Mount Veeder, Napa
Sky means what it says: a far outpost at the summit of Mount Veeder, 2100ft high in the Mayacamas. It takes about an hour on rough roads from either valley, Sonoma on one side, Napa on the other, to reach the summit. There, Lore Olds and his daughter Skyla have 14 acres of vines that grow straight out into the sky.
The family have been here since 1979, but although roots run deep, living and working also feels temporary and always fragile. Lore chose to settle up here so that his vines could ripen in the cool, early morning sun and also receive the cool and fog of evening: but to do so was to choose precarity. Off-grid power is through solar panels and a single generator. Rattlesnakes are more numerous than humans. And the threat of fires here is a constant. Regardless, Lore and Sky insist on dry-farming and in summer the vineyards are kindling waiting to happen.
Lore and Skyla survived many fires but, in 2017, the Nuns fire took their house, many of their vines and the library of wines laid down since the first vintages. All of Lore’s original artwork, which has appeared on every year’s release, was burnt. However, because they’d made the critical decision to build the winery on the banks of stream, it survived. Thus, winemaking still continues, and on inspection of blackened vines that were believed lost, Sky and Lore found many were still alive.
The beauty of a Sky wine is in its iconoclasm, and its apartness from what Napa has come to signify. This is as far as it gets from the big, brutal Zinfandels that we’ve come to associate with Napa’s chateaux. Instead, a sky wine – from Zinfandel and Syrah which ripen above the fog line, and the intense heat of the lower mountain – is something much more fine-boned and characterised by svelte, brambly freshness. The fruit is hand-harvested, fermented in open-top one ton bins, punched down by hand and pressed in their ancient wooden basket press. There are minimal sulphites added on bottling.