[review] There’s no doubt that Napa Valley is one of our favorite places on earth. There’s a special vineyard a twisting twenty-minute drive west from St. Helena with a stunning view of rugged Mount St. Helena and some of the best wines you could add to your cellar…we had the luxury of interviewing Pride Mountain Vineyards CEO, Steve Pride about the vineyards history. We also tasted one of their truly exceptional—and truly elusive—bottles, the vintage 2009 Reserve Claret.

Pride Mountain Vineyards was started as a boutique winery in 1989 by Steve’s parents and he doesn’t have any plans of changing that mentality. He told us “We continue to be a family owned and operated vineyard and winery. Over the past years, we have grown to have 85 acres of vines on the ranch with a production of around 20,000 cases. We have no interest in becoming any larger.”

There were only 508 cases created of the 2009 Reserve Claret that we tasted and couldn’t get enough of—and it’s already sold out, so if you find a bottle somewhere, don’t let it get away! The vineyard philosophy here is to make each vintage better, year after year.

Steve told us “Perhaps the most fascinating thing about wine to me is that despite all the research and science that goes into understanding vine physiology and improving viticulture practice, which is all very useful and interesting to know, in the end, what goes on in those grape skins to make the incredible range of flavors and textures in the finished wines is so complicated that nobody will ever completely understand it.  I really love that fact.  It means you need to develop and rely upon your own experience at your own vineyards.  Nobody can just come along and give you the answer.”

The family owned and operated Pride Mountain Vineyards in California

The family owned and operated Pride Mountain Vineyards in California

Pride Vineyards approaches wine-making with a minimalist attitude—accept their setting, embrace it and make bold wines of great depth with recognizable varietal character and desirable balance. We also found Steve’s favorite way to unwind after a long day in the winery. “My truly favorite setting for enjoying a glass of wine is on the terrace off of our caves that looks westward toward the Sonoma Coast over about 20 acres of our vineyards.  With the sun getting low in the sky and the green vines marching across the curved slopes and refrains of some favorite music wafting about and a glass of one of our reds in hand and a comfortable chair at the end of a busy day, life does not get much better.

Each of the Pride Mountain Vineyards reserve wines are offered only to members of the reserve list—which has been closed since 1999. Hey, we said it was pretty exclusive. Find a friend on the list or try to work your way up to it—the spots that become available are dictated by production and purchase history.

If you make it to the list, pick up a bottle of the 2009 Reserve Claret. The Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend is heavenly with a liquefied gold taste that lingers. Unctuous notes of red plum, currant, coffee, dark chocolate and wild huckleberry hit the tongue in crashing intoxicating waves. The texture is all silkiness on the palate, building to a crescendo of concentrated fruit and a velvety tannin structure. An authentic claret, this wine is truly more than the sum of its parts.

We finished our tasting by drinking every drop in the bottle and asking Steve about his daily inspiration. “My inspiration comes each spring during budbreak when I begin to imagine the upcoming vintage and the resulting wines that will ultimately emerge.  The vine cycle is quite invigorating that way.  There is renewal and inherent hope associated with each successive vintage.”