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Rubissow-Sargent Visit

The Wine Guide Visits...

Rubissow-Sargent Estate

Napa: April 2, 2004

Departing the village of Napa, it is a short drive out Redwood Road into the Mt. Veeder appellation where the terrain is still more than 90% relatively wild -  wooded with oak, madrone, laurel, fir and redwood. It is a small region, only 15,000 acres in size, but with elevations ranging from 400 feet to the 2677 foot high volcanic peak of Mt. Veeder. The Mt Veeder appellation is home to some of the most remote and steepest vineyards in California, and to more than a dozen vintners, including the Hess Collection, Mr. Veeder, Random Ridge, Chateau Potelle and Rubissow-Sargent. About 1000 acres of Mt Veeder are planted with vines - 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Chardonnay, 8% Merlot, 6% Zinfandel, 3% Cabernet Franc and 10% Other Varietals.

Our destination in Mt. Veeder was the estate vineyard of Rubissow-Sargent a collaboration between two families, and a working partnership of two locations. The Rubissows own and grow the grapes on their farm in the Mt. Veeder appellation, while Winemaker, and retired University of California Senior Scientist, Tony Sargent focuses
on the winemaking near his home in
Berkeley.

It was a beautiful Spring afternoon the clear skies and mild 70-degree temperatures set the stage for a perfect outing into the countryside. Though there is no sign, we eventually found the simple dirt road that steeply winds up the hill, past a few homes to the estate. As we entered the property and drove through the merlot vineyards, we spotted a big yellow house at the top of the hill ahead. This friendly-looking, 100 year old former hunting lodge is the home of the Rubissow family.

As we pulled up to the house, Peter Rubissow, one of the family business second-generation, greeted us. Peter's current position is the Sales & Marketing Director, but in the beginning oversaw the planting of the vineyards. After meeting canine estate fixtures Blackie and Rusty, Peter escorted us on a tour of the estate. It was just a gentle but up-hill walk to where the premium cabernet grapes are grown, but well worth the effort. On this clear day, as we stood at a point overlooking the vineyard, we could see the San Pablo Bay and the skyline of San Francisco in the distance, and we could understand Peters fondness for growing grapes on the hillside, instead of in the valley. Peter gave also gave us the history of the winery, and about their decision to plant in this location, as well as details about their viticultural and oenological practices and their sustainable farming techniques. No pesticides are used, and they have even brought in compost, made from scrapings and cuttings from Bay Area restaurants. They even have several goats on site used to help keep the weeds between the vine rows at bay, instead of using herbicides. Partially because of the terrain, only about 18 acres of the 45-acre property are planted with vines, with about one remaining and soon-to-be planted acre suitable for cultivation.

We ended our afternoon relaxing on the front porch of the estate looking east and gazing at the enchanting view across the Napa Valley. With the golden sunlight of late afternoon, we could see clear across to the Silverado Trail and to the Stags Leap District. We sipped a glass of merlot with Peter, and talked about the plans and the future direction of Rubissow-Sargent. Though a small winery, with limited production, they have a big passion for winemaking and limitless enthusiasm for the land and their business.

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