Mount Eden Vineyards is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was launched in 1972 on the site of the old Martin Ray Estate which was started in 1945. My first visit to Mount Eden was in the early 1970s. The wines from here are some of the best made in California and I have been tasting, drinking, and writing about them for nearly 40 years. Domaine Eden is the new name for the old Cinnabar winery and vineyards which are also located in the Santa Cruz Mountains a short distance (about a mile as the crow flies) from Mount Eden Vineyards. Cinnabar was founded in 1981 by Tom Mudd. The vineyards and winery were sold to Mount Eden Vineyards upon Tom’s passing in 2007. These vineyards and winery are now known as Domaine Eden. (The Cinnabar name still exists with many of the same people involved. The wines are made from purchased grapes with the Cinnabar wine tasting room in Saratoga.) So there, in a nutshell, is the brief history of something old and something new. What follows is a more detailed history of Mount Eden Vineyards and its wines including wines tasted from barrel, wines recently bottled and older wines. This is the something old. And, next is the something new. A bit more history and background on Domaine Eden and notes on its wines from barrel and wines recently bottled.
MOUNT EDEN VINEYARDS
The story of Mount Eden actually goes back to 1878. This is when the Burgundian winemaker Paul Masson arrived in San Jose. Some time later he established a vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains near the site of the present Mount Eden. Martin Ray who grew up in the area became acquainted with Paul Masson. And, shortly after the repeal of prohibition in 1933, he purchased the Paul Masson Champagne Company. He soon began producing varietal wines like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and claimed that California could make wines to rival those of Burgundy. That was heady stuff in the 1930s! But, Martin Ray put his money where his mouth was and sold the Paul Masson property in 1943. The following year he used a portion of the proceeds to purchase a higher peak to the North called Mount Eden. In 1945 he planted the first vines there. Over the next few years 7 acres of Chardonnay and 7 acres of Pinot Noir was planted using budwood from the nearby Paul Masson Mountain Vineyard. Paul Masson had obtained the cuttings for these vineyards from Louis Latour on a trip to France around 1880. During the1950s Martin Ray also planted 7 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. The cuttings for the Cabernet Sauvignon came from Emmett Rixford’s famed La Questa Vineyard in Woodside, California. (For notes on some of the Martin Ray wines from the 1940s and 1950s click here .)
A number of years before Martin Ray’s death the Martin Ray property came under the control of shareholders to whom Martin Ray had sold stock over the years. The last year for Martin Ray wines was 1970. In 1971 the late Richard Graff, one of the founders of Chalone Vineyards, made wine from the property, but it was sold in cask to Sutter Home Winery in Napa and bottled under the Sutter Home label. The former Martin Ray shareholders began producing wines under the Mount Eden Vineyards label in 1972. The rights to the old Martin Ray wines and the Martin Ray label were retained by the Ray family and later sold. In the following decade several people made the wine including Richard and Peter Graff, Merry Edwards, Bill Anderson, and Fred Peterson. And, during those days I actually went to visit and taste with each of these individuals. In 1980 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 acres of Chardonnay were planted bringing the total of estate vineyards to 40 acres. Then in 1981 Jeffrey Patterson and his wife, Eleanor, arrived — Jeffrey in charge of the vineyards and winemaking and Eleanor in charge of administration and marketing.
And, today Mount Eden Vineyards (www.mounteden.com ) operates the old Martin Ray winery and harvests grapes from vineyards (that have all now been replanted) in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Saratoga. It has been three decades since the arrival of the Pattersons. These have been the golden days for this property. Mount Eden Vineyards has been consistently producing some of the best Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Cabernet Sauvignons in California. I have been recommending these wines in the Underground for this entire period. (See my first notes on Mount Eden Chardonnays from Volume 1, Number 2 October/November, 1979 of The Underground Wineletter by clicking here .) And, I own old Mount Eden Vineyards wines and drink them regularly. They age beautifully and are a great asset to anyone’s cellar. Everyone should experience these wines and I encourage you to go to the website and get on their mailing list and join their wine club. Also, if you are interested in reading all about the history of Martin Ray as seen through the eyes of his wife, Eleanor, you can purchase the book Vineyards in the Sky by going to the Mount Eden website (www.mounteden.com ).
Historically, Mount Eden Vineyards has made three wines from estate grown grapes.
1) Cabernet Sauvignon (Including up until 2000 an Old Vine Reserve. After 2000 the old vines were torn out and replanted. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines today date back to 1980). Also planted with the Cabernet Sauvignon are small plots of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot.
2) Pinot Noir (The last of the original Pinot Noir vines were replanted in 1997).
3) Chardonnay (In the 1990s the last of the original Chardonnay vines were replanted. Today the oldest Chardonnay vines date back to 1980).
Later, another Chardonnay was made under the MEV label from grapes grown in the Macgregor Vineyard in Edna Valley. In 1999, the vineyard was sold and renamed Wolff Vineyard. Today that wine is still made under the Mount Eden Vineyards label. Also, in recent years Chardonnays have been made from grapes grown in Monterey and Arroyo Seco. These wines are made for early consumption and priced well below the Estate wines. They are consistently really good and offer very good value. In 2004, the Saratoga Cuvees were introduced. They are blends of declassified Estate wines and wines made from grapes grown in other vineyards in the area. Beginning with the 2009 vintage these wines will be bottled as Domaine Eden.
Today total annual production is around 17,000 cases. Only about 25% of that is from the Estate wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Yields on the estate vines are very low. The vines are planted in infertile Franciscan shale where they struggle to survive. But there is no frost and very little disease which are positives. Offsetting this somewhat are foraging deer and erosion. The remaining 75% of the production is almost evenly divided between the Domaine Eden wines and the Edna Valley Wolff Vineyards Chardonnay.
The winemaking philosophy at Mount Eden Vineyards is to maintain balance in all the wines. This was a standard early on and Jeffrey Patterson has achieved great success in continuing this trend and making wines in a consistent style. They are devoid of the excessive oak and alcohol that plague many California wines. Early on they can be a bit restrained, but with some bottle age they really begin to blossom. To make consistently outstanding Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Cabernet Sauvignons from the same vineyard is simply remarkable and probably unique in the world. It is a tribute to the vineyard, the vineyard management, and winemaking that is not invasive or manipulated. The combination of these factors is something that results in the greatest wines.
On a recent visit to Mount Eden Vineyards I had an opportunity to taste some wines from barrel as well as some recently bottled wines and a few older wines (including a 1977 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Noir tasted with a 1977 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir) These notes follow along with some notes on a few older Mount Eden Chardonnays from my cellar that I have enjoyed this year.
MOUNT EDEN VINEYARDS ESTATE
Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay
2010 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay (Barrel Sample).
Individual lots of Chardonnay from different parts of the vineyard are kept separate. Some 7 different lots ranging in size from 13-20 barrels each were tasted. Two of the lots are already slated to be blended into Domaine Eden. These two lots were lovely but lacked the intensity and balance of the other lots. In a tasting such as this it is impossible to define the final wine. It is not yet blended. But what I can say (which is what I have said every time I have tasted Chardonnays from barrel here) is that the individual lots were all very impressive. In particular, the lots from the oldest vines (2 Mount Eden clones and 1 Dijon clone) displayed great intensity, purity, and balance with depth and lots of flavor. I am sure that the end product here will be outstanding and follow the trend of consistently superb Estate Chardonnay from Mount Eden Vineyards.
2009 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay.
This Chardonnay will be released for sale next year. It is very impressive. Light yellow gold in color the wine has a stunning perfume with hints of tropical fruit, citrus, spice and peach with a fain floral undertone. The wine has lots of depth and is rich, but with a firm underlying structure and a long crisp finish. This is a gorgeous Chardonnay with balance and complexity that promises a long life ahead –- Outstanding Plus/Extraordinary. $ 55
2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this Chardonnay has a gorgeous perfume with hints of peach, citrus, and spice with a faint floral undertone. It is elegant with lovely finesse and balance. The flavors are complex with hints of peach accented by floral spice nuances. Lush, yet with backbone and a long, crisp finish this is a delicious Chardonnay that will drink beautifully for many years –- Outstanding Plus. $55
2007 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay.
This is currently being sold only from the winery as a Library Release. It is gorgeous. With a light yellow gold color the wine shows a lovely perfume with a touch of spice and citrus and a faint floral nuance. Creamy and rich with layers of spice tinged fruit there is impeccable balance and a lovely citrus tinged undertone. Already delicious today this Chardonnay seems destined to evolve and improve over many years –- Outstanding Plus. $ 55 Library Release. Only available from the winery.
2000 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay.
From my cellar we drank this wine in August of this year. It is light gold in color and has a gorgeous perfume with hints of exotic fruit, spice, citrus, and a kiss of vanilla. With lovely balanced fruit this Chardonnay has tinges of spice and citrus and a long finish. It drinks beautifully now but should continue to evolve over many more years –- Outstanding.
1995 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay.
We drank this 1995 from my cellar in August of this year. It is an opulent Chardonnay of great complexity and depth. Light golden in color the wine has a stunning perfume with a cornucopia of fruit. Mango, apricot, pineapple, coconut and citrus are intermingled with a faint spice. On the palate this is a Chardonnay that is rich but not heavy. It is rounded with a citrus tinge and has flavors with hints of apricot, pineapple, and citrus with a faintly honeyed quality. With a long crisp finish, this is simply delicious –- Outstanding Plus.
1991 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay.
In July of this year we drank this 1991 from my cellar. It is a stunning Chardonnay. Golden in color the wine has a gorgeous perfume of apricot and citrus, and a faint honeyed hazelnut quality. Rich and flavorful, but beautifully balanced and not at all heavy, it is complex and layered with flavors of apricot and citrus showing a faint honeyed spiciness and a tinge of coconut. The wine continued to evolve and showed a myriad of flavors over a period of an hour. This is an amazing wine — Extraordinary.
Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir
2010 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir (Barrel Sample).
The 2010 vintage was harvested some 3 weeks later than normal. The production is about the same as 2009 (around 800 cases). I tasted four different lots made from different parts of the vineyard and using a larger percentage of whole clusters (around 50%) in the fermentation. All have a really nice color and great purity of fruit. They are balanced with structure and depth. Since there has not been a final blend made it is impossible to determine precisely the nature of the wine. However, with this fruit and balance, 2010 looks to be yet another winner!
2009 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir.
With a deep color this Pinot Noir has a gorgeous floral spice tinged perfume. It has a lots of berry fruit and is rounded with a nice accent of spice and a good backbone. This is very balanced and pure with a long finish. It should age beautifully –- Outstanding. This wine was previously tasted in May with a consistent note. It will be released this fall. $55
2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir.
Deep in color this wine has a deep spice tinged perfume. It is quite lush and rounded with lovely fruit and a floral spice undertone. This is a gorgeous Pinot Noir that is very appealing now yet destined for a long life ahead –- Outstanding Plus. $55
2007 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir.
Tasted in May this 2007 has a very nice color and a deep perfume. It has lovely berry fruit and is very pure and elegant with balance and finesse. This is likely to lush up and show more complexity with time. Wait a few years before drinking –- Highly Recommended Plus/Outstanding Plus. $55 Library Release. Only available from the winery
2005 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir.
This wine was first tasted in May and again in August of this year. It is from a very small crop with less than 150 cases made. This is a classic Pinot Noir and is not to be missed. The wine is dark in color and the perfume is gorgeous with floral, berry, cherry nuances. It is lush and rounded with lots of depth and concentration but not at all heavy. There are layers of fruit that are accented with spice tinges. With impeccable balance and a long lingering finish this is a legend in the making –- Extraordinary. $85 Library Release. Only available from the winery
1977 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir.
This wine from the Mount Eden Vineyards cellar was tasted with a 1977 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Noir from my cellar which I purchased on release. Both are remarkable old California Pinot Noirs. And, interestingly, I reviewed both of the wines in early issues of The Underground Wineletter with Outstanding ratings and the notation that they would have a long life ahead. (To read my original note on the 1977 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir click here  and for the link to the original note on the 1977 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Noir click here .) The 1977 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir is a wine that is very Burgundian in style and should last for many more years. It has a deep color with just a tinge of amber and an amber edge and the perfume is tinged with spice, dried leaves and flowers and a very faint hint of earthiness. Rounded and supple the wine has elegance and balance with a lovely floral nuance accented by dried leaves and herbs and a tinge of spice – Outstanding.
1977 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Noir. This Pinot Noir has a deep color just amber at the edge and a gorgeous perfume with floral dried leaves nuances and hints of green olive and exotic spice. It is lush and rounded with impeccable balance and layers of fruit accented by green olive and dried leaves and a faint floral spice nuance. Again, this wine is absolutely delicious now and an equal match for the great 1978 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Noir – Extraordinary. (To see my tasting note on the 1978 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Noir click here .)
Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is a classic Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. It is very dark in color and has a deep perfume of cassis, cedar and spice. It is rich, rounded and intensely flavored with cassis and berry fruit accented by a tinge of spice and cedar. With balanced tannins and a long finish this is a wine to cellar for many years –- Outstanding Plus. $50
MOUNT EDEN VINEYARDS SARATOGA CUVEE
2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Saratoga Cuvee.
This Chardonnay is made from one-half Chardonnay from Domaine Eden and one-half declassified Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Chardonnay. It is the last of this line. Beginning with the 2009 vintage this wine will bear the Domaine Eden label. Light yellow in color the perfume is floral with just a touch of citrus and spice. It is rounded and elegant with floral spice nuances and a very nice finish –- Highly Recommended. $26
MOUNT EDEN VINEYARDS
2009 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Wolff Vineyard Edna Valley.
Light golden yellow in color this Chardonnay has a lovely floral perfume with a faint buttery tinge. It is rich and round with lots of fruit showing a faint tropical nuance and has a nice underlying citrus tinge –- Highly Recommended. $20 Fall Release
2009 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Monterey County.
Light yellow gold incolor this wine has a lovely perfume with a floral spice nuance and a hint of pear and citrus. It has lovely fruit and is elegant and finesseful with floral citrus nuances and a nice crisp finish -– Highly Recommended Plus. $20
As mentioned earlier, this is the new name for the wine made from the former Cinnabar Vineyards located about a mile from Mount Eden Vineyard. The first 22 acres of estate vineyards were planted in the summers of 1984 and 1985 using cuttings from Chateau Margaux for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Corton Charlemagne for the Chardonnay. The winery and three caves were completed in 1987. Eight more acres of vineyards were added in 1991. However, in the late 1990s most of these vines were replanted with other clones and rootstock better suited to the area. In 2007 Mount Eden Vineyards purchased Cinnabar vineyards and winery. In the spring of this year, the name was changed to Domaine Eden and the vineyard management and winemaking are under the direction of Jeffrey Patterson.
On a recent visit, I tasted Domaine Eden wines from barrel and bottle. My notes follow:
Domaine Eden Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Domaine Eden Cabernet Sauvignon.
This Cabernet is made with 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec from Domaine Eden and declassified lots of 7% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot from Mount Eden Vineyards Estate. It is very dark in color and has a great perfume of plums and blackberries with hints of spice. The wine is rich, full and rounded with soft underlying tannins and a long finish. This Cabernet is delicious to drink now but no doubt will evolve beautifully over many years –- Outstanding. $32 Best Buy
Domaine Eden Chardonnay
2009 Domaine Eden Chardonnay.
This wine is made from Domaine Eden Chardonnay and declassified lots of Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Chardonnay. It is a delicious Chardonnay. Light golden yellow in color with a lovely perfume showing hints of pear and citrus with a floral spice nuance the wine is harmonious and balanced. The fruit is lovely with a floral spice tinge and there is a very nice underlying citrus crispness. This is really nice –- Outstanding. $28 Best Buy Spring 2012 Release
Domaine Eden Pinot Noir
2010 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir.
I tasted six different2010s from barrel – different clones and different parts of the vineyard. Some vines were grafted over to Pinot Noir in 2004 and more in 2008. All the components showed really good fruitwith the wine from the most recently grafted vines the most backward. At this stage it is impossible to tell much about the resulting wine. But based on the track record here I expect it will turn out to be a very nice Pinot Noir.
2009 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir.
This is a lovely Pinot Noir made from Domaine Eden Pinot Noir and declassified wine from Mount Eden Vineyards Estate. It has a deep color and a very nice perfume with floral berry nuances. Elegant and balanced with a nice roundness and lovely fruit with just a tinge of spice this wine is delicious now and should drink beautifully for several years –- Outstanding. $32 Best Buy
These Domaine Eden wines are priced well below the Estate wines and represent great value. Future releases will be a combination of wine made from grapes grown at Domaine Eden and lots of wine declassified from Mount Eden Estate. Some may also include wines made from grapes grown in the area. I expect that these Domaine Eden wines will get better and better as time goes on. This new kid on the block deserves your attention! This is your chance to get in at the beginning.
If you are not already familiar with the Mount Eden Vineyards wines, there has never been a better time. With the introduction of the Domaine Eden wines there is now an even greater choice and at a wider range of price points. For nearly 40 years, Mount Eden Vineyards has been one of the most consistent producers of outstanding wines in California. The wines have balance and flavor and are a pleasure to drink. These are wines to buy! To investigate further and get on the mailing list click on the following link www.mounteden.com .