Pride Mountain Vineyards

Pride Mountain Vineyards

People immediately understand why the winery estate was previously named "Summit Ranch." The twisting twenty-minute drive west from St. Helena, or east from Santa Rosa, rewards visitors with a stunning view of rugged Mount St. Helena to the northeast and verdant vineyards rising skyward in all directions.

Pride Mountain Vineyards is a 235-acre estate with a wooden-beamed, modest-sized winery that blends smoothly into its mountainous surroundings and California heritage. The charming and unpretentious tasting room offers guests the opportunity to sample the latest vintages while chatting with the gracious and knowledgeable staff.

Those joining the Pride Mountain crew for a morning tour can also enjoy the property's other unique features. Beside the winery, the crush pad is bisected by a brick inlay that defines the Napa/Sonoma County line. Walking into the caves, the temperature drops to the high 50s, humidity rises, and the visitor is greeted with the heady aromas of wine and oak. Over 23,000 square feet of subterranean storage winds naturally under the hillside, opening out onto a terrace overlooking the vineyards and the scenic northern Napa Valley.

Back into the bright sun, then down a single lane road, the ruin of the original Summit Ranch winery, built in 1890, looms through the fir and oak trees. The four walls are now silent, but provide a peaceful spot for a post-tasting picnic.

The Pride family has reason to be pleased with the combination of restoration and innovation, of form and function, and hopes each visitor leaves with a warmer and better understanding of winemaking.

In 1989 Jim and Carolyn Pride had sold rice land in the Sacramento Valley and were looking for a place to retire. Jim’s business was located in Marin County, California and so, being long-time wine aficionados, they thought that a place in either Napa or Sonoma County would be ideal. Jim could continue running Pride Institute (his dental practice management company) and they could raise grapes which would be sold to others. Retirement looked very appealing!

After months of searching, the old Summit Ranch became available and seemed ideal as its location embraced BOTH Napa and Sonoma counties. The commute was very doable, and neither Carolyn nor Jim was daunted by the prospect of farming as both were from longtime farming families in the Sacramento Valley.

Events unfolded very rapidly after the first year on the property. The grapes the land produced were exceptional. “Why are we selling them to others?” Jim and Carolyn asked themselves. Running the ranch was proving not to be a job for commuters, so they decided to have Carolyn stay on the ranch and shepherd the development of this business that there was seemingly no holding back. Jim would work on Pride Institute business during the week, including traveling extensively to lecture on the business of dentistry. The weekends would find him happily reunited with Carolyn in the vineyard where he spent hard-working and hard-thinking weekends driving the tractor, planning and planting vineyards and visualizing a winery on site. The decade of the ‘90s was a whirlwind and truly a labor of love.

In wonderful family fashion the Prides’ daughter Suzanne and son Steve both joined the business in 2003, after Jim became ill. Suzanne’s husband Stuart Bryan was already on board, having managed national sales since the first vintage in 1991. "It’s fantastic to be second-generation owners and carry-forward our parents' vision. We are so blessed with the amazing fruit that grows on our mountain top and the talented team of people who make our winery and our wines so special," says Suzanne. Sadly, cancer claimed Jim in 2004. True to form, Carolyn persevered with her business responsibilities for the next several years, aided by her long-time staff and her children.

Sally's journey to the top of Spring Mountain was a windy one. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, she was planning a career in the Biotech industry when she headed overseas for stints in Brittany and Paris, France to complete her college language requirements. While soaking up the Continental lifestyle, she became fascinated by the rich history of the wine industry, its connection to the seasons, and the craftsmanship involved in creating a distinctive cuv'e. She returned home and completed a dual degree in French Literature and Biology at the University of Michigan, and her next step was to enroll in U.C. Davis's Master's Degree program in Enology.

After leaving Davis, Sally joined the team at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma County, CA, first as enologist and moving up to winemaker during her eight year tenure. She took a brief hiatus in 2002 to work a harvest at St. Hallett Winery in Australia's Barossa Valley, returning to California with wine-stained hands, steel-toed Rossi work boots, and an appreciation for old vine Shiraz and dry Riesling. She also made Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah under her own label for several years.

In 2007, Sally joined the team at Pride Mountain Vineyards. Having been a devotee of Pride wines for many years, she is thrilled to be charged with handcrafting our distinctive wines. "Pride has such an incredible site. The diversity of the soil types, our southern exposure and our block-by-block approach to managing 46 individual vineyard blocks within an 83-acre ranch all add up to fruit with awesome potential. My job is to coax out the expressive, extracted wines that are synonymous with Pride Mountain. It's a dream job!"

Our eighty-three vineyard acres drape across the gentle rolling crest of the Mayacamas Mountains some 2000 feet above the floor of the Napa Valley. Being on the mountaintop provides many of the vines with desirable southern exposures, which is unique for a Spring Mountain property.The elevation also puts us above the morning fog that often blankets the Sonoma and Napa Valleys, with the result that the vines are bathed in sunshine from dawn to dusk.

During the growing season, the average temperature at Pride Mountain Vineyards is several degrees cooler than in the Napa Valley, which is beneficial to protecting the natural acidity of the grapes. The daily temperature fluctuations are also much smaller, with morning temperatures being considerably warmer and afternoon temperatures considerably cooler than in the Napa Valley. This results in gradual, steady ripening and long hang times.

Our mountaintop soils derive from volcanic sources and uplifted seabed sediments. The red-hued loams contain a large percentage of cobbles and gravel that provide exceptionally good drainage. The dominant soil type is the Goulding Cobbly Loam Association, which can be found at the highest elevations of both the Mayacamas and Sonoma Mountains.

Even within the Goulding, there are large variations in clay content and soil depth that require us to make careful varietal and rootstock selections for each vineyard block.

In order for the grapes to achieve a healthful ripeness, it is essential that proper balance be achieved each growing season between the amount of fruit on the vines and the canopy vigor. Factors strongly influencing this fruit-to-canopy balance include the choice of rootstock for each patch of soil, the choice of cover crop, the winter pruning strategies, and the watering strategies. We review and possibly modify our strategies for each of our forty vineyard blocks each and every vintage.

Although not 'organic', our viticultural practices are 'sustainable'. Our year-round vineyard crew of fifteen skilled and well-compensated workers allows us to truly manage our vineyards “vine by vine”.