Frias Family Vineyard

by Manuel Frias

My father and I bought 100 acres of Spring Mountain property in 1978 as a family vacation retreat. We were living in San Francisco’s Mission district, which was pretty rough at the time, and I wanted a place where my four children could play and camp outdoors.

I had also been passionate about wine since my college days, and over the next twenty years I continued my work as an administrator at San Francisco City College. I came up to Spring Mountain on the weekends – to plant and tend vineyards, and finally to make wine. The first five acres of vineyard were planted in 1985, and our first wine was made in 1988.

Our earliest vintages were done by Merryvale Vineyards-where we did our custom crush. Our first commercial vintage was a 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon. We made wines for a few years at Rombauer Winery and then moved our modest production to Ballentine Vineyards. Todd Heth is currently making the Frias wines as of the 2004 Vintage.

We planted additional vineyards in 1998-99 and now have a total of 11 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with one acre each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Most are located at about 1,000 to 1,400 feet above sea level. A year-round spring provides water for our drip irrigation and drinking.

About 90 per cent of the property is still forested with oak, madrone, manzanita, Douglas fir, redwood, and California bay. A lot of wildlife also shares the mountain with us, including turkeys, rattlesnakes, bobcats, deer, hawks and mountain lions.

I retired from San Francisco City College in 2000 to devote my full attention to wine. Since then, production has expanded to nearly 1,200 cases per year. My wife and I own the business, and two of our sons, Fernando Frias and Manny Frias, Jr., now work with us in accounting, sales and marketing.

Wine Spectator magazine awarded Frias wines 87 points for both the ‘97 and ‘98; 89 points for the ’99 and ’01 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve vintages; and 93 Points for our 2004 Estate Cabernet.

The Spectator published an article featuring the story of Frias Family Vineyard ran in the December 15, 2001 issue. Our ’01 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve just received a 94 point rating from Wine & Spirits and was voted one of the top ten wines of the year.

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