by Jerry Seps
How does one begin to bring back a famous vineyard? The Grimm vineyards were among the largest and best known in the north part of the Valley. Jacob Grimm was well known as one of the Three Jakes of the Napa Valley, the other two being his peers and friends Jacob Beringer and Jacob Schram. For Sigrid and me the challenge was, how do we, with limited financial resources, make 90 acres of burnt-over land economically viable without compromising the goal with which we came to the Valley, to grow grapes that would make great wine.
The easy solution would have been to plant Chardonnay or Cabernet as so many others were doing when we resettled our hillside in 1976. But our desire was to create excellence, not copy someone elses standard or image. The market, of course, had to be a consideration, channeling our attention to what were regarded at the time as the quality grapes, yet still permitting, even demanding, distinctiveness. Zinfandel was one among those possibilities. We soon came to realize that together Storybook Mountain and Zinfandel could produce the unique world class wine we were seeking.
We evaluated soil, topography, exposure, history, macro-climate and micro-climate. Each of these elements indicated Zinfandel--our red clay soil would provide intensity and longevity, the hillside location the right drainage and concentrated berries, the easterly exposure the ideal gradual temperatures for finesse and fruit. Zinfandel had a history of success at Storybook since the 1880s, and other hillside Zinfandel vineyards, such as Martini's Monte Rosso, had long been known for their quality. Climate was ideal, a moderate region 2.5 (similar to Oakville), breezes from the Russian River Valley cooling the vineyards on summers hottest days. Admittedly, all these elements indicated an excellent area for the Bordeaux varieties as well, but not necessarily an area better than others. In our desire to achieve both uniqueness and greatness, it was André Tchelistcheffs advice that came to weigh most--that the best area anywhere to grow Zinfandel is in the red clay soils above Calistoga.
On your next visit: What's so great about red clay soils, anyway?