Red Cap Vineyards

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A different path brought Tom and Desiree Altemus to Howell Mountain. Tom was in finance with IBM for years but sought out a career as a chef. He left IBM and attended the California Academy in SF. From there he held various jobs learning under many of today’s best chefs. Desiree was and still is a technical writer for the high tech industry. 

Let’s go back to Tom’s career as a chef at Brava Terrace in St Helena. It was there that he met many years old a young buck named Rudy Zuidema (you can read about Rudy in several other posts). They established a solid friendship. Rudy left Brava Terrace and established his viticulture repertoire. While Rudy was a working at Robert Craig Winery, he was involved securing a location on Howell Mountain for their production. Many locations were vetted during this process. Once the decision was made to locate the winey, Rudy mentioned a unique 10.5 acre parcel with varying terrain located on top of Howell Mountain. Thus became the starting point of Red Cap Vineyards.

Today they have 6 acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon vines (clones 4, 7 & 169) producing a powerful and intense, full body, deep ruby colored, crafted wine. Half the wine is used by Red Cap and the other half of the fruit goes to a major winery for a vineyard designate Cabernet Sauvignon staring in 2013.


In addition to the Howell Mountain location producing Cabernet Sauvignon, they have access to some limited Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Rutherford. They produce an elegant and finely tuned Sauvignon Blanc. Rudy describes it as “the wine exhibits a beautiful nose of peach, honey, citrus and minerals…… The long, lingering finish rewards you with flavors of apricot and pear and a consistent minerality.” It is a “refined Sauvignon Blanc” that can be overpowered with too strong a food pairing. The first time I paired it with some Maguro sashimi and lost the bouquet of the wine (my error). Since then, I tried it “a la carte” and then Rudy’s descriptive came through loud and clear.


 The label is most intriguing for the wine industry and when questioned it, Tom equated it to the Howell Mtn property as being “a special place, carefree, happy and excited to be alive”. The picture after drinking both the wines represents the feeling from our youth perfectly.


One of the side benefits of knowing Red Cap Vineyards, on their website Tom, as a former chef, provides some fascinating recipes. That is a bonus to their very drinkable wines!


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