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School House

Owner(s) John M. Gantner, Nancy Walker
Web site www.schoolhousevineyard.com
 
Link to this site

School House Vineyard is located on Spring Mountain above St. Helena at the intersection of Langtry and Spring Mountain Roads. The vineyard was named after a one-room 1890s schoolhouse on the property which was destroyed by fire in the mid 1980s. The original vines, a mixed field blend, were planted in the 1890s and all of the grapes were blended into a single red table wine. Today some of the vines have been replanted to produce School House Mescolanza, a modern interpretation of the field blend.

John Daniel, owner of the Inglenook Estate, gave his friend, John Q. Gantner some Pinot Noir bud wood (said to be from Domaine Romanee-Conti) and Gantner planted the Pinot Noir in his School House Vineyard in 1953. The first School House Pinot Noir was released in 1957. Chardonnay was planted in the School House Vineyard in the late 1960s, using bud wood from Fred McCrea’s Stony Hill Vineyard. The non-irrigated vineyard is located in a cool and unique microclimate at 1,500 foot elevation with well-drained soils.

Currently, John M. Gantner and Nancy Walker farm the vineyard and live on the property. The School House wines are vinified at Pride Mountain Vineyards under the direction of winemaker Bob Foley and his assistant, Romel Rivera. The wines are sold primarily through the website. These are historic and quite distinctive Pinot Noirs which deserve every Pinot enthusiasts attention, even considering the high price.

Reviewed Wines

2008 School House Vineyard Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% 275 cases, $80. Magnums available. This vintage yielded 3.5 tons picked at about 25.5º Brix. Fermented in open top bins after a light pressing. Matured 18 months in new French oak barrels and hand-bottled. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas dance in and out over time in the glass, but the emphasis is on cherry fruit with hints of tea leaf and oak. Lighter in weight than the 2006 vintage, yet impressively flavorful, featuring intense cherry compote, baking spice and green leaf, with notes of raisin, herbs and minerality. The wine sports a moderately firm tannic backbone and offers an unbelievably long finish that lasts at least a minute. Very good. Reviewed April 4, 2012 ARTICLE »

2006 School House Vineyard Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Pinot Noir

15.1% alc., 200 cases, $80. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color with very slight yellowing of the rim in the glass. The bouquet of secondary characters includes raisin, black olive, old cask and old boot leather. A delicious wine with many layers of flavor including dried cherries, black raspberries, black currants, cola, sassafras and spice. Very ripe in fruit character with grainy, supportive tannins and some length on the finish. Very good. Reviewed April 4, 2012 ARTICLE »

2003 School House Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Pinot

Table wine, 9 barrels, $75. Label says, “From mountain grapes grown on School House Vineyard, St. Helena, by John M. Gantner. Cellared and bottled by Gantner and Walker, St. Helena.” Low yields (just under a ton per acre). Fermented in open-top bins after destemming. Aged 18 months in French oak and bottled by hand. · Deep ruby in color. A dirty diaper fragrance blows off to reveal a rich perfume of ripe cherries, Mocha java and forest floor. The concentrated flavors follow in step with added notes of cranberry, roasted plums and game. There is plenty of earthiness at heart. A touch of alcohol on the nose and finish is not intrusive. A highly distinctive wine of great character and clearly unlike a “typical” California Pinot Noir. Reviewed August 24, 2007 ARTICLE »

1993 School House Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Pinot Noir

Label says, “From mountain grapes grown on School House Vineyard, St. Helena, by John M. Gantner. Cellared and bottled by Scotland Craig Partners, St. Helena.” · Mahogany color with an orange rim. Impressive aromas of dark chocolate-covered cherries with hints of toast. Tart cherry flavors with noticeable tannins lead to a finish with brisk acidity. The wine is fading and the fruit is tired and thin on the backend, but it still has some charm left. Reviewed August 24, 2007 ARTICLE »