DIAMOND CREEK VINEYARDS
Location: United States, California, Napa Valley
Diamond Creek has historically been known for being one of the best vineyards in Napa Valley, but maybe even more impressive is the story of how they got to where they are. It all began in back in 1968 when Al Brounstein and his wife, Boots, purchased property on Diamond Mountain. Al, who loved all things French, started his love affair with wine after he attended a French wine appreciation class at UCLA. Soon after, he traveled to Bordeaux to talk to winemakers about making wine. The more he learned, the more he realized that winemaking was something he wanted to do, and Napa Valley would be the perfect place to do it. So, Al and Boots began their search for properties in Napa Valley and eventually came upon an 80-acre piece of land, consisting of just rocks, trees and shrubs. For Al, this location, with its extreme diurnal shifts seemed like a wonderful spot to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. So, he began to talk to some winegrowers in the region and they agreed. It wasn’t long after, when Al began to start farming the land that he discovered something very unique. The soil types were completely different, and all only 60-feet from each other. This discovery led Al to be the first California winemaker to bottle separate wines based on their terroir.
Al, however, wanted Diamond Creek to be more than just wine, he wanted a place where water, trees, rocks and flowers, added a wonderful visual presence and a wellbeing to the vines. Today, as you approach the property on Diamond Mountain, it hits you like an oasis, surrounded by dense forest with majestic redwood trees, the vineyards seem to appear from nowhere. As the stunning property comes into view you get your first glimpse at the terraced vineyards, sun-kissed hills and sky blue lakes, an undeniably magical view.
When visiting in May of 2018, we had the chance to sit down with Boots’ son, Phil Ross, to talk about the rich and legendary history of Diamond Creek. Phil exudes a warm, inviting personality and happily told stories from growing up in the vineyards. Later, he showed us a collection of press clippings dating back to the 70’s, which we could have spent days looking at. He then took us on a tour of the vineyard in his golf cart and showed us around the property, as he continued to tell us stories about when he was a kid in the vineyards, he even had us do a little hiking. I began to think, boy, I thought we were supposed to be tasting wine? But I quickly realized what Phil was actually doing. He was showing us what Diamond Creek is really all about. It’s more than just world-class wines, it’s Al’s vision, and a place filled with memories. Having the opportunity to have Phil intimately show us around the property was an experience I will never forget.
Today, Diamond Creek consists of the 4 original vineyards planted by Al and Boots. The 7-acre Red Rock Terrace, a majestic terraced vineyard with red, iron-rich soils, stands in front of the south facing 8-acre Volcanic Hill vineyard, which continues to the back edge of the property, is the warmest vineyard on the property, with soils consisting of fluffy, volcanic ash, originally deposited from the eruption of Mt. Konocti 8 million years ago. Then there is Gravelly Meadow, a small 5-acre vineyard, with its old Saint-George rootstocks planted to a pre-historic river bed, with stony, gravelly soils that drain rapidly and force the vines to struggle for moisture. Finally, tucked away in the back next to a gorgeous lake, there is the tiny and serene 3/4 acre Lake Vineyard, which has the coolest microclimate on the property, benefiting from the Pacific breezes that travel down the Russian River corridor each afternoon. Diamond Creek has only bottled the wine from Lake 16 times since 1972.
Each vineyard produces a unique and distinct character in the wine, and winemaker Phil Steinschriber, who is only the second winemaker in Diamond Creek’s history, does a masterful job at letting the terroir shine in each bottle. Today, the wines are as good as ever and Al’s vision continues to live through his vineyard and wines.