Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in Robb Report and can be found here.
“The 9 Best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons From the Storied Howell Mountain Appellation”
by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen
Long before the 1976 Judgment of Paris put Napa Valley’s vinous treasure on the wine world map, bottles from Howell Mountain were taking home medals at international contests. In 1889, a wine made by Jean Adolph Brun and Jean V. Chaix, pioneers in what is now the high-altitude AVA in the northeast of the valley took home a bronze medal from the Paris World Competition. Ten years later, two other early hillside settlers, W.S. Keyes and Frederick Hess, were awarded gold and bronze medals, respectively, for their Howell Mountain wines. It took almost another hundred years for official government recognition; in 1983 Howell Mountain was named the first AVA within the greater confines of the Napa Valley AVA.
What sets this small American Viticultural Area near Saint Helena apart from many other wine regions is that its perimeter is delineated not just by geographic borders but by altitude: All vineyards must be a minimum of 1,400 feet above sea level. And while many wines from Napa and neighboring Sonoma benefit from cooling Pacific fog that rolls in each morning, Howell Mountain’s vines sit above the fog line, offering full sunlight throughout the day. Mountain conditions create berries with thick skin, offering a higher peel to juice ratio and stronger tannins. At the same time, cooler temperatures at higher altitudes aid in retaining acidity; this balanced tannin and acidity create wines that are made to last. That said, picking at perfect ripeness and a judicious use of oak means that while these will age beautifully for years, no one would fault you for opening a bottle now. Back in the day, Howell Mountain wine was likely to be Zinfandel, but today its vineyards are mainly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties for blending. Among the region’s 66 member vineyards and wineries you will find familiar faces with national distribution and small volume cult wines that take a little work to acquire. Here’s a selection of Cabs to get you started…
The name Dust & Glory is to honor founder Flora Komes who often used this phrase borrowed from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This delightful wine is purple ink colored when poured from the bottle with very concentrated aromas of blueberry, cassis and dark chocolate. It has flavors of black plum, blackberry and a touch of bramble. The tannins are plush yet firm and the lingering finish has notes of cedar, smoke and mocha. Enjoy now until 2029.
This is the second vintage of our Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain AVA, the first new Single Vineyard Cabernet to be added to our portfolio in over two decades. We always admired the wines of Howell Mountain, an appellation that sits to the east of St. Helena in the Vaca Mountain range. But we also learned that growing fruit on Howell Mountain comes with its challenges; the grapes are typically late-ripening and the tannins can be overwhelming. But as John and Nat Komes explored and experimented, they identified a wine from one of the highest elevation sites in the AVA that met their criteria, a beautifully expressive mountain Cabernet, distinct from our other Single Vineyards but no less prized.
Beloved in California where they have the honor of being the state bird, quails are known to travel in groups, with adults, both male and female, caring for their young. With his characteristic head plume and cranberry-studded wreath, our festive quail is anticipating the holidays. This illustration is inspired by Flora Springs’ matriarch and muse, Flora Komes, whose love for all living things, both great and small, was legendary.
Our Holiday Bottles
Created especially for our wine club members, our Holiday Bottles are a way of thanking members for their loyalty and providing them with uniquely elegant bottles ideal for festive holiday celebrations and thoughtful gifts. The brainchild of General Manager Nat Komes, whose grandmother, Flora, imbued him with a love for the holidays, each wine is meticulously etched and painted by hand, with capsules and back labels applied one by one. As the only Napa Valley winery to offer new holiday designs each year, we pour ourselves into this annual project, ensuring that each bottle is absolute perfection inside and out.
Our 2019 Holiday Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from two outstanding, sustainably-farmed vineyards: the Komes Vineyard in Rutherford and our Windfall Vineyard in Oakville. Flavors of black cherry, red plum and kirsch are at the core of this plush and generous Cabernet, accompanied by notes of licorice, sweet basil, and a hint of menthol. A lovely oak component introduces notes of toasted marshmallow and vanilla to the palate, along with attractive hints of cedar and brown spice. This is a full-bodied wine with a soft mouthfeel and smooth tannins that lengthen the warm and satisfying finish. A perfect way to celebrate family during the holiday season. Learn more about this wine.
Flora Springs 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Holy Smoke Vineyard Oakville Napa Valley
Dark red. Shows an expansive nose of black currant with deeper notes of loam soil and chocolate shavings that are mirrored on a deeply flavored, mouth filling palate. The texture is silky with a firm structure, juicy acidity, and an overall sense of refinement. The oak is seamlessly integrated with just a hint of toast. And the finish is persistent with moderate tannins. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a single block planted to Clone 4 and matured 18 months in 80% French and 20% American oak.
Flora Springs 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Wild Boar Vineyard Napa Valley
The Wild Boar Cab is a supple wine with good intensity of fruit. It begins with savory, earthy aromas married to cassis fruit. The attack is soft and refined, leading to a palate of dark fruit with hints of chocolate and loam. Surprisingly accessible with round tannins and a long flavorful finish. Of all the Flora Springs single vineyard Cabernets, this is the one we would choose to drink now. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in 30% French and 70% American oak.
Flora Springs 2018 Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Napa Valley
Dark red. On the nose, gorgeous up front aromas of blackberry, cassis, and tobacco leaf. Silky smooth attack followed by a beautifully refined mouth feel and concentrated, layered flavors of dark cherry, dark berries and savory dried herbs. A youthful wine, it has a distinct stoney, chalky mineral character. Finishes with a long flavorful finish with soft round tannins. Surprisingly evolved for a mountain wine, but then 2018 was an exceptional vintage. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from one of the highest vineyard sites on the volcanic soils of Howell Mountain; matured 22 months in 94% French and 6% American oak.
Flora Springs 2019 Rutherford Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley
On the nose, the Rutherford Hillside shows earthy, dark fruit complemented by smoky oak and cooking spice. It’s soft and silky on entry with a beautifully balanced and pure, refined character. Black currant and black raspberry show on the firmly structured and densely flavored palate, but despite its youth this wine is accessible now. Finishes long with dark fruit, cocoa dust, and earthy notes. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a small block of vines on the northwestern edge of the Rutherford appellation aged 18 months in 90% French and 10% American oak. The Rutherford Hillside Cab has been produced as a single vineyard wine since 1994.
Flora Springs Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons
Truly elegant and powerful wines, that reflect the place from which they originate. Shop our current releases or contact us at (800) 913-1118 to inquire about other vintages.
The 2019 Trilogy marks the 35th vintage of our flagship red wine, a bottling that dates back to 1984 when our family decided to make the finest wine possible by selecting fruit from the highest quality blocks from our estate vineyards in Napa Valley.
Back then it was one of Napa Valley’s first proprietary red wines, and we named it for the three Bordeaux varietals which made up the blend. Ever since, Trilogy has consistently earned more than 90 points from wine critics and is admired by fans both for its approachability and ability to age.
The 2019 is a classic Bordeaux blend of estate-grown varietals dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon with a supporting cast of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Ripe and succulent, the wine sports flavors of cassis, currant and black plum shaded with notes of vanilla crème, black licorice, cola and sweet earth. Open textured with smooth tannins and a juicy, inviting finish, this Trilogy will reward cellaring for at least 15 years.
The early part of the 2019 growing season was defined by heavy rainfall which replenished reservoirs and gave the soils plenty of moisture. A long, warm summer featured few extreme heat events, and the typically foggy mornings set the stage for vibrant and expressive wines. Harvest was long and relatively mild, helping to preserve freshness and finesse in the fruit with extended hang time teasing out great color, structure and soft tannins. Crop volume was average to a little less than average. In the end, it was another amazing vintage yielding exceptional fruit with bright acidity and ample flavor and texture.
91 points, Wine Spectator “A plush fruit bomb, with waves of plum sauce, warmed cassis and cherry puree cruising through, laced with vanilla and ending with a creamy finish. For the hedonist crowd.”Read more.
94 points, James Suckling “Sweetly spiced nose of cherries, spiced plums, strawberries, vanilla and lavender. Full-bodied with firm, supple tannins and fresh acidity. Juicy, fruity and delicious with pretty spice and floral undertones on the long finish.”
94 points, James the Wine Guy “…comes across nicely and handsomely…this is an absolutely luminous, beautiful wine…” Watch the video tasting notes.
93 points, International Wine Review “This is the 35th vintage of this highly successful, flagship wine. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Malbec, it displays a deep garnet-purple color and offers up aromas of cassis, blackberries, and dark red cherries with hints of herbs, vanilla, and baking spices. It is full-bodied and fleshy with bold flavors and excellent concentration. Velvet-like on the palate, it has round firm tannins and a long finish. This wine will have a long life.”Read more.
Grade: A & Score: 93, IntoWine “Trilogy is one of the more famous blends made in Napa and this represents the 35th vintage! This vintage is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Malbec. Deep garnet in color, mostly opaque and bright. The nose has black cherries, cassis, char, and slight milk chocolate and spices. Medium to full bodied. Medium plus tannins. Tingly acidity. On the palate, raspberries, cassis and some underlying char. Long finish with some chocolate notes. This is still young but should be good drinking over the next fifteen to twenty years. Nice on its own, this will work well with all but the lightest foods or seafood. Steak off the grill is a nice choice.”Read more.
Flagship Wines from Flora Springs Appetite for Wine “Opaque, inky garnet, almost black. Aromas of ripe blackberry, black cherry, plum, and toasty oak. On the palate, big, juicy blackberry and cherry, with vanilla, caramel, and hints of leather and oak. Rich, full body. Tannins are soft and smooth, with medium acidity. This is a big, bold wine that wants a grilled steak or lamb chops. The finish is smooth, with ripe blackberry jam, plum, and milk chocolate notes.”Read more.
A-, 1WineDude.com “A showy, flamboyant and tasty Guilty Pleasure pick.”Read more.
Flora Springs Soliloquy is named for our proprietary Sauvignon Blanc clone, an outstanding and singular clone which is entirely unique to Flora Springs. Planted in our Crossroads Vineyard in the Oakville AVA, the clone was certified in the late 1980s by UC Davis as distinct from more common Sauvignon Blanc clones in Napa Valley. The clone nearly went extinct when our vines became diseased and had to be pulled. It took eight long years – three in a lab, two in a nursery and three in the ground – but our family was able to protect and preserve this precious clone. After that, General Manager Nat Komes took Soliloquy on as a personal project, conducting numerous blending trials over a three-year period to re-create the Soliloquy wine he and his family remember so fondly. Today, Soliloquy represents our quest to create the finest white wine we have ever made, a worthy companion to our proprietary red wine, Trilogy.Learn more about this wine.
Our 2019 Trilogy marks the 35th vintage of our flagship red wine, a bottling that dates back to 1984 when our family decided to make the finest wine possible by selecting fruit from the highest quality blocks from our estate vineyards in Napa Valley. Back then it was one of Napa Valley’s first proprietary red wines, and we named it for the three Bordeaux varietals which made up the blend. Ever since, Trilogy has consistently earned more than 90 points from wine critics and is admired by fans both for its approachability and ability to age. Learn more about this wine.
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in Napa Valley Life Magazine and can be found here.
“Each year, Napa Valley Life pauses to recognize and celebrate the area’s bounties by asking our readers to weigh in on their favorite places to eat, drink, shop, and play, and we have the privilege to present them in our annual Best of Napa Valley-Readers Choice Awards. Well, folks, the results are in! After calculating thousands of votes and write-in entries, we are pleased to share and congratulate this year’s winners in each polling category.
We hope you enjoy reading the results and take the time to congratulate the ones you know and make a point to discover the ones you don’t.”
Flora Springs Named “Best Hidden Gem Winery” in Napa Valley Life Magazine’s 2022 Best of Napa Valley Awards Readers Choice
“Founded in 1978 by John and Julie Komes and named after their free-spirited mother, Flora, Flora Springs history dates back to the late 1800s when grapes were first planted on the estate. Lauded as one of Napa Valley’s local hidden gems, the St. Helena winery and tasting room offer visitors a relaxing respite to learn some of Napa’s unique history and experience some of the region’s top-rated Cabernet, Chardonnay, single varietal, and Bordeaux blends, including their award-winning Trilogy.”
Visit Our Tasting Room in St. Helena
We welcome you to Napa Valley for wine tasting while enjoying views of flourishing vineyards and the western hillsides. Wine tastings are currently by reservation only. Space fills quickly, make your reservations today.
Flora Springs Soliloquy is named for our proprietary Sauvignon Blanc clone, an outstanding and singular clone which is entirely unique to Flora Springs. Planted in our Crossroads Vineyard in the Oakville AVA, the clone was certified in the late 1980s by UC Davis as distinct from more common Sauvignon Blanc clones in Napa Valley. The clone nearly went extinct when our vines became diseased and had to be pulled. It took eight long years – three in a lab, two in a nursery and three in the ground – but our family was able to protect and preserve this precious clone. After that, General Manager Nat Komes took Soliloquy on as a personal project, conducting numerous blending trials over a three-year period to re-create the Soliloquy wine he and his family remember so fondly. Today, Soliloquy represents our quest to create the finest white wine we have ever made, a worthy companion to our proprietary red wine, Trilogy.
Our Sauvignon Blanc-based 2020 Soliloquy is a complex, multi-layered blend of white varietals offering evocative notes of pomelo, lime blossom, apple, hazelnut and stone fruit. Sauvignon Blanc anchors the wine with bold flavor, zesty acidity and serious weight, while the Chardonnay rounds out the blend with a creamy leesy quality. The Malvasia brings alluring citrus and floral notes. Soliloquy is an impressive, crowd pleasing wine, ideal for Saturday night dinner parties with friends. Learn more about this wine.
2020 Napa Valley Vintage
The 2020 Napa Valley growing season began with a warm, dry winter, with no appreciable rain until the end of March. A mild spring season gave the vines a healthy start, and summer brought very cool mornings and warm days. What looked like an ideal harvest turned into one of Napa Valley’s most challenging due to wildfires in the region. At Flora Springs, we were not able to harvest the majority of our red grapes, but we were able to safely harvest pristine, delicious grapes for our Soliloquy white wine in early September. As a family and team, we have pledged to over deliver on wine quality for more than forty years, even during challenging vintages. Our 2020 Soliloquy is a testament to this dedication.
The first new Single Vineyard Cabernet to be added to our portfolio in over two decades, the wine is from one of the highest elevation sites in the AVA, and as a beautifully expressive mountain Cabernet that needs time to mellow, it’s drinking beautifully right now.
Awarded 94 and 93 points respectively by respected wine critics James Suckling and Jeb Dunnuck, the 2017 Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich, layered and saturated red with aromas and flavors of black currants, black raspberries, tobacco, cedarwood and chocolate. There’s a spiciness to the wine along with hints of violets and buttery toffee.
We encourage you to order a few bottles both to enjoy now and cellar, as this wine has the potential to age at least 15 years.
94 points, James Suckling “A rich, layered red with aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, spices, chocolate and salted toffee. Full-bodied, creamy and chewy. Delicious already, but this needs time to resolve the tannins. Well done for the vintage.”
93+ points, Jeb Dunnuck “The flagship release is the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Dust & Glory, which is all from Howell Mountain fruit. It reveals a saturated purple color to go with notes of blackcurrants, leafy herbs/tobacco, cedarwood, and violets. With medium to full body, a solid sense of freshness and purity, plenty of ripe mountain tannins, and a great finish, it’s going to come together with 4-5 years of bottle age and drink well over the following 10-15+.”
Flora Springs’ love affair with the Chardonnay varietal began when the winery was founded in 1978. In fact, you could say that it’s Chardonnay that put our winery on the map so many years ago! It has always been one of John Komes’ favorite wines, and since that first vintage, he’s made a Chardonnay every year we’ve been in business. We’d like to think we’ve gotten pretty good at it, always using the best fruit from our Napa Valley vineyards. To celebrate #ChardonnayDay on May 27, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of our favorite Chardonnay milestones.
Our Napa Valley Chardonnay Gets the Gold!
Back in the 1970s and 80s, the highest accolade a winery could earn was a Gold Medal from a wine competition. Our 1979 Napa Valley Chardonnay won a Gold at the prestigious Los Angeles County Fair in 1980. The recognition put Flora Springs on the map, and made everyone, including ourselves, take our winemaking a little more seriously
Full Steam Ahead
“With that surprising win, what had begun as a hobby was becoming a business, and Flora Springs went full steam ahead with producing the very best wines possible.”
“9 Places to Taste Excellent Napa Valley Chardonnay” by NapaValley.com
“While officially founded in 1978, grapes were first planted on this St. Helena property, located at the foot of the Mayacamas, in the late 1800s, which marked the start of Flora Springs’ fascinating history. The winery produces several different chardonnays, each with a unique flavor profile, from the juicy and tropical Family Select Chardonnay to the limited-production Flora’s Legacy Chardonnay, made from a barrel selection of the finest chardonnay of the vintage, in honor of Flora Komes, the inspiration for the winery.
Insider Tip: Flora Springs feels so strongly about the quality of their chardonnay and other white wines that the winery has been a leading proponent of the movement to introduce the #whitewineemoji.” Read the full article.
Listen in as Anthony Dias Blue of Blue Lifestyle talks about our upcoming release, the 2017 Holy Smoke Cabernet Sauvignon. “Simply put, the wine is stunning… the impressive 2017 Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon Holy Smoke Vineyard is a Napa Valley icon…97 points & Double Gold”: