Mount Eden Vineyards
This iconic Santa Cruz Mountains winery has been featured in the PinotFile in several issues. Among
California wineries, Mount Eden’s lineage of estate bottled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is the longest in
California. Founded in 1945 by legendary vintner Martin Ray, it is recognized as one of the first “boutique”
California winery properties with a unique focus on small lots of three varieties normally found in disparate
locations: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mount Eden Estate is situated at 2,000 feet
overlooking Silicon Valley, reached by a winding 2.2-mile dirt road. The grape vines are planted in infertile
Franciscan shale on a cool, exposed hilltop, leading to low-yielding, distinctive wines. Proprietor and
winemaker, Jeffrey Patterson, has been at Mount Eden since 1981, a remarkable longevity for a California
vintner. In 2007, Mount Eden acquired an additional 55 acres in the Saratoga foothills (the formerly Cinnabar
Winery property), which has been named Domaine Eden.
The Mount Eden Vineyards estate wines account for one-third of production. A Mount Eden Vineyards
Saratoga Cuvée Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is produced from declassified estate grapes, grapes grown
nearby, and Mount Eden’s satellite vineyard five miles to the south. Mount Eden Vineyards also produces nonestate
Chardonnays from the central coast of California, primarily Edna Valley. Patterson consults on a
number of winery projects including the recently revived Mountain Winery in Saratoga.
The Mount Eden site now consists of 40 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon, with small
amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were propagated from selections
brought to California by French winemaker Paul Masson, while the Cabernet Sauvignon came from La Questa
Vineyard in nearby Woodside. Patterson began a stepwise replanting of the vineyard at Mount Eden in 1984,
but kept 1 acre of the original Pinot Noir vines as a “mother vineyard.” The remaining 6 acres of Pinot Noir are
planted to Winery Lake, Mount Eden, Swan and Calera selections, and Dijon clones 115, 667, 777 and 828.
The Mount Eden Estate Pinot Noir is a mosaic of all of these clones. Patterson is committed to dry farming,
believing that with non irrigation the vintage character expresses itself more purely.
Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay is grown on 20 acres, from which 1,200 to 2,000 cases are produced each
year. The grapes are pressed without crushing and the juice is all barrel fermented in new and one year old
French Burgundy barrels, where the wine undergoes full MLF and is aged on the lees for 10 months before
being lightly filtered before bottling. The Chardonnay is then cellared for two years before being released for
sale. Patterson aims for a longevity of 20 years for the Chardonnays and his past tastings of vintages that
have aged this long, particularly in magnum format, have proved the capability of this site to produce
remarkably age worthy wines.
Pinot Noir vines occupy 7 acres of the Mount Eden estate vineyard and yields are typically one to one-and-a-half
tons per acre. 50% to 100% whole cluster is used. Patterson kids about whole cluster saying, “The
problem with whole cluster is the stems!” Natural yeasts are used for fermentation in small open-top
fermenters, lasting 10 to 14 days with the must punched down by hand. The new wine is aged for 18 months
in 75% new and 25% one-year-old French Burgundy barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Patterson’s
goal with Mount Eden Estate Pinot Noir is, “A wine that I am still proud of in 10 years.” The Pinot Noirs tend to
be more austere upon release than many California examples, requiring several years of cellaring to reach
their apogee (7 to 10 years). A 1998 Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir tasted at this year’s Pinot Days
was superb with layers of flavor, impeccable balance, and charm to spare. The 2000 vintage was equally
2007 Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 2,387 cases, $48.
Fermented on wild yeast in 50% new and one-year-old French Burgundy oak barrels (Sirigue and Francois
Freres) and aged 10 months with no movement whatsoever. Lightly filtered before bottling.
Clean aromas of
pineapple, toast and lemon zest with delicate flavors of lemon curd, butter and herbs. Crisp and refreshing.
Not as showy as the 2005 vintage, displaying more Burgundian austerity. Very good.
2007 Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 668 cases, $48. A drought vintage (the worse since 1976). Despite
the weather, the crop size was normal. Fermented on native yeasts with
spontaneous MLF. Unfined and unfiltered.
More stacked and packed than
usual for Mount Eden Pinot Noir, this wine has lovely scents of crushed plums
and Morroccan spice followed on the palate with full-bodied black cherry and
black plum flavors. There is deft use of oak, the acid spine is well proportioned,
and the ripe, dry tannins caress the fruit, bringing the wine to a rich and powerful
finish. Will continue to improve in the bottle. Very good and may eclipse the
2006 vintage over time.
2006 Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $48.
I have tasted this wine numerous times and it has
always been precocious and flashy. Bright and juicy earth and spicedusted
black cherry fruit that sticks around in the mouth creating a long
and lush impression on the finish. Absolutely delicious.
Mount Eden Vineyards Estate wines are sold through a mailing list, online and through retail distribution.
Tasting is available at the Press Club in San Francisco (www.pressclubsf.com). Tours (without tasting) of the
historic Mount Eden property are available each weekday by reservation (except during the harvest months of
September and October). 408-867-5832, extension 10. Library wines are sold on the website
(www.mounteden.com). The excellent 2006 Estate Pinot Noir is still available. Magnums of estate Pinot Noir
and Chardonnay are also produced and highly sought after for their longevity