Mayacamas, making stunning, ageworthy mountain wines in Napa’s Mount Veeder


Mayacamas is one of Napa’s true star wineries, making wines that show why Napa is a serious place for fine wine. They haven’t gone down the path of picking late to get more power and flavour, nor have they embellished the wines with new oak. These are proper mountain wines that have structure and balance, and great ageing potential.

These are wines I’m always keen to try when I get the chance. I last visited back in September 2015, when the vineyards were being remodelled and replanted, after a change in ownership, and it’s a remarkable place. Mayacamas is in Mount Veeder, which is a very interesting sub-appellation of Napa at 1850 feet, with the vineyards going up to 2450 feet. A classic Veeder day during the summer would be 10 degrees (F) cooler than the main valley floor. Acids and tannins are a feature of the red wines.

New plantings: look at those soils

Bob Travers made the wines here for 45 years, and importantly, kept things the same all through a period when Napa was changing signicantly in wine style (and not for the better). Bob’s wines were brilliant, but for a while the market was chasing ripeness and extraction, with soft tannins. Fortunately the market is now coming back to this style of wine, and this puts Mayacamas in a very nice position.

The winery: super-traditional

Bob’s approach was to pick early, ferment quickly and not messing around with too much new oak. The goal of the current winemaking team is not to change the style, but to dry to do this better. Bob retired in 2012, and sold to a consortium in 2013 that included Charles Banks and the Schottenstein family (they are now sole owners since Banks was sentenced to four years in prison sentence for fraud, and he was forced to sell his stake).  

The property is 475 acres and had 52 acres under vine when it was purchased, much of which needed replanting. In 2013 the 52 acres yielded just 18 tons of grapes, so something needed to be done. Soils are volcanic, ranging from light cobbled ash to basaltic cobbles, with reasonably diverse soil profiles.

Mountain Cabernet: look at that cluster architecture!


Mayacamas Chardonnay 2019 Napa, California
Fine, spicy and mealy on the nose with brightness and texture. Mineral and fine with some salinity and nice depth. This has a lovely texture with a slightly salty finish. Very fine and expressive, and not heavy. 95/100

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2013 Napa, California
Very pure and fresh with lovely focus to the citrus and pear fruit. Very fine and expressive: seamless but bright with lovely purity. Lovely finesse to this wine. 94/100 (tasted 09/15)

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2008 Napa, California
Lovely fine toast, fennel and pear nose. Fine, subtly nutty, pithy citrus palate showing nice pear and fennel notes. Complex and beguiling and showing great precision. 94/100 (09/15)

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2000 Napa, California
Full yellow colour with hints of mint and toast, and some pear. Complex, broad yet fine on the palate with subtle toast and lovely linear pear and citrus fruit. Mineral and fine, showing beautiful evolution. 95/100 (09/15)

Maycamas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Napa, California
Subtle chalky, minty edge to the pure red and black fruits nose. Brooding, fresh and precise. The palate is so fresh and linear with lovely purity to the black fruits, showing great acid and tannin. Such finesse here: linear and floral. 95/100 (09/15)

Maycamas Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Napa, California
Very bright and fresh with lovely pure blackcurrant fruit. Linear and pure with bright fruit and good structure. Taut and expressive showing lovely precision. 96/100

Maycamas Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Napa, California
This is showing some evolution, with savoury earthy spicy notes and some fine herbs. Black fruits with some nice acidity, as well as hints of earth and mint, with grippy tannins. So expressive and quite lovely. 95/100 (09/15)

Maycamas Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 Napa, California
Aromatic and evolved, and subtly malty and savoury on the nose. The palate though is really fresh with cherry and plum fruit and good acidity. Really elegant and quite beautiful, and fully mature. 94/100

Availability in the UK: Roberson Wine