“The isolated, bucolic setting of La Jota’s vineyards and winery seems timeless, not a lot different than in the late 1800s. The people who have passed through here tell its history: the mountain was settled ages ago by the Wappo tribe; a Mexican general granted the land to a pioneer settler from North Carolina; a Swiss immigrant founded La Jota Vineyard Co., an Italian mason likely designed the stone winery built by Chinese laborers, and the land was planted with French grape varieties. That is the story of America.” Christopher Carpenter, Winemaker
La Jota Vineyard Co. is the historic Napa Valley winery founded in 1898 by early wine pioneer Fredrick Hess. Endowed with the original stone winery La Jota produces a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot from its winery Estate Vineyards and nearby W.S. Keyes Estate Vineyard, nestled deep in a forested plateau atop Howell Mountain. With its windswept location
high above the fog line, the climate is cool and even, with abundant sunlight. Austere, volcanic soils force the vines to struggle, yielding rich and concentrated flavors in the wines. In a timeless mountain setting, La Jota Vineyard Co. embodies a combination of site and soil, people of diverse backgrounds, and over a century of Napa Valley history.
Several million years ago, a volcano we now call Konocti erupted, spewing fire and laying down a thick blanket of lava and ash that covered the entire Napa Valley. Mountains rose and fell. Eons came and passed. By the time humans appeared, the Napa Valley had evolved into a thriving Eden, abundant and serene.
The first inhabitants of the Napa Valley were the Wappo. These indigenous hunter-gatherers were, by virtue of the region’s plentiful supply of fruit, fish, acorns and game, a relatively easy-going and peaceful people. Appropriately, the word “Napa” means “land of plenty” in the Wappo language.
When the Spanish arrived, conflict arose, as the Wappo did not take kindly to attempts at baptism or submission. The two fought, but their resistance did not last long, and in 1836 the Spanish and Wappo signed a peace treaty. After that, it took only a few years of Spanish rule, forced relocations, and a smallpox outbreak in 1837 to reduce Wappo numbers drastically. In a remarkably short time, Napa’s first inhabitants were forced to the margins of Napa Valley’s history.
As it happened, there were many intrepid newcomers eager to take their place. In 1836, a trapper from North Carolina named George Calvert Yount, who had come to California with dreams of a trade in sea otter furs, became Napa Valley’s first full-time American resident. He worked as a carpenter for General Mariano Vallejo, head of the military for Mexico’s California Governor José Figueroa. In payment for his services, Vallejo offered Yount a grant of land – so long as he became a Mexican citizen and a Catholic. Yount evidently did both, as he received a huge parcel of approximately 10,500 acres in central Napa Valley, encompassing present-day Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford. He called this rich tract Rancho Caymus, after the name of a local Wappo subgroup – a nod to the land’s original inhabitants.
George Yount prospered in his new home. He built a cabin and a gristmill, and seven years later he asked Vallejo for more land – this time on heavily forested Howell Mountain, from which he hoped to provide lumber for settlers in the Valley. Vallejo responded with a sizeable grant in the desired location, and Yount called this spectacular new estate Rancho La Jota. La Jota means “the letter J” in Spanish, and in the 1800s it was also the name of a popular Spanish dance.
The La Jota grant on Howell Mountain included “over four thousand acres of table land.” Yount built a saw mill, harvested lumber as planned, and all was quiet until an Englishman named Edwin Angwin established a health resort in the mid-1870s, which flourished for 30 years and brought an influx of people to the mountain. Real change came in 1880, when Eugene Hilgard, a preeminent professor of agriculture at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed soil samples from Howell Mountain and pronounced them highly suitable for the production of wine grapes. The ancient Konocti volcano’s rain of fire and ash, tempered by weather and time, had created a worn-down volcanic “knob,” or plateau, on Howell Mountain, bestowing upon it two distinct soils: crumbly white, decomposed volcanic ash known as rhyolitic tuff, or “tufa,” and red, iron-laden soils of clay and volcanic rock. Both ideal for grapes.
Professor Hilgard encouraged German winemaker Charles Krug to begin planting vines in this high-elevation region, and enthusiasm for Howell Mountain vineyards quickly caught on. Early, pioneering winemakers like Krug – mostly French, German and Italian – brought with them old-world ideas about the suitability of lean, rocky mountain soils for producing small grapes of concentrated flavor and high quality. The cool climate at higher elevations also meant the fruit took longer to ripen –
75% CABERNET SAUVIGNON
8.5% CABERNET FRANC
3% PETIT VERDOT