyards on the map occurred in 1981 when it took first place at the Ottawa Wine Tasting event. Since then, the vineyard has managed to keep its strong reputation as one of the best in all of Napa Valley.
The Sterling Vineyards is spread across ten separate ranches consisting of 1200 acres which brings a wide variety of different grapes and flavors to the wines. The Diamond Mountain Ranch occupies 120 acres and the vineyards are mostly located along the Mayacamas Mountains and particularly along the steep northern face. The combination of volcanic soils, dry climate, and austere soils manage to create full bodied grapes that include many tannins for a bold flavor.
The director of winemaking, Harry Hansen, grew up in nearby Sonoma County and has a lifelong fascination with the creation of wine. Getting a BS in genetics from the University of California at Davis, Hansen worked for years under the tutelage of a good winemaker, received his Master’s Degree in Enology, and today creates the many delicious wines that come from the Sterling Vineyards.
Over the years, the Sterling Vineyards has developed a solid reputation as being one of the best in Napa Valley thanks to its combination of wide-ranging vineyards that emphasize different types of growing areas, a bold attitude in both white and red winemaking, and all led by one of the most respected winemakers in the industry. It’s little wonder that Sterling Vineyards has developed such a strong reputation that will last for the foreseeable future.
By: Blake Smith