The history of La Jota is one of the great America tales of our time. The land, high atop Howell Mountain, originally settled by the Wappo Tribe ages ago, eventually became the property of a North Carolina pioneer, receiving his land grant from a Mexican general. The first winery was erected by a Swiss immigrant. He commissioned an Italian mason to design the estate, which was built stone by stone from volcanic ash-rock quarried on the property by Chinese laborers. Completing the American melting pot story, the vineyards were planted to French varietals.
All this history is packed into the La Jota Vineyard Co., which was founded by Frederick Hess in 1898. An active member of the community, he first launched a German-language newspaper in San Francisco before turning his sights to Napa. Rancho La Jota – 327 acres of a Mexican land grant – became home to Hess’ new venture. In addition to the stone building which housed his winery, Hess also fashioned fermentation tanks from the coastal redwood forests abutting his estate. Self-sustaining before it was en vogue, La Jota was organic from day one.
Success soon followed, as the wines from Napa’s Howell Mountain began earning tremendous praise – as well as medals – in one Paris Exposition after another. Unfortunately, Prohibition destroyed Howell Mountain’s burgeoning wine industry, leveling the majority of estates, turning even the finest to “ghost” wineries. By 1933, everything was gone.
La Jota’s first savior arrived forty years later, when former oilman Bill Smith acquired the “ghost” vineyard known as La Jota Vineyard Co. in 1974. He would formalize the paperwork and bond the company a decade later. Cabernet and Cabernet Franc were his primary varietals
California’s greatest businessman and man of the vine Jess Jackson arrived in 2005. Upon Jackson’s arrival, La Jota was in need of its next savior. Jess, and his wife Barbara Banke purchased La Jota and the rest – as they say – is history.
In his first reviews of Jess Jackson’s La Jota Cabernet Francs, Robert Parker declared, “I have been buying this wine over recent vintages, and frankly, I can’t get enough of it. It is the finest Cabernet Franc made in California, but, unfortunately, only 350 cases are produced.”
Parker continued heaping amazing – and deserved – praise on La Jota’s Cabernet Francs; the wines just kept getting better. With the release of the 2014 – highest rating EVER from Parker – we now have, “the greatest set of wines to emerge from La Jota Vineyard Co,” in the sage words of Robert Parker.
2014 La Jota • Cabernet Franc
The 2014 Cabernet Franc, aged in 70% new French oak, comes from relatively new plantings of Cabernet Franc in both the La Jota and W. S. Keyes Vineyards. La Jota had made some incredible Cabernet Francs in the 1990s…. This wine is sensational. Black purple, its incredible nose of truffles, asphalt, forest floor and white flowers is followed by blueberry and black raspberry fruit, a multi-layered texture, full-bodied richness, and a killer finish. This magnificent Cabernet Franc rivals some of the best being made in Northern California.
96 points – Robert M. Parker, Jr., Wine Advocate