Rudy Von Strasser took the initiative while studying at U.C. Davis to parlay his way into Chateau Lafite-Rothschild's French winemaking program at Montpellier, and participated in their 1985 harvest as their first American intern. This experience is one of the pillars upon which the Von Strasser winemaking philosophy is rooted. Purchasing the property 20 years ago with a small number of vines already established, Mr. Von Strasser spearheaded the movement to obtain the AVA designation for the Diamond Mountain District, which was approved in 1998.
At the heart of Von Strasser's craft are their five distinct single-vineyard 100% Diamond Mountain Cabernets, which are well-known for their complexity, balance, elegance and ageworthyness. These five single-vineyard Cabernets distinctly reflect the unique terroir that each of them grows in. All of their wines are exclusively from the Diamond Mountain District. This approach stands in contrast to that of many Cabernet producers who turn to other AVAs for their Bordeaux components.
In 2009, Von Strasser took the prize for "Value Wine of the Year" in Wine and Spirits magazine for their 2006 Diamond Mountain District - Post Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
2010 is a tough growing season for most varietals. On this day, the Cabernet average 12 brix, but they also need to reach 24 for the harvest, so that there will be enough alcohol and residual sugar in the finished wine. It's a nervous time to sacrifice fruit for the sake of concentrating the vine's energy in a smaller yield.
Another distinctive position that Mr. Von Strasser has taken was to make the Von Strasser Winery the only Napa Valley grower and producer of Grüner Veltliner, a varietal originating in Austria. Rudy Von Strasser honors his parent's native land, while adding to the diversity map of Napa with this varietal now in its' fifth vintage. Grüner Veltliner's absolutely one of my favorites. I'm impressed that Rudy did not plant the seemingly ever gratuitous Sauvignon Blanc, which so many winemaker's sometimes add to their repertoire only for the sake of popularity, rather than out of any great passion which they might have carried for that varietal.
Von Strasser focuses on making a small amount of great wine, and to present it at the winery with extraordinary knowledge, deserved pride, and hospitality. I recommend visiting on a Tuesday or a Wednesday when the traffic in and out of the tasting room is at its' lightest, and you can best enjoy quality time with the staff.
Here we see the director of consumer relations, Amanda Hagood, sharing a deep dive with visitors into the wines being tasted, answering their questions, and making them mighty glad that they sought out this "back road" diamond. In the "Vineyard Patio Tasting" experience, Ms. Hagood tells the story of the winery's history, innovations, and surprises, in an artful narrative polished by her straight-forward folktale style. I watched from a distance, with a taste in hand, as she captivated and delighted a series of small groups of visitors.
The glass closure is employed on the Rose, Gruner, Zinfandel and “DMD” Cabernet, the most supple of their cabernets that is sold outside of the winery (along with two others). The glass closures prevent wines from being “corked”, as up to 6% of wines worldwide are ruined with a faulty cork.
What did I not experience on this visit? Next time I'll need a whole day and reservations for: