Hossfeld Vineyards. Henry and Susan Hossfeld moved from Marin County to this part of the Napa Valley in 1980. Henry owned a successful housing and renovation company and continued to do so. After the purchase of the land, she and Susan decided to grow the plant on the spot. In the beginning they were interested in planting kiwis, but after that they were encouraged to plant vines of others who were already in the valley. The local rocks became a serious problem during the development of the vineyard. The 50 hectare site, of which about 20 hectares are planted, is firmly anchored between Deer Jump and Atlas Peak. The vineyard is planted with 5 red Bordeaux grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Frank, Merlot, Petite Verdo and Malbec.
And it’s not just the vines they grow – the family has a green thumb, led by Susan. The gardens and orchard form a beautiful oasis in the grounds – with a variety of fruit trees, apples, avocados, vegetables and a Zen section of the garden planted under a row of flowering plants.
Real estate has its own character – especially rocks and often steep slopes. You don’t have to look far to find the rocks of this volcanic mystery. The rocks in this region are so fertile that when Heinrich decided to plant vines in 1981, he dynamized each hole for each vine. And some parts of their vineyards have no soil at all – one part in particular is hard rock and has never been planted – although vines do grow on the edge of this part. The upper part of their vineyard is about 1000 feet high; the vineyard is divided into 8 different blocks. Their properties offer 360-degree views of the valley to the north and on a clear day you can see Mount Tamalpais and downtown San Francisco to the south.
Early in the development of the vineyard, Henry bought stakes from a Napa high school football team and drove them through the vineyard – they all took a day, because of the difficulty of breaking a stake in a rock. They haven’t been back since.
This vineyard can no longer be planted today due to an ordinance of Napa County prohibiting the planting of vines for commercial purposes on steep slopes and terraces. Henry worked full time and despite the amount of work needed to maintain the vineyard, he considered viticulture to be his hobby. Henry studied viticulture with selective classes at Napa Valley College and the University of California at UC Davis. Today, the vineyards are grown entirely organically.
Durability is a very important property in the wine industry, as is persistence. Those two words are cousins. And these characteristics are known to the Hossfeld family. The vineyard had to be replanted in the early 1990s because the vines were planted on AXR rootstock (not resistant to phyloxera). When Henry died too early in 2009, did the family come to the crossroads to sell or leave the property? Fortunately, they decided to keep the property. In 2017, devastating fires broke out in this part of the Napa Valley, causing serious damage to their property, burning down the family home and other buildings and destroying about 75% of their entire vineyard. They planted those vines that were destroyed in 2019. And then, in 2020, some of their already fermented wines were stored in the cellar, which was almost completely burned in the northern part of the valley.
After Henry’s death his daughter took on a key role. Lucia is responsible for her vineyard and oversees several employees, and Hayley is a winemaker (she also produces wine in France, Spain and New Zealand and has a Master’s degree in Innovative Oenology from the University of the Basque Country), along with her husband, Chad McCombber.
We discovered the Hossfeld vineyard many years ago when we tasted the Carter Keller Colosseum Block Hossfeld vineyards. This boulder takes its name from its geography – curved like a colosseum, steep and bowl-shaped, it lies on the east side of your property, just above the Soda Canyon road.
Most of their grapes are sold to a limited number of producers in the Napa Valley. Hayley remembers her mother flipping through the Yellow Pages a few years ago – she finally found the phone number of the Wine Cellar Deer Jump – and called the founder and owner, Warren Winyarsky, cold-bloodedly. She convinced him that the Deer Ride vineyards needed fruit from the southern slopes of the Napa Valley. Your conviction was successful. Today, the Hossfeld vineyards still sell grapes to various producers. However, in 2014 they started making small batches of their own wine from the winery, and in 2016 they produced the first wine bottled under the Hossfeld label.
Hossfeld Napa Valley 2016 (100% Violet) Malbec offers ripe fruit (blackberry and hawthorn) with hints of strawberry and mushroom in the bouquet (which disappears when the wine opens further). Also some floral notes, including violet. A little sarcastic, a little pointy. Very well concentrated, but well balanced with a slight acidity in the whole mouth. The scents of plum and red cherry. A little white pepper. The soft texture stays on the finish with nicely integrated tannins. Drinks very well alone. And an impressive range of varieties, rarely offered as a full-fledged wine in the Napa Valley.
The Hossfeld Napa Valley Merlot 2017 is ruby red, the wine initially smells of leather with dark fruit and cherries with some dark spices and dark chocolate nuances. The bouquet is attractive. After tasting the wine we wondered if Cabernet Sauvignon had been added – the answer was no, it’s 100% Merlot. Large but balanced, the depth and structure are important characteristics. Strong acidity with a slight fruitiness throughout the mouth. Durable, grainy tannins with a decent, long handle set the finish. The wine fermented in stainless steel tanks – and was aged for about 18 months in French oak, about 70% of which was new wood. This beauty has many lives ahead of it.
2019 Hossfeld Los Carneros Sparkling Chardonny (Natural Pettiliante, French for natural sparkling wine) was bottled during fermentation, which allowed the fermentation to end in the bottle and capture the CO2 by-product, resulting in a sparkling wine. Very little we have seen in the Napa Valley is generally done by young, innovative winemakers. The deep, golden fragrances reveal notes of honeysuckle, lime, kiwi, green apple and pear. Light and dry, the wine gently glides across the sky with aromas of citrus and melon and a persistent but hardened sweetness.
The elegant and attractive label design was created by one of Napa Valley’s top labels and graphic artists Michael McDermott. He visited the area and picked up several leaves that had fallen to the ground – and used them as inspiration for their stickers. Oak leaf on the label – black oak.
Hossfeld also produces a very limited pinot noir from Hayley’s childhood friend’s vineyard in the Carneros district of Napa. And for fun (not for sale) Hayley makes cider from locally grown apples.
In general, only about 200 boxes are produced per year – shipping is mainly done via their website and their membership list. Selected local wines can be found in the V wine cellars in Yantville. For more information and to subscribe to the mailing list go to www.hossfeldvineyards.com.