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!

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), Jerry Draper’s vineyard which was originally known as La Perla and is now a part of Spring Mountain Vineyard, School House Vineyard, the Jos. Volpi Vineyard located directly above School House, and the Summit Vineyard (now Pride Mountain). During Prohibition followed by the Great Depression many families moved away and abandoned their vineyards and prune orchards. Following the Great Depression, the farmland on Spring Mountain could be purchased for $25 per acre – top price.

Today the second generation, 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, sacricing 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 Importance of Dry Farming

Dry farming is an important factor in creating rich and complex wines, justifying our faith in old farming methods. Today School House is the only fully non-irrigated vineyard left on Spring Mountain. A vine with less surface water available probes with its roots into a deeper earth strata, in turn creating a fuller more interesting fruit. On the upper portions of the mountain, water is very scarce, with many wells having run dry with rife competition for water resources. Many of today’s estates have to truck in water for not just their vineyard needs but also to satisfy home and winery uses. This situation is worrisome and its severity is compounded by our recent successive years of drought. Perhaps some of our neighbors will become dry farmed, like it or not.

A Momentous Announcement

As of January 2016 John’s daughter Florence Gantner Zink has joined the School House endeavor. Florence will be on site and working in all aspects of the business: vineyards, office and marketing. Florence grew up spending her weekends and summers at School House and knows the land intimately. She looks forward to meeting all of our School House friends. She is excited and proud to be carrying on the family tradition, now officially in its third generation. We have welcomed Florence with open arms and we are sure you will find her to be a great asset with a fresh face and genuine enthusiasm.

NOTE: Our contact information has changed. Phone number now: 707-963-9001. We no longer have a fax. Please Add Florence’s email to your contact list: Flo@schoolhousevineyard.com. We do look forward to meeting all of you someday, but you MUST make an appointment by either calling or emailing us. It is wise to make your appointment reservation as far in advance as possible.

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 so many years. We hope and believe that by now you know that we would not release any wines with the School House label that we did not believe to be delicious and exceptional.

With the Best Regards,

John Gantner & Nancy Walker signatures

John Gantner & Nancy Walker
with Florence Gantner Zink


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.


Friends of School House Vineyard—

Feb. 14th, 2016

Today, Valentine’s Day 2016, we are releasing the new vintages of our School House Quartet:

2013 Chardonnay
2012 Pinot Noir
2012 Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend
2012 Mescolanza Syrah Blend

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

Our 2012 Red wines

Weather patterns in 2012 were typical for Spring Mountain. There were no weather aberrations as we had with the 2011 vintage.

In the 1940s, Andre Tchelistche made one of his most signicant 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 House Vineyard. 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.


Our 2013 Chardonnay label 2013 School House Chardonnay

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 early-September of 2012 we harvested 4 tons of Chardonnay fruit with a sugar/Brix of 23.4. John's work restoring the Chardonnay vineyard over the past 6 years is reected in the increased production. We had 37 inches of rain for the 2013 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. is wine is crisp, clean, and assertive with interesting acid, a long finish, and a hint of apricot. The 2013 has a luscious mouth feel, the 2012 did not. It is an exceptional wine and we are delighted that 10 barrels of this age-worthy wine were produced.


Our 2012 Pinot Noir Label 2012 School House Pinot Noir

Since its first vintage in 1957, School House’s feminine, Burgundian style wine has proved that our combination of 1500 foot 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 September of 2012 we harvested nearly 7 tons of Pinot Noir (approximately 1 ton per acre), with a sugar/brix of 23°. The crop was fermented in open-top bins after a destemming. The young wine was then aged in new French oak cooperage for 18 months. 

This vintage manifests the characteristics, which have made School House unique among North American Pinot Noirs. We find the wonderful dried fruit flavors of cherries and the earthy—mushroomy—aromas and tastes evoke a classic French style Pinot Noir. This particular vintage is forward and on the palate and lingers with a rich, long finish. Please note: the wine does benefit from being opened up to an hour before drinking, so that the wonderful, very special Pinot Noir ‘nose’ develops; since we do not filter or fine the wine it does throw some sediment which we take as a mark of its quality. It should age beautifully. 19 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 2012 Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend 2012 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 Syrah, and Carignane were interplanted, picked together, and vinified into a deep, dark, red table wine. Today, a few of the venerable original vines comingle with younger vines to produce the School House Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend. Mescolanza is Spanish for ‘medley’ or mixture.

On October 21st, we harvested 5 tons of fruit from the Mescolanza Zinfandel block with a sugar/brix level of 24°. The three varieties that make up this field blend were, as always, picked and fermented together in open bins, and aged in seasoned barrels, providing an ever so subtle touch of oak. The wine produced is elegant, spicy, full bodied and with excellent nose. It is a BIG, robust wine but with balanced acidity that makes it a perfect pairing with rich, well-flavored foods. It will age well. John cautions, “Excessive consumption of this wine may cause Zinfomania.” 12 barrels were produced.


The label of our 2012 Mescolanza Syrah Blend 2012 Mescolanza Syrah Blend

In 2006, a new School House vineyard block was planted. e 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 2012-- our fifth vintage-- Mescolanza Syrah blend was picked on October 4th. Our 2 acre block of new vines resulted in 6.5 tons of fruit, which had a brix of 24°. We believe the 2012 continues to develop characteristics, which approach the wines of France’s Rhône Valley with its classic aromas, richness, and balance. ink: Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

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. 20 barrels were produced.