“God's country.” David had heard people refer to Howell Mountain as such in the 1980s. Biking through Las Posadas forest over the years, he came to understand. So, when the property he'd been eyeing on Cold Springs Road came up for auction in 2000, he jumped. Later, a parcel higher up the hill, across from the airport. All above the fog line, all on that red Aiken soil. It took him 15 years to develop the property—selectively, meticulously. A vineyard framed by perfectly symmetrical end posts, bordered by roads lain with gravel he'd pulled from the earth as boulders. All surrounded by pine and fir, a forest preserved as wilderness.
There were vines on this property before, in the 1800s. The redwood stakes David found are proof, as are the history books. Studded with names like Krug, Keyes and Hastings, pioneering men who also built their own roads, faced boulders the size of small houses—but with horses and ploughs. Like David, they were drawn to this place. By its rich, red soils. By the promise of solitude among the tall spiral pines. Or maybe by instinct —a gut feeling about what kind of grapes could be grown. What wines could be made.
Cappella is one of the oldest vineyard sites in St. Helena. Six acres that sit alongside a Catholic cemetery on the west side of town, it was first planted in 1869. In the 1980s the church asked David to tear out the old vines, then he watched as the land lay fallow for close to two decades. When he finally got the chance to replant, he jumped. He'd tasted fruit from Cappella in the 70s. He knew what kind of wine it could make. But that first replant was ill-fated thanks to diseased rootstock, and once again he was ripping out vines. “It took us six years before we had a crop. We could have ignored it, pulled the vines out one by one as they collapsed. But then we'd have all these different ripening patterns, which would impact consistency. It was an easy decision.”
We believe David may be the best vineyard manager in the world today!