Recently, while wrapped in the mist of an early Napa autumn morning, we visited the Newton Vineyard property on Spring Mountain in California's Napa Valley. We were given a tour personally by the recently appointed Newton Estate Director and winemaker Rob Mann, who chatted with us about preparing the foundation for some truly spectacular future vintages.
While winding up the steep mountain in Rob's 4-wheel drive SUV, he joked about whether we'd make it through the mud—"Going back down is harder"— and told us about the property. After driving past the terraced gardens held up by stacked rock walls built by founder Peter Newton on a slim slice of dirt road, we headed for a lone pine tree at the top of the mountain standing as sentinel over the Spring Mountain vineyard. The going may have been slow, but we could clearly see all of the blocks to gain a better understanding of the how the varieties changed with the land.
Photo Courtesy of Newton Vineyard
Rob explained how each of the varietals prefer a different altitude or location. “Each block has its own aspects. We've got 90 blocks with five varieties, and 500 acres on the Spring Mountain parcel with 100 acres planted,” he said. He pointed out some blocks that he will replant due to diminishing production and because there are now better vines. “Everything here in this section of vineyard needs replanting,” he explained, pointing to the leaves turning a splotchy telltale red. "We need some investment.” Being part of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH)—one of the biggest luxury brands, which includes the likes of Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon —we're sure the vineyard will have no problem getting the funds to improve the estate.
The vineyard, which was founded by Englishman Peter Newton in the 1970s, primarily plants Cabernet Sauvignon, but there is also Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Syrah, Claret and Pinot Noir grapes. You might also know that the Newton label has a Carneros AVA. They successfully continue to produce one of Napa Valley’s most renowned Chardonnay wines, the Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay, and have several other locations growing grapes throughout Napa Valley.
Photo Courtesy of Newton Vineyard
Rob took the helm of Newton as Estate Director in July of 2014, bringing his family with him and settling in to the area. He was already familiar with Spring Mountain as he was the harvest chief winemaker with Newton Vineyard for the 2007 vintage and he comes from “good wine” stock—Rob's grandfather, Jack Mann, was an innovator in the Australian Wine industry. Robert followed him into the vineyard and worked as a young man as a cellar hand in the Swan Valley, Barossa Valley, and Margaret River. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, having majored in oenology at the University of Adelaide, and from 2005 to 2014 was the senior winemaker and estate director of Cape Mentelle, showing his finesse with Cabernet Sauvignon. He has been twice awarded Producer of the Year, as well as Winemaker of the Year, by the West Australian Wine Guide.
As we reached the lone tree on Spring Mountain we asked about the reason for not filtering the wines, especially the reds of Spring Mountain. “You can preserve the rich, bold and powerful flavors by not filtering. We also hand pick, because of the steep terrain and because we don't want to bruise the fruit," Rob explained.
Photo Credit: Kurt Winner
Upon returning to the winery, Rob gave us a tour of the caves, where he is already watching over the full French Oak casks. When asked where he plans to take the winery, Rob's face lit up and answered, “To realize the vision of Newton; to elevate the winery to be one of the top producers in the country.” That would be Napa country and that would also be one of the best in the world, and with Rob at the helm, we don't doubt that it will happen.
Photo Credit: Kurt Winner Photo Courtesy of Newton Vineyard Photo Courtesy of Newton Vineyard Photo Courtesy of Newton Vineyard Photo Courtesy of Newton VineyardPhoto Courtesy of Newton VineyardPhoto Courtesy of Newton Vineyard