February 28, 2023
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.
Why Dust & Glory? Read more.
February 20, 2023
Back in the days when John Komes was selling our first Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, he came up with idea of holding winemaker dinners pairing each Cabernet with a different cut of premium beef. He knew what many wine enthusiasts knew intuitively: there’s simply something sublime about enjoying a juicy bite of steak with a sip of rich, ripe, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. But he understood the science behind that magical pairing.
“The tannins in red wine are essentially attracted to fat and protein. When you bite into a steak, the tannins in the wine ‘bind’ with the fat and protein in the beef, so that the wine feels softer and less astringent,” says John.
Over time, John experimented with different Cabernet Sauvignon and beef combinations until he came up with the ideal pairing for each Flora Springs offering. For the wine in the Preferred Palates Wine Club February 2023 shipment, our 2020 Wild Boar Cabernet Sauvignon, John recommends a tri-tip steak. Tri-tip, cut from the bottom sirloin, has been popular in California for decades, but has also become available in other parts of the country where it is sometimes called triangle steak, Santa Maria steak or California’s Cut.
“Tri-tip has great marbling which gives it a really good beefy flavor and a supple texture, as long as you don’t overcook it,” he says. “Plus, it has the added bonus of being more economical than many other cuts of beef.”
Tri-tip Marinade for Grilling
Tri-tip is made for grilling, and John likes to marinate this boneless steak for a few hours in the refrigerator before cooking. His preferred marinade (for a two to three-pound steak):
½ cup of red wine
¼ cup of olive oil
3 large garlic gloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Turn several times while marinating. Before grilling, remove steak from marinade. Cook to desired doneness (@122°F for medium rare), let sit for at least five minutes and slice. John likes to serve tri-tip when Nat and his family visit, as the cut easily feeds a small group. He recommends accompanying the meal with small, roasted red potatoes, grilled veggies, a nice arugula salad, and a bottle of his Wild Boar Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wild boars are a fixture in Napa Valley, and as vineyard owners we’ve had our share of run-ins with the creature, which is how our Wild Boar Single Vineyard Cabernet got its name. Boars love to munch on ripe wine grapes, and when we get close to harvest we try to keep them to the natural habitats that surround our vineyards. But if one or two have a meal on us, we’re okay with it. As farmers who depend on Mother Nature, sometimes we need to live and let live. Sourced from our estate vineyard in the Rutherford AVA, our 2020 Wild Boar offers opulent aromatics of red and black raspberry and boysenberry that melt into rich flavors of cassis, black plum and black currant jam on the palate. The fruit is joined by notes of sweet vanilla bean, coconut and toasty oak which mingle with notes of lavender, espresso and a touch of licorice. With well-integrated oak and youthful tannins, the 2020 Wild Boar is a balanced, well-structured Cabernet that will reward further cellaring. Learn more about this wine.
December 31, 2022
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in Forbes and can be found here.
“2022: It’s A Wrap For Wine Writing”
by Lana Bortolot
From pretty packaging, savvy swag and an inspiring revival, here’s a roundup of some of the bottles and stories that caught my eye this year….
The winery packaged holiday blend of its 2019 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon in a specially etched bottle for its wine club members. This year’s edition is a quail bearing a cranberry-studded wreath.
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.
November 7, 2022
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said John Komes, speaking about the 2022 harvest.
He should know, he’s been through 44 of them! That’s right, this year marked John’s 44th harvest at Flora Springs.
Here’s how he described it: “It was a unique year to say the least. In May a freak hailstorm passed through Napa Valley, part of a system that also brought lightning and even snow to regions to the north of us. A relatively cool summer was followed by an extended heat wave starting Labor Day weekend that dashed any hopes of a leisurely harvest. We brought in our white grapes as fast as we could. And then, following all that heat we had a day of rain, heavy at times but really just enough to knock the dust off the vines. By mid-September, thankfully, the weather was absolutely beautiful…foggy mornings, sunny days and cool nights. We were able to bring in our Cabernet at a nice even pace and the fruit looked fantastic. Good color, great flavors, and even with higher sugar levels, the natural acidity held the grapes’ structure intact. Mother Nature sure had a mixed bag of tricks for us this year, but I’m optimistic about the quality of our 2022 vintage.”
October 15, 2022
by Nat Komes, Flora Springs General Manager
When our family founded Flora Springs in the late 1970s, harvest was a family affair, with relatives and friends joining us from around the Bay Area to help us pick grapes over a couple of weekends.
As our vineyard holdings grew, we hired a full-time vineyard crew to help with harvest, though we still reserved a few rows for our family. In the early 1980s, everyone in Napa Valley picked during daylight, starting after sunrise and finishing up in the afternoon.
But our family came up with a better idea: why not pick the grapes at night when it’s nice and cool, and deliver them to the winery first thing in the morning for processing? It would be more comfortable for the harvest crew, and the fruit would better retain its acid and structure.
We jerry-rigged some lighting on a tractor and gave it a try, and quickly concluded it was a better way to go. Today, of course, nearly every winery in Napa Valley harvests at night; it results in superior fruit and happier vineyard crews.
This year we’re celebrating the fact that Flora Springs was among the first to implement night picking with a one-of-a-kind label created for our 2020 All Hallows’ Eve Cabernet Franc label. I worked with comic book illustrator, graphic novelist and digital comics pioneer, Steve Ellis, who developed one of my favorite labels to date. Against the backdrop of a full harvest moon, a menacing bat hovers above the Flora Springs vineyard where the crew brings in the Cabernet Franc for this wine. As I mentioned, harvesting at night keeps the grapes and pickers cool, but it may also attract the attention of these fierce creatures of the night!
August 30, 2022
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in International Wine Review and can be found here.
Flora Springs is one of the Napa Valley’s storied wineries. Located at the base of the Mayacamas mountain range in Napa Valley, it became famous in the 1990s, especially for its Cabernet Sauvignon. We reviewed Flora Springs wines earlier this year and were so impressed with their Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon blend that we asked to taste their portfolio of single vineyard Cabernets, which are the wines we review in this article. These are exceptionally elegant and flavorful wines. Beginning in 2019, Enrico Bertoz is responsible for the winemaking, having replaced long time winemaker Paul Steinauer, who has retired. Read our earlier article for more about what’s happening at Flora Springs including a review of their unique Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc blend.
The 2020 Napa wildfires means Flora Springs had very limited production in that year. In short, if you want to buy Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon, do so now.
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.
June 30, 2022
Our Out of Sight Cabernet Sauvignon represents the best of both worlds: a wine that is wonderfully approachable in its youth, but with the capacity to age gracefully for five, ten, even fifteen years.
The secret? The wine’s tannin profile.
“The Out of Sight Cabs consistently have these lush, round tannins that make them immediately accessible early on,” says Winemaker Enrico Bertoz. “But these same tannins – which are essentially antioxidants – help the wines resist oxidation, which is what causes them to age.”
The quality of Out of Sight’s tannins is due both to its location and the vineyard’s soil profile. Situated on a gentle slope just north of the Coombsville AVA, Out of Sight is our southernmost Cabernet vineyard, and the soils are a beautiful gravelly loam. “The relatively cool microclimate combined with these perfect soils yield really small berries with a high skin to pulp ratio,” says Enrico. “This translates to very dark color and flavors that veer towards black fruit as well as those rich tannins.”
Because of the tannin profile, Enrico is able to leave the wine on its skin for up to two weeks after the primary fermentation is complete, a practice he began several years ago. This would be unthinkable with other Cabernets which have sharper, more angular tannins that need to be harnessed early on, but the technique works well with Out of Sight and contributes to its age worthiness.
Besides the single vineyard bottling, Cabernet from Out of Sight always makes it into Flora’s Legacy Cabernet and Trilogy. “It just always makes the cut,” says Enrico. No wonder it’s one of his favorites!
Planted on an oak-laden hillside between the Napa Valley AVAs of Oak Knoll and Coombsville, our Out of Sight Vineyard off the Silverado Trail is easily missed, hence its name. When we purchased the property in the late 1980s, the site’s gravelly soils and northwest exposure signaled great potential, but the tangled head-pruned vines also suggested years of neglect. After completely re-developing the property, however, our organically-farmed Out of Sight vineyard is today one of our most treasured fruit sources.
May 30, 2022
When you live in California, you understand deep down that water is a precious resource. Periodic droughts have been a fact of life here for decades if not centuries, and even in years when winter storms are plentiful, our Mediterranean climate means we get very little – if any – rain from May through September.
That’s actually good for grape growing, since wine grapes don’t require as much water as many other crops. But grapevines do need some water, and as farmers we’re always looking for ways to irrigate as judiciously as possible. It begins by studying our soils.
One vineyard or even one block can have several types of soils; Napa Valley has more than 100 soil variations. We know that soils heavy in clay need less water than sandy soils, which drain more easily. So we adjust our irrigation regimes to match these different soil types.
For example, at the Komes Ranch, we have six irrigation zones within one 15-acre block. Once we’ve “mapped” the soils, we use several different technologies to measure vine stress during the growing season. These include aerial images (known as Normalized Dierence Vegetation Index or NDVI) that help us understand which sections of our vineyards are undergoing heat stress. We also use fancy sounding evapotranspiration sensors, sap flow meters and soil sensors that measure the water content of our soils and stress of the vines.
By using these measurements, we are able to precisely target the areas of our vineyards that need irrigation. Over the last few years these technologies have resulted in water savings of approximately 50%. What’s more, we’ve found that being more precise in our irrigation practices results in higher quality grapes, a win/win for us and the planet!
With estate properties stretching from the cool, rolling hills of Carneros to the famed sub-appellations of Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena, Flora Springs produces varietal wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals. Each year the family selects a small percentage of the yield for their own wines, selling the remaining fruit to neighboring Napa Valley wineries. This selection puts the focus on quality, not quantity, resulting in hand-crafted wines that meet the family’s exacting standards. Learn more about our Napa Valley vineyards.
As a family that came to the wine business as farmers first, our love of the land influences everything we do. Our environmental stewardship led us to embrace sustainable and organic farming early on. Our search for superior vineyards sites led us to acquire land in some of Napa Valley’s finest appellations, including Rutherford, Oakville, St. Helena and Carneros. Over the years, as we’ve planted and replanted this land to vines, we’ve experimented with rootstocks, clones, trellising systems and a variety of viticultural techniques, always striving to produce the best possible quality.
Every wine we produce, from Trilogy to our single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, is crafted to express the singular soils, microclimates, and beauty of its respective vineyard origins. Learn more about our sustainable farming practices.
May 2, 2022
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in the Napa Valley Life Magazine and can be found here.
“Napa Valley is synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon, so why do producers craft wines from varietals that seem “out of place” for the region? Although Napa Valley has hung its hat—for good reason—on Cabernet, the region’s diverse terroir is what allows for the wide range of varietals that successfully grow in the right microclimates. Add that to passion and talent, and a great viticulturist can team up with an experienced winemaker to turn a non-Cabernet varietal into a truly fantastic Napa Valley wine.
Enter Sangiovese. This thin-skinned grape variety can be tricky to grow, but select Napa Valley producers have mastered the art of crafting this finicky grape into spectacular wine…”
At Flora Springs Winery, General Manager Nat Komes admits that they have “found the southern part of the valley to be a good area for Sangiovese.” Komes stands by the cool breezes in southern Napa Valley blowing up from the San Pablo Bay as one of the main factors for helping their Sangiovese retain the quintessential acidity for which the grape is known. Much like Laura and Brian from 601 Cellars, Komes’ family has a “fell in love” with Sangiovese memory from a trip to Tuscany. “Our Napa Valley Sangiovese stands out primarily because it is becoming so rare,” Komes stated. The estate’s 2019 Sangiovese is a member’s only wine packed with cherry, pomegranate, and red plum—it’s well worth signing up to get your hands on this bottle…” Read more.
Sangiovese is the grape most commonly found in the famed Chianti region of Italy, and this version, from a south Napa Valley vineyard cooled by the San Pablo Bay, benefits during the growing season from a consistent weather pattern of cool, foggy mornings that melt into warm, sunny afternoons. Bursting with fresh fruit flavors of Bing cherry, pomegranate and red plum, this fleshy, mouthfilling red shows accents of mocha, warm spice and licorice. Despite a dense profile, fresh acidity keeps this one bright and focused through to a lingering finish. A crowd-pleasing wine, take this one to your next family dinner. Learn more about the 2019 Sangiovese.
April 14, 2022
It’s springtime in Napa Valley as we enter the height of another growing season.
All of our estate vineyards in Napa Valley went through bud break in March, and since then the vines have pushed out their shoots and leaves and are ready to go through flowering. This is a crucial time in the growing season, as those delicate flowers turn into grape clusters. Heavy rain or strong winds can knock the flowers off the vines, lowering our crop yields and causing unevenness in the fruit set. So we hope for mild weather in May and early June, keeping our eyes on the forecast with fingers crossed!
The Komes and Garvey’s have always been farmers first, and over the years the family has acquired 500 acres throughout Napa Valley, 300 of which are planted to vineyard. With estate properties stretching from the cool, rolling hills of Carneros to the famed sub-appellations of Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena, Flora Springs produces varietal wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals. Each year the family selects a small percentage of the yield for their own wines, selling the remaining fruit to neighboring Napa Valley wineries. This selection puts the focus on quality, not quantity, resulting in hand-crafted wines that meet the family’s exacting standards.
Innovation has always been at the forefront at Flora Springs and remains strong to this day. With decades of experience in Napa Valley farming, the family never rests on its laurels; rather, the years have provided multiple opportunities to refine and experiment with new rootstocks, clones, trellising and irrigation systems, and other viticultural practices. This focus on continuous improvement is a hallmark of the Komes and Garvey family, resulting in the highest quality estate-grown wines. Learn more about Flora Springs Napa Valley vineyards.