Marston Family Vineyard
The Spirit of Spring Mountain
by Michael and Alexandra Marston
The Marston Family firmly believes that great wine is an eloquent articulation of a well-situated and fastidiously maintained vineyard. Our idea of winemaking is to interfere as little as possible, to let nature take its course, and to allow the vineyard to speak for itself.
We bought the Spring Mountain property as a consortium in 1969, at a time when some of the original vineyard from the turn of century was still in production, and the road was not even paved past the old White Sulphur Springs resort. The vineyard sits alone surrounded by canyons across from Cain and Newton vineyards, and is the most southerly located, eastern facing vineyard on Spring Mountain. Cooling breezes come through a gap every afternoon and help the grapes ripen slowly and evenly. We have records dating back to the early 1900s that show the old timers came to the area and knew it was a very good place to plant grapes.
The owner of the property before us was Al Menasco, an aviation pioneer from World War II whose flying adventures are well documented. His aeronautical memorabilia is now in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Al’s best man in his last wedding, the actor Clark Gable, visited the vineyard frequently and also spent his honeymoon in what is now the main house. Neighbors recall hearing Clark and Al late at night shooting off guns and hollering after each had drunk a pint of whiskey. We still have a bullet-ridden sign attributed to them.
In the 1970’s we co-chaired with Fritz Maytag of York Creek to collect the data needed to create the Spring Mountain District Appellation, which was granted the new AVA. We made award-winning wines in the 1980s with the late Andre Tchelistcheff and Philip Togni, and in the 1990s Sean Thackrey produced legendary Petite Sirah from our vineyard which won the designation “Best Red Wine in the World.”
In the early 1990’s Beringer took us on as one of their few Private Reserve vineyards, and Bob Steinhauer personally oversaw the replanting of the vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We now have about 40 acres planted in vineyard. Beringer makes a single vineyard designate Marston Cabernet and uses the remaining grapes in their Private Reserve.
We also choose our favorite blocks of 10 tons of grapes each year and together with winemaker Philippe Melka make a forever-limited 600 cases of Marston Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Philippe Melka was selected from many qualified people because he has a geology background and understands the mountain soils and fruit. He has made wine for us since 1998 and continues to produce exceptional Bordeaux-style but quintessential Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
Our son, John, and daughter, Elizabeth, now adults and full partners in the vineyard, also have a passion for wine and understand that our philosophy is to leave the world a better place than you found it, preserve history, and that living here is a real way of life. Our family has a special interest in literature, and we believe in the old style French Salon concept of combining art, literature, good food and wine that can bring people together and promote lively and interesting discussions.
We established a 90 year generation-skipping trust that insures this property will stay in the family a very long time. We have also donated 240 acres of the original ranch to the Napa County Land Trust’s Forever Conservation Easement so that the land and its wildlife will be forever protected from development.