Spiriterra Vineyards Brings a Taste of the South to Napa Valley

Muscadine wine has long been a front-porch sipping favorite of the South. The history of this native grape dates back to the 1500s and was among the first wine grapes planted by Thomas Jefferson in his vineyards in Monticello. However, ask someone in Napa Valley if they have heard of or tried muscadine wine before and you might get some funny looks. This didn’t stop my father from dedicating half of our vineyards to the grape in 2009.

Although not originally from the south, my father, Paul, grew up in Georgia and enjoyed many of the southern traditions. He particularly enjoyed eating muscadine grapes. Bronze berries grew in his family’s garden arbor while the dark purple variety could be found wild in the woods. The bronze muscadines were sweeter, but finding and eating the purple ones was a special adventure for him.

"My roots are in California, my vines are from the southeast, and my goal is to share these unique wines with Napa Valley," said my father.

What started as a few experimental vines in the front yard quickly grew to a two-acre vineyard dedicated to these unusual grapes. Our friends in the wine business likely questioned the economics of this decision, but ultimately nostalgia and the desire to produce something new and different in Napa Valley won out.

Although accustomed to the hot and humid summers of the southeast, our muscadine vineyard took off. We experimented with different cultivars, but predominantly planted Carlos vines. By 2012, the vineyard produced two barrels of wine, just in time for the launch of our label, Spiriterra Vineyards.

Our winemaker, Kenn Vigoda, had never worked with this type of grape before, but embraced our experimental spirit. Applying his craft for making excellent Napa Valley wines, he produced a traditionally sweet (7% residual sugar) white muscadine wine and a medium-dry (1.7% residual sugar) white muscadine wine.

“The aroma of these wines is like nothing I’ve experienced before,” said Vigoda. “When we opened the barrels during production the smell of the muscadine grape emanated throughout the tank room. The tropical fragrance is true to the grape and a welcomed surprise for someone looking for a different wine experience.”

For those who grew up popping these bronze berries, the wine will transport you back to late summertime in the South. Maybe you even tried your first muscadine wine tailgating outside your college football stadium. For those new to muscadine wine, you are in for a fun, new tasting treat.

Our “refreshingly dry” muscadine wine is reminiscent of a Chenin Blanc with its tropical fruit flavors, pleasant off-dry finish, and medium body. It can be enjoyed as an aperitif or paired with lighter fish and meats. My current favorite pairing is pork loin with mango salsa.

If you are like my father and prefer your wines sweet, you will enjoy the honey poached tropical fruit fragrance and flavors of our “deliciously sweet” muscadine wine. The silky fruit flavors are followed by a long, pleasant, but not too sweet finish. It can be served as an aperitif, dessert wine or alongside spicy Asian dishes.

Both wines, of course, go great with southern BBQ. Nearly 500 years have gone into perfecting this pairing.

Whether enjoyed on your front porch, at a backyard BBQ or at dinner with friends, we hope our wines evoke the slow-paced spirit and warmth of the South while representing the high quality of craftsmanship that is Napa Valley winemaking.