3 Pioneer Wine Producers of the Mayacamas Mountains

Tasting notes from three important Napa Valley Wineries

Ritchie Creek Vineyards
More than 30 years ago, my wife Laurie and friends Geoffrey Troy and Ed Lazarus, Underground contributing editors, first visited Pete Minor way up on Spring Mountain. Through a mutual friend we had learned of his wines and were impressed with them and that led us there. We found Pete working in the vineyards. A dentist by profession, he purchased the eight-acre property in 1966. At that time there were only 30 wineries in Napa Valley so he was a real pioneer — in every sense of the word. He cleared the land and planted the vineyards in 1967. The original vineyard was four acres of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Later there was a bit of pinot noir and an obscure white varietal that he planted. He also built a house and in 1974 built the winery. All of this was done completely without any outside help and he did this mostly on weekends and some weekdays while still maintaining his dental practice in the Bay area.

From the beginning in the 1970s, the wines were balanced and very flavorful. Total production in an average year was only 800 cases. The cabernets have stood the test of time and have aged beautifully. Our visit this year was the first in some 30 years. Things are still pretty much the same except Pete has retired and no longer makes Ritchie Creek Cabernet. We had a wonderful visit and hope to revisit soon. Drinking the old wines will be a lot of fun. I still have a lot of them in my cellar and can match them up with some of the newer wines for comparison. But, sadly, I cannot direct you to the wines. However, should you ever see them for sale buy them if they have been well cellared. 

1983 Ritchie Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
This is a lovely old cabernet that is very claret like in style. It has a deep color with amber tones and an amber edge. The perfume is cedary with a forest like nuance and subtle hints of floral spiciness. Elegant and refined, the wine has lovely cedary fruit and is balanced and rounded with a very nice finish — Outstanding.

2007 Ritchie Creek Cabernet Sauvignon spring Mountain Napa Valley
Alas, as mentioned earlier, this is the last vintage for Ritchie Creek Cabernet. Produced in a very small quantity, it will be difficult to find. But, if you see it, buy it. Dark in color, the wine has a deep perfume of plums and cassis with hints of blackberry and cedar. It is supple and rounded with heaps of cedar tinged fruit yet is has great underlying structure. The balance here is stunning and this should be an elegant seamless wine as it full develops over the next 15 to 20 years — Outstanding Plus.


2009 Ritchie Creek Pinot Noir Spring Mountain Napa Valley
This wine is made from one acre of vines planted in the early 1980s. Production is typically around 50 cases and the wine is not sold commercially. This 2009 is gorgeous. It has a deep color and a gorgeous floral berry perfume with a kiss of spice. Elegant, supple, and refined yet loaded with fruit and flavor, this pinot noir is simply delicious — Outstanding.