Feature Article
  Sign In
Subscribe to our newsletter
Bookmark and Share  
print this article    

Feature Article

Ladera's distinctive Cabernets from Napa Valley

The personalities of Ladera’s Cabernets are as different as their origins, from opposite ends of the Napa Valley.

Howell Mountain ~ Napa Valley (AVA)

Talking Terroir with Pat Stotesbery of Ladera

"Some people love the elegance of the Howell Mountain and others the dark tannins of the Lone Canyon. If you would blend them together, you’d lose that sense of place."

by Alan Goldfarb
September 13, 2006

Ladera Vineyards is owned and run by Pat Stotesbery, with the capable assistance of Karen Culler, Stotesbery’s winemaker for the last seven years. Under their direction, Ladera makes two Cabernet Sauvignons, one from Howell Mountain – high in the eastern hills of the Napa Valley overlooking St. Helena – and the other from Lone Canyon, which is situated high in the western hills above Yountville.

The two wines are easily differentiated. The Howell Cab is more elegant with a lot of finesse, while the Lone Canyon is as big, closed and tannic as one would expect from such a rugged terrain. And yet, when they are tasted side-by-side, the wines are definitive examples of terroir.

Stotesbery bought the 480-acre box canyon parcel in 1997. It is only about 15 percent planted, mostly to Cabernet. The Howell Cab he calls “a gentleman,” while he terms the Lone Canyon wine “our cowboy.” Stotesbery should know. He is a former Montana rancher, who still sports a wide-brimmed Stetson.

Stotesbery does produce a Napa Valley designated Cab, that sells for $35 which is a blend of the two vineyards. In spite of this, he is steadfast about making wines that separate the place of origin of the two principal wines. Thus, Culler makes a Howell Mountain-designate, and a Lone Canyon, both of which sell for $65 each.

To get to Lone Canyon, one leaves the valley floor west of Yountville at the entrance to Domaine Chandon, and treks past Dominus and then above Blankiet to where the Lone Canyon vines – some as old as 22 years – cling to the hillside at elevations from 400 to 1,100 feet.
Ladera Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003
Ladera’s distinctive Cabernets are now available in the Appellation America online wine store.
Buy yours here!
There is no winery or tasting room here and one has to get through a series of locked gates before coming upon the very isolated and private property.

Once one reaches the vineyard over switchback roads, the parcel climbs and falls on inside and outside terraces that overlook, while still being in, the Yountville American Viticuture Area (AVA).

In a recent phone conversation, Stotesbery spoke in detail with Appellation America’s Napa Valley correspondent Alan Goldfarb about why he makes these two wines; and what accounts for their differences.

Alan Goldfarb (AG): Why make wines from two different areas?

Pat Stotesbery (PS): It makes for a great story, and in my case, this concept is a great example between soil and climate and what it does to wines that are vinified the same. Not too many people are doing that. You can readily identify both.

Pat Stotesbery of Ladera Vineyards AG: The vinification process is exactly the same for both wines?

PS: Yes, but Lone Canyon receives a couple of percentage points more of new oak. Because of the tannin, it can use that extra wood. It also comes off the skins a few days earlier in order to control the tannin.

AG: Why do you find it necessary and so compelling a story to show the differences between these wines?

PS: People can really understand how two wines that are made the same – with mountain fruit – can be so different. I happen to be a mountain kind of guy. But I suppose someone could say, “why not have one wine from the valley floor and one from the mountain (to better differentiate them)?”

AG: How many acres on Lone Canyon do you have planted and to what varieties, what clones and which rootstock?

PS: Lone Canyon has 75 acres. The breakdown is 1½ acres of Malbec, 1½ Petit Verdot, and the rest is Cabernet. Oh, there’s also three acres of Syrah, which is a stand-alone to our wine club only.

There are 13 different clones for Cabernet, and seven rootstock varieties.

AG: How about Howell Mountain?

PS: There’s a little more than 75 acres. There’s about 70 acres of Cabernet, two of Petit Verdot, 2½ of Malbec, two of Merlot, and 3½ acres of Sauvignon Blanc.

We have eight Cabernet clones and six rootstocks. Ladera's distinctive Caberenets

AG: Tell me about the soils at both locations.

PS: Lone Canyon is radically different. It’s chalky, mineral-y, and gravelly. On the other hand, Howell Mountain has red volcanic soils, clay loam, and large rocks. That’s why, when you compare the two wines, the mineral aspects of the Lone Canyon wine get accentuated. And it has 1,600-1,800 foot elevation, while most of Lone Canyon is at about 1,000 feet.

AG: What about your irrigation regimen?

PS: We drip irrigate 4-to-6 gallons once a week, on both.

AG: To compare the two, Karen (Culler) once told me, “Some people love the elegance of the Howell Mountain and others the dark tannins of the Lone Canyon. If you would blend them together, you’d lose that sense of place. It becomes another …”

PS: Another blended wine.

AG: To sum up the difference, Karen also told me, “The Cab and the small amounts of Malbec and Petit Verdot from there, are not easily tamed, nor understood. I’m still trying to figure it out. It makes a pretty big wine and it tends to get too tannic. They tend to be muscle-y wines but they don’t have as much extraction as Howell Mountain. The tannin structure is the biggest difference (between the two). Lone Canyon has dark, berry fruit and herbal characters, while the Howell has silky tannins and brighter fruit.”

...Pat concurred.

~ Alan Goldfarb, Regional Correspondent – Napa Valley

To comment on Alan Goldfarb’s writings and thoughts, contact him at a.goldfarb@appellationamerica.com

Featured Wines


Reader Feedback

To post your comments on this story,
click here

Most Popular