Welcome to  SchoolHouseVineyard.com

schoolhouse

On the left are links that take you to the various sections of information, an order form, an eMail link to contact us, and a map with directions to the vineyard.

Below we start with our story.

We hope you enjoy the web site and call for an appointment to visit us in person.


The School House Vineyard Story
Spring Mountain
Napa Valley, California

School House Vineyard is nestled among the cool, lushly forested slopes of Spring Mountain, where Langtry and Spring Mountain Roads intersect, at an elevation of approximately 1500 feet. The vineyard takes its name from the 1880s one-­room school house which graced the property until it was consumed by fire in the mid 1980s. That school house has lent its name to this fascinating and unique property which has quietly produced very small quantities of some of the most sought after Napa Valley wines since the mid-­1950s. Steeped in Napa Valley history, School House is the ultimate cult wine producer, cult before cult was cool!, cult before cult was cool!

In 1940, John’s father purchased the property of 160 gross acres, of which 35 acres were un-irrigated vineyard. In 1940 the only operating vineyards on Spring Mountain were Herman Hummel’s Vineyard (now York Creek), John M. Gantner and Nancy Walker, tackle all of the vineyard operations at School House Vineyard where they make their home. John and Nancy implement the dry-farming technique in order to intensify the character of the wines, sacrificing quantity in order to maximize quality. Their passion for the grapes they nurture, coupled with their strong connection with the land is beautifully revealed in the expressions of the wines produced from the vineyard.


The Vineyard and the Wines

PINOT NOIR
In the 1940s, Andre Tchelistcheff made one of his most significant contributions to the California wine industry when he encouraged Valley growers to propagate the Cabernet Sauvignon variety. He suggested John Daniel, owner of the famous Inglenook Estate, replace his Pinot Noir vineyard in Rutherford with Cabernet which he felt was better suited to that region. Having secured the Pinot Noir bud wood from Burgundy’s Domaine de Romanee Conti, Daniel gave his close friend, John O. Gantner, the Pinot Noir bud wood which was used to propagate Gantner’s Pinot Noir Vineyard, planted in 1953. Thus, in 1957, the noble Pinot Noir variety began its history of small production very high quality wine: The School House Pinot Noir.

CHARDONNAY
The Chardonnay grape was introduced to the School House vineyard in the late 1960s. Fred McCrea of Stoney Hill vineyard, provided bud wood for John Gantner in 1968 and a small production of tightly knit wine has been produced in the years that followed, many vintages producing only a few cases.

ZINFANDEL BLEND
The original vines of which a few still produce red wine were planted in1890s. This block was the classic mixed-black field blend, a very common vineyard planting technique of the times. Interplanted were Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Sirah varieties, which were picked together and vinified into deep dark red table wine. Today, a few of the 120-year-old vines commingle with younger vines as the field blend has been re-propagated to produce School House Mescolanza, Mescolanza being a Spanish term for harmonic medley.

SYRAH BLEND
In 2006 a new School House vineyard block was planted; thus the School House Story was amended after many years. The new block produces a Rhône-style field blend. This is a joint venture with our friends at Pride Mountain. The production is divided with half going to School House and half to Pride. The School House portion, has 45 rows of Syrah, 5 rows of Grenanche, and 2 rows of Mourvèdre. The first release of the Mescolanza Syrah Blend was in February 2012.


The People

Today, the second generation, John M. Gantner and Nancy Walker tackle all of the vineyard operations at the School House Vineyard where they make their home.  John and Nancy implement the dry-farming technique in order to intensify the character of the wines sacrificing quantity in order to maximize quality. Their passion for the grapes they nurture coupled with their strong connection with the land is beautifully revealed in the expressions of the wines produced from the vineyard. Each of the School House wines is vinified in the caves of neighboring Pride Mountain Vineyards.


The 2011 Vintage

Feb. 14th, 2015

Today, Valentine’s Day 2015, we are releasing the new vintages of our School House Quartet

2012 Chardonnay
2011 Pinot Noir
2011 Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend
2011 Mescolanza Syrah Blend

We hope you will enjoy these new vintages as much as we do.

Our 2011 Red wines

Unusual weather patterns in 2011 caused lower than expected production in all but the Mescolanza Syrah Blend. The Mescolanza Zinfandel blend had low production due to September and October rain. The Pinot Noir crop was less than normal on account of rain during flowering in May and June. Total rainfall for the 2011 vintage was 64 inches.

In the 1940s, Andre Tchelistcheff made one of his most significant contributions to the California wine industry when he encouraged Napa Valley growers to propagate Cabernet Sauvignon. He suggested that John Daniel, owner of the famous Inglenook Estate, replace his Rutherford Pinot Noir with the better-suited Cabernet Sauvignon. Daniel gave his Pinot Noir budwood, which was originally secured from Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, to his close friend John O. Gantner of School HouseVineyard. Gantner planted the Pinot Noir in 1953, and in 1957, this noble variety began its history of small production very high quality wine: The School House Pinot Noir.

You will notice that we have increased the price of each of our wines by $5 a bottle. Increased operating costs have made it impossible for us to go another year without a slight price increase. As is our practice, you may check with us later in the year (after July 2015) if you need more wine, and at that time we may be able to offer an additional allocation.

Our website contains all the essential information about the place, our story, the vintage and these current release wines. We look forward to meeting all of you someday, but you MUST call ahead for an appointment. Remember we are a very small operation, just the two of us, no employees.

Our Annual Promise: We will not insult you by saying these wines are the ‘best ever’. They are indeed excellent examples of the quality wines School House vineyard has been producing for many years. We hope and believe by now, you know that we would not release any wine with the School House label, that we did not believe to be delicious and exceptional.

With the Best Regards,
John Gantner
Nancy Walker


Our 2012 Chardonnay label 2012 School House Chardonnay

The allocation of the 2012 Chardonnay is 3 bottles due to weather causing a lighter than expected production.

The Chardonnay grape was introduced to the School House vineyard in 1968 when Fred McCrea of Stony Hill Vineyard provided budwood for John O. Gantner, who planted it in long terraces on a steeper part of the vineyard; this budwood was originally propagated from the Wente "small berry" clone of Chardonnay. Ever since its first release, a small quantity of tightly knit wine has been produced, with many vintages producing only a few cases.

In mid-­September of 2012 we harvested 3 tons of Chardonnay fruit with a sugar/brix of 22.5°. John's work restoring the Chardonnay vineyard over the past 6 years is reflected in the increased production. We had 37 inches of rain for the 2012 vintage.

This year's Chardonnay is an excellent example of our wine— elegant, clean, and distinct from most California Chardonnays. The wine was fermented and aged in seasoned French oak barrels for 18 months. This wine is crisp, clean, mineral driven with interesting acid, long finish, and a hint of pineapple. There are NO oak or buttery flavors in this wine. It is an exceptional wine and we are delighted that 9 barrels were produced of this age worthy wine.


Our 2011 Pinot Noir Label 2011 School House Pinot Noir

Since its first vintage in 1957, School House’s feminine, Burgundian style wine has proved that our combination of 1500’ elevation, cooler microclimate, fertile and well drained mountain soils, along with our commitment to dry farming (not irrigating) the vineyards, provides an ideal growing condition for these distinguished Pinot Noir vines.

In late September of 2011 we harvested just over 5 tons of Pinot Noir (approximately 1 ton per acre). The brix read 24.2°, and the small crop was fermented in open-­top bins after gentle destemming. The young wine was then aged in new French oak cooperage for 18 months.

This vintage manifests the characteristics that make School House unique among North American Pinot Noirs. We find wonderful dried fruit flavors of cherries and apricots, and the earthy—almost mushroomy—aromas and tastes evoke a classic French style Pinot Noir. This particular vintage enters the mouth softly, broadens on the palate and lingers in the finish with more pronounced forest floor aroma than seen in prior years. Please note: the wine benefits being opened up an hour before drinking so the wonderful, very special Pinot Noir ‘nose’ develops and gratifies your senses. John calls this wine “feminine” and says, “This wine might even be called, “lusty feminine.”

It should age beautifully. 13 barrels were produced.



THE MESCOLANZAS

The labels for our Mescolanza wines carry the Vallejo family crest because John is the great, great grandson of Salavador Vallejo, the first European resident of the Napa Valley

The label of our 2011 Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend 2011 Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend

Originally planted in the 1890s, this block is a classic example of the ‘mixed blacks’ field blend that was common at the time. Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignane were interplanted, picked together, and vinified into a deep, dark, red table wine. Today, a few of the venerable original vines commingle with younger vines to produce School House Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend. Mescolanza is Spanish for ‘medley’ or mixture.

On October 26th, we harvested 1.6 tons of fruit from the Mescolanza Zinfandel block. The three varieties that make up this field blend were picked and fermented together in open bins and aged in seasoned barrels, providing an ever so subtle kiss of oak. The crop size was reduced because of early fall rains leaving much of the crop unpicked, resulting in a very small production. For the first time in several years we bottled no magnums. The wine produced, however, is up to our usual standards: elegant, spicy, full bodied, with an excellent nose. It is a BIG, robust wine with balanced acidity, perfect for pairing with rich, well-flavored foods. This wine will age well. John cautions, “Excessive consumption of this wine may cause Zinfomania.” Only 5 barrels were produced.


The label of our 2011 Mescolanza Syrah Blend 2011 Mescolanza Syrah Blend

In 2006, a new School House vineyard block was planted; thus the School House Story must be amended after many years. The new block, a joint venture with our friends at Pride Mountain, produces a Rhône style field blend. The School House portion has 45 rows of Syrah, 5 rows of Grenache, and 2 rows of Mourvédre.

The 2011–our fourth vintage– Mescolanza Syrah blend was picked on October 27th. Our 2 acre block of new vines resulted in 3.26 tons of fruit, with brix of 21°. We believe the 2011 approaches the wines of France’s Rhône Valley with its classic aromas, richness, and balance. Think: Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

For the first time we are offering a few bottles of this wine in magnums. We are extremely pleased with this wine, and, as with all School House wines, it is neither fined nor filtered; thus, you may find sediment in the bottle. 19 barrels were produced.