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McDowell Valley Vineyards - Napa Valley


McDowell gem pulled from the winery’s library!

If you’ve been a member of our popular Gold Series since at least October 1998, you may very well remember McDowell’s blockbuster 1996 Syrah that was featured. It was among the most popular wines of 1998 and certainly earned the title of “America’s Best Syrah,” bestowed upon it by many of the country’s wine reviewers. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, low and behold comes another McDowell gem pulled from the winery’s library!

If you have already read the winery’s story you can skip to the Tasting Notes section, to learn more about this wine with the curious sounding name, Le Trésor. For those of you who have joined us just recently, here is the McDowell Valley Vineyards story . . .

In the southeastern corner of Mendocino County you will find nestled in the rugged Mayacamas Mountains, an area roughly 20,000 acres in size called the McDowell Valley. The McDowell Valley area has a rich and storied history dating back to the late 1800s. A story is told of how a prospector named Paxton McDowell rode into the gold mining town of Hopland in 1880. There he happened to meet a fellow by the name of Fernando Feliz who owned most of the land in that area by way of an old Spanish land grant. The two struck a deal whereby Paxton would pay Feliz 1,200 gold pieces for a section of land defined by how big of a loop Paxton could ride his horse on the property in one days’ time.

Not much was done with the land until his descendants, the Buckman family, started planting grapes just before the turn of the century. The Syrah, Grenache, Carignane and Petite Sirah vines that were planted thrived for decades. During the next fifty years or so, the McDowell land was gradually divided and sold off to others.

Now, fast forward to the 1960s. William and Karen Crawford often piloted their private plane over the McDowell Valley as they were coming and going from their family-owned timber mills and cattle ranches in northern California. They would often marvel at the rugged beauty of the area as they flew overhead. The timber and cattle business was beginning to look a bit shaky so the Crawfords began looking for endeavors in which to diversify. A surging wine industry caught their attention and it was only natural for them to key in on the McDowell Valley area.

By 1970 they purchased 546 acres containing 330 acres of vineyards—and named their new enterprise, what else—McDowell Valley Vineyards. The Crawfords were now in the grape growing business in a big way.

Tragically, William Crawford died the following year while piloting his plane over mountainous northern California terrain. Karen Crawford kept the dream alive however, and eventually remarried to Richard Keehn. So, Richard and Karen Keehn together continued to run McDowell Valley Vineyards.
In 1979 they decided to start their own winery and built a first-of-its-kind solar powered facility to house their operation. Their inaugural bottling was from the 1980 harvest of the winery’s star varietal, Syrah. It met with instant critical success, winning 6 Gold Medals in the 8 competitions at which it was entered.

Industry trends have shown a gradual shift away from mainstream wines like Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. As a leader in this change, McDowell Vineyards grows primarily Rhone-type varietals including, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.

Undoubtedly the most noble and well-known of the Rhone varieties is Syrah. It is the definitive flagship wine of McDowell Valley Vineyards, and the principal variety used in their Le Trésor. The grapes used are from Syrah vines planted in 1919 and are among the oldest in the country. These deep-rooted vines are producing silky smooth, rich wines with intense, concentrated flavor. “There’s not a lot of magic in winemaking,” says Bill. “The real quality difference among wines is a direct result of the caliber of grapes.”



Letter to Platinum Series Wine Club members

For thirty years my family has been committed to growing and making wine from vineyards that were originally planted in 1890 here in the McDowell Valley. These vineyards were replanted in 1919 with Syrah, Grenache, Carignane and Petite Sirah. We have continued to cultivate these vineyards, and add additional varieties like Mourvedre, Cinsault, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.
Since these Estate Vineyards managed to survive Prohibition, and our Syrah and Grenache have continued to attract critical acclaim, we finally recognized that our growing conditions, climate, and soil more closely resemble the Mediterranean than they do Bordeaux. It has been our desire to continue to plant our vineyards with a greater diversity of Syrah clones, as well as those varieties that grow well in the Rhone Valley’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Our true desire with Le Trésor is to continue to advance our experience and knowledge, ultimately producing a true ‘terrior” induced proprietary blend that will represent the best wine that can be made from our vineyards. I don’t believe we’re there yet. But our 1990 Le Trésor is the closest we have come so far.

We have a very limited amount of this 1990 Le Trésor that we have reserved in our library to offer our most loyal customers. We hope you will enjoy this wine, and keep looking for the next vintage of McDowell’s Le Trésor. Sincerely, Bill Crawford - Winegrower

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