Michael Horn and English Knowles Talk With Roger Louer, Managing Partner of Calistoga Cellars & Roberts + Rogers Howell Mountain!
WINES: Calistoga Cellars (Chard, Sauv Blanc, Cab) Roberts + Rogers (Howell Mountain Cabernet)
Roger Louer has been in the wine business for 40 years, first as a distributor, then as a vineyard owner, and now finally as the founding partner of two Napa wine brands: Calistoga Cellars and Roberts + Rogers Howell Mountain.
THE STORY OF CALISTOGA CELLARS In July 1996, Roger Louer and several of his best friends bought 11 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley, near Calistoga, along with the Blossom Creek Cottage. Originally, there was no plan to create a winery. But after a few years of selling grapes to some of Napa's top wineries, they decided to take the plunge into the winemaking world.
Roger writes: "Friends from around the Country would come visit my wife and me, stay in the Blossom Creek cottage, and begin to become emotionally invested in what we were doing. So I thought, why not invite our friends to become part of the winemaking process, and make them partial owners? Sharing that process with our friends has been the key to our success. With partners all over the country, we have ambassadors in many major US markets."
The wines of Calistoga Cellars are produced from small lots of select varietals from our estate vineyard in Napa. We also purchase fruit from premium Napa growers under long-term vineyard contracts, including the vineyard of managing partner, and our guest Roger Louer. The long-term contracts for premium fruit ensure that the wines consistently represent estate-bottled quality. Calistoga Cellars currently produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
THE STORY OF ROBERTS + ROGERS A few years later, an opportunity to farm a vineyard on Howell Mountain came available. Roger recognized Howell Mountain as one of the most unique and special microclimates in California, and could not pass up the chance.
Howell Mountain sits east of St. Helena, at an elevation ranging from 1400 to 2200 feet, and is considered one of the most prestigious wine growing regions in the world. Comprised of approximately 600-700 planted acres (out of an approximate total of 14,000), this sub-appellation of Napa Valley, California is home to some of the Napa Valley’s premiere brands, producing primarily Medoc varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. One of the central characteristics of this appellation is that Howell Mountain sits above the fog-line. This important climatic fact means the temperature tends to be about 10 degrees cooler during the day than the valley floor and substantially warmer in the evenings, resulting in longer days. Those factors, along with the volcanic soils, allow for longer growing seasons, which in turn produce very intense fruit. The wines have very strong tannic structure that aids the intensity of the fruit allowing for excellent aging possibilities.
IN 2000 Roger Louer planted 17.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot on Howell Mountain, near Las Posadas Road. The vineyard was planted with tight spacing due to the mountain conditions--about 1244 vines per acre. The soils were volcanic white, powder tuffa soils, perfect for drainage and giving mineral-rich complexities to Cabernet. The vineyard generally receives sunlight for a longer period during the day because it is above the fog layer that typically comes into Napa Valley in the later afternoon. As a result of the vineyard elevation and sun exposure the temperatures are more consistent between day and night, extending the overall ripening period. This consistency aids the ability of our vineyard to produce quality grapes each vintage. The resulting wines are soft and elegant, with finesse reminiscent of wines from the Haut-Medoc.