Storybook Mountain Vineyards, originally known as Grimm Vineyards and Wine Vaults, was founded in 1883 by Adam Grimm, scion of a German family involved in winegrowing since 1540. Grimm purchased 400 acres of high-elevation land four miles north of Calistoga and planted extensive vineyards on the site. In 1889, he was joined by his brother Jacob – yes, the Grimm brothers! – who helped Adam direct the Chinese laborers who dug three large caves for wine aging into the property’s mineral-rich volcanic rock.
By 1919, with Adam relocated to San Francisco, Jacob was making sacramental and medicinal wines, which were permissible during Prohibition. Post-Prohibition, the winery was abandoned and the vineyard subsequently destroyed in 1964 by the disastrous Hanley Ranch fire. (The caves survived.)
In 1976, Jerry Seps, a former professor of European history, and his wife, Sigrid, fell in love with the wild, abandoned site and purchased 90 acres surrounding the original winery, planting roughly half to grapevines. The Seps renamed the vineyard Storybook Mountain to denote its fairytale beauty and to honor the brothers Grimm. Advised by legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff that the hills above Calistoga, with their red clay-loam soils and eastern exposures, were the best place in California to plant Zinfandel grapes, the Seps replanted the vineyard to Zinfandel, subsequently adding Cabernet Sauvignon, other red Bordeaux varieties, and Viognier.
The first Storybook Mountain Zinfandel, released in 1983, earned a gold medal, and more accolades followed. In 1989, the 1984 Reserve Zinfandel became the highest-rated Zinfandel ever. In 2003, Wine & Spirits Magazine named Storybook Mountain “Artisan Winery of the Year” and included Storybook among its Top 100 Wineries in the World, an honor we have now won 14 times.
While Storybook was garnering acclaim for its intense, beautifully structured Zinfandels, Jerry Seps was methodically mapping out sections of the estate vineyard where red Bordeaux varieties might thrive. Unlike the warmer eastern exposures devoted to Zinfandel, Jerry chose cooler, north-facing parcels with thinner soils, which he began planting in 1994. The first Storybook Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 2005.
During the 42 years since the Seps family purchased the estate, Storybook Mountain has earned distinction after distinction. In 1994, The United States Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, poured Storybook Mountain Zinfandel at an event honoring that year’s Nobel laureates and, in subsequent years, the wines have been served in the White House by three Presidents. In 2005, famed critic Robert Parker characterized Storybook as “representing the pinnacle of wine quality in California” and one of the six best Zinfandels in the world.
Today, Jerry and Sigrid, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Colleen and Rick Williams, continue building an impressive legacy of world-class, artisan wines.