The Vineyard and the Wines
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.
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.
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 the120-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.
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.
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 2010 Vintage
Feb. 14th, 2014
Today, Valentine’s Day 2014, we are releasing the new vintages of our School House Quartet:
2010 Pinot Noir
2010 Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend
2010 Mescolanza Syrah Blend
We hope you will enjoy these new vintages as much as we do. You will note the maximum
allocation of the Chardonnay is three bottles, this limit was made necessary by the unusual weather
experienced in 2011. We have not set maximum limits on purchases of the three red varietals.
On October 3rd, 2011 we harvested 1.75 tons of Chardonnay an unusually light crop. The
sugar/brix was at 22.5 for 5 barrels. Chardonnay production for 2012 and 2013 will return to the
levels we experienced in 2010. John’s work restoring the Chardonnay over the past 5 years is
reflected in the increased production. We had 64 inches of rain for the 2011 vintage year.
Normally this would result in higher production, however June rains and several heat spikes
neutralized the rainfall advantage. This year’s Chardonnay is crisp, clean, and flinty; Nancy loves
it with crab or oysters.
The 2010 Vintage rainfall was 49.61 inches. In late September 2010 we harvested just over 7.5
tons of Pinot Noir. Our 53rd vintage of School House Pinot Noir. The brix was 25.0. This 2010
Pinot is more like the 2007 or even the 1997. It is tighter, more closed, than either the 2008 or the
2009. Like the 2007, it benefits from decanting. It has the School House Pinot ‘nose’, but you
may have to wait a bit for it to develop, and unlike most of our Pinot vintages it has some spice,
almost apricot in the nose. The tannins will soften and the finish will extend as the wine ages.
On November 2nd we harvested 6.01 tons of fruit from the Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend. The three
varieties that make up this field blend (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignane) were, as always,
picked and fermented together. The brix was 23.2. We find this Mesca Zinfandel vintage to be
very rich and velvety. Smooth entry, strong mid-palate, with a long finish.
The 2010 (the 3rd) vintage of the Mescolanza Syrah Field Blend (about 5% of the vines planted in
this block are Grenache and Mourvèdre) resulted in 5.4 tons of fruit from this 2 acre block of vines.
The brix was 24.8. If you have any of the 1st (2008) and/or 2nd (2009) vintage, of the Mescolanza
Syrah, try tasting them side-by-side. The 2010, we think, is beginning to approach the classic
richness of France’s Rhône Valley wines, think-“Chateauneuf du Pape.” It is more elegant and
opulent than the 2008 or 2009. With this vintage we are delighted to discover that the wine is
revealing the complexities we expect from dry-farming. We think you will find this wine to be
spectacular and of great value.
In last year’s release letter, we discussed our practice of dry farming the vineyard. This year we
are going to narrow the discussion to the unique personal relationship between the Gantner family
and the Napa Valley.
John’s great grandfather, John Gantner, came to California from Switzerland in 1849. He worked
in the mines as a smith sharpening miner’s picks for a pinch of gold dust for each point sharpened.
After leaving the mines he established the Swiss Hotel on Sacramento St. in San Francisco. The
hotel was across the street from Jack’s Restaurant which had a frog pond on its roof. John’s
grandfather, from the roof of the Swiss Hotel would pop frogs in this pond with his slingshot.
When he was not in his hotel, John’s grandfather and father would annually travel by horse-drawn
dray to the Napa Valley to sample and purchase barrels of wine to be hauled back to the hotel’s
basement from whence it was sold to thirsty patrons in the hotel’s dining room.
John’s roots go very deep, as do the roots of our vines.
Our prices remain the same for all the wines. This 2010 is the third Syrah vintage. Those of you
who have had an opportunity to taste the Syrah know what an excellent value it is.
As is our practice, you may check with us later in the year (after July 2014) if you need more of the
wines, 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 do look forward to meeting all of you some day, but you MUST call
ahead for an appointment. Remember we are a very small operation, just the two of us.
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 you know by now, that we would not release any wines with
the School House label that we do not believe to be delicious and exceptional, completely in the
tradition of School House Vineyard.
With the Best Regards,
2010 School House Pinot Noir
Since the first vintage of School House Pinot Noir was
produced in1957, our feminine, Burgundian style wine
has proved that the combination of the 1500 foot
vineyard elevation, the cooler microclimate of the
School House Vineyard, our fertile and well drained
mountain soils, along with our decision to continue
dry-farming (not irrigating) the vineyards combines to
provide ideal growing conditions for the evolution of
these noble Pinot Noir vines. This small crop (about a
ton per acre) was fermented in open-top bins after a
light pressing to separate the stems from the fruit.
The dry, young wine was matured in new French Oak
cooperage, for 18 months then bottled.
This vintage manifests the characteristics which have
made School House Pinot Noir unique among North
American Pinots. We find the wonderful dried fruit
flavors of cherries and apricots, the earthy—almost
mushroomy—aromas and tastes produce a classic
French style Pinot Noir. The wine does benefit from the
cork being removed a bit before drinking to allow the
wonderful, very special Pinot Noir ‘nose’ to develop
and gratify your senses. The wine enters your mouth
softly, develops full Pinot richness and lingers on your
palate. 22 barrels produced.
2011 School House Chardonnay
This Burgundian style Chardonnay comes from the
terraced area of our School House Vineyard. The
Chardonnay, like our Pinot Noir and Mescolanza is
dry-farmed (not irrigated). The vines were propagated
from the Wente “small berry clone” which came to us
originally from Stony Hill Vineyard.
This 2011 Chardonnay is an excellent example of our
elegant, clean wine which does not resemble most
California Chardonnays. It was pressed immediately
following harvest, and the resulting ‘must’ was
carried to seasoned French oak barrels to ferment and
age for 18 months. When the wine was ‘ready’ it was
bottled, but not filtered. There are NO oak or buttery
flavors or texture in this wine. It is wonderfully crisp
and minerally. 2011 was a very difficult and low
producing vintage; only five barrels of this wine were
2010 Mescolanza Zinfandel Blend
Mescolanza is a Spanish word for “medley”. This venerable—some of the vines are well over 100 years old—mixed black
field-blend derives its character from mountain-grown Zinfandel (76%), Petite Sirah (17%) and Carignane (7%) varieties.
The unirrigated vineyard block bears a fraction of the amount of fruit, which its irrigated cousins produce. Thus the elegant,
spicy wine from this fruit is more intense and concentrated. It is a ‘big’ wine with balanced acidity which makes a robust
wine that is a perfect pairing with rich, well-flavored foods.
This 2010 Mescolanza was fermented in open bins and matured through its secondary malolactic fermentation in older,
seasoned barrels providing an ever so subtle kiss of oak.
We have chosen to show the Vallejo Family Crest on the Mescolanza label, because John is the great, great grandson of
Salvador Vallejo, the first European resident of the Napa Valley. John cautions, “Excessive consumption of this wine may cause Zinfomania”. 16 barrels produced.
2010 Mescolanza Syrah Blend
This is the 3rd vintage of our new Mescolanza Syrah Field Blend, and it is proving to be very much in the tradition and style
of the fine wines of the Rhone valley of France. This mixed black field blend derives its character from Syrah (85%), Grenache
(10%) and Mourvèdre (5%). We are extremely pleased with the wine that this dry-farmed Rhône blend varieties vineyard is
producing. As with all School House wines it is not filtered nor fined; thus you may find sediment in the bottle which adds to
the interesting complexity of this fine wine from this the youngest of our vineyards. It is a tribute to School House terroir.
18 barrels produced.