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.
December 4, 2022
If you’re a wine lover, it’s likely you have that one bottle at home – a very special wine that you always mean to open for a celebration, holiday, or dinner party—but never do.
In 2000, The Wall Street Journal ‘Tastings’ columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher created Open That Bottle Night. Now an annual event, the aim is to motivate people to finally open that bottle and create lasting memories.
Follow along on Instagram or Twitter with #OTBN, and tell us about your special bottle. Tag @florasprings and we may share your post!
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.
November 24, 2021
Four decades ago we were lucky enough to celebrate our first harvest alongside our parents Flora and Jerry Komes. As we mark our 40th harvest with the release of our 2018 red wines, we thank you for being part of our journey through the years. We are deeply grateful for your continued support of our small, family-owned winery. Happy Thanksgiving!
The Komes & Garvey Family
April 29, 2021
It takes a special Cabernet Sauvignon to be designated a Flora Springs “Single Vineyard.” Along with Trilogy and Flora’s Legacy Cabernet, these are the crown jewels in our portfolio. We asked General Manager Nat Komes how he and the winemaking team decides what makes the cut.
How do you determine when a vineyard is good enough to be bottled on its own?
To become a Single Vineyard a wine must convey a unique sense of place and individuality; in its aromas and flavors it must clearly express the characteristics of a particular site. Of course, the wine must be of extremely high quality. It’s gotta taste good!
How do you get complexity in a Single Vineyard wine?
The complexity comes from the site itself and in the way we blend different blocks together. Our viticultural practices are tailored to each block, allowing us to tease out the differences and distinctive characteristics of each one. That, coupled with the singularities each vintage brings, gives each of our Single Vineyard wines dimension and layers of complexity.
What winemaking techniques do you employ with the Single Vineyard Cabernets?
Our vinification is aimed at obtaining purity of fruit and the structure that makes for extended aging. We carefully hand sort the grapes upon receipt, give them a three- to four-day period of cold soaking prior to fermentation, and carefully manage the extraction of tannins during and after fermentation. Then we age the wines for about 18 months on average in French and/or American oak, depending on the wine.
What makes the Wild Boar Cabernet Sauvignon stands out as a Single Vineyard wine?
Wild Boar has always been a revelation to me in the sense that I consider it to be an “all-American” wine. By that I mean it has a bit of a wild west character to it, yet it can also be polished and refined. Kind of like a well-dressed cowboy. We age Wild Boar in 70-75% American oak, which frames it in sweet, vanilla-like tannins. Although big, Wild Boar is never clumsy, but rather manages to walk the fine line between rich, ripe fruit and structural elegance.
Single Vineyard Cabernets
Truly elegant and powerful wines, that reflect the place from which they originate, learn more.
April 1, 2021
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published on NapaValley.com and can be found here.
“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 more.
Plan Your Napa Valley Wine Tasting
We invite you to our Napa Valley Tasting Room for wine tasting while enjoying views of flourishing vineyards and the western hillsides. Plan your getaway.
January 28, 2021
by John Komes
It was the early 1990s and Flora Springs had been in business for just over ten years when I decided we needed to have a tasting room on Highway 29.
There wasn’t quite as much tourism in Napa Valley as there is now, and I wanted a place right on the highway where people could easily visit us. I bought a building – an old HVAC shop – just south of the old Dean & DeLuca gourmet grocery (now Gary’s Wine & Marketplace) in St. Helena. I cleaned it up, installed a circular bar, hired an artist to paint some wall murals, and opened up for tastings.
But business was slow. I kept hearing folks say they hadn’t “noticed” the tasting room, even people who stopped at Dean & DeLuca. I decided to do something about it. My wife, Carrie, and I had recently visited Barcelona and seen many of the buildings designed by renowned architect, Antoni Gaudí. I loved the flow and imagination of his structures, the fanciful nature of his designs.
You can guess what happened next.
When I returned to St. Helena I consulted with a local architect, and together we designed a new Tasting Room that echoes, in Gaudí-like fashion, the look and feel of a wine cave set into a mountainside. We used bent plywood to give the structure its curvature and painted the outside to represent geologic striations in the earth.
Inside we created separate tasting areas made to feel like private rooms in a wine cave, and installed a curved tasting bar with a modern bistro vibe. The rooftop, which has magnificent views of mountains and vineyards to the west, feels like a comfortable living room, a place where people can relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
Wine Tasting in Saint Helena
Thanks to my son Nat, our Tasting Room has gotten some upgrades recently, and I’m excited about the improvements. I always wanted it to be a place where people could indulge their sense of sight as well as taste and smell. Most of all, I want the Tasting Room to inspire curiosity and delight, to be the place where people come to learn more about the legacy of Flora Springs.
Now we are thrilled to be reopening for outdoor wine tasting, by appointment. Plan your Napa Valley wine tasting adventure today.
Flora Springs Tasting Room
677 S. Saint Helena Highway
Saint Helena, CA 94574
December 23, 2020
Despite its many challenges, 2020 also offered new ways of interacting with you, a few “firsts,” and many reasons to be grateful. Here are just a few:
Our family presented leis to the first 100 guests at our 2017 Trilogy Party.
We found new ways to connect with you through virtual tastings and curbside pickups.
We were named “Best Hidden Gem Winery” in Napa Valley Life Magazine.
We released the 2017 Howell Mountain Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon—our first new Single Vineyard Cabernet in over two decades, with a 94 point score from James Suckling.
We celebrated John Komes’ 80th birthday.
We released our first wine in cans, the 2019 Honest Bucker Pinot Grigio from sister brand Bodacious Wines.
We shipped a record amount of wine to Wine Club Members and customers; thank you for your support!
We completed our 42nd harvest.
We supported Napa Valley wildfire relief efforts with a Halloween Dinner & Wine event and other initiatives, and thanks to you, donated over $5,500 to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Fire Disaster Relief Fund.
Maximilian Riedel, 11th generation glassmaker at the world-renowned Riedel Wine Glass Company, shared his experience of opening and tasting our 1991 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with his 88,000 Instagram followers: “..what a joy. The wine has been in my cellar for a very long time…look at that color, fun. Cheers!”
As another year comes to a close, we want to take a moment and thank you for letting us be a part of your lives. We are fortunate and grateful that you choose Flora Springs to accompany your meals, toasts, celebrations and special occasions. Here’s to a healthy, happy 2021!