Whitney and Mary Yates

Whitney and Mary Yates, daughters of Mike and Lynn Yates, are the fourth generation of the Yates family's vineyard and winery. The vineyard has been continuously farmed since the late 1800's. Mary just retired as president of the Mount Veeder Appellation Council.

Mary, you saw quite a few changes as appellation president. What will the future bring for Mount Veeder ?

Mary: Mount Veeder has always attracted independent spirits. Most of us were always farmers only, tending our own vineyards and selling the fruit off. The big difference today is that many of the growers have become vintners too. Mount Veeder quality is now widely recognized, with an array of primarily small, family wineries. The next generation is getting active, bringing a lot of spirit and energy. The appellation council has grown from barely a dozen members a few years ago to over thirty now.

How did your family end up on Mount Veeder ?

Whitney: Our great-grandfather, J. Perry Yates, purchased the vineyard in 1950 and passed it on to our grandparents. Our Dad planted a lot of the vines you see here now when he was in high school. His passion for the vineyard led him to study Agriculture in college, specializing in forests and vines. You could say that Mount Veeder is perfect for him – here, he is surrounded by forests and vines everyday. In fact, he's still replanting vines. He loves trying to discover just the right clone and rootstock for every little patch on the vineyard. And trust us every little patch is different, that's for sure.

 

Initially, your family grew grapes for other wineries. When did you become a winery? Mary, you saw quite a few changes as appellation president. What will the future bring for Mount Veeder ?

Mary: Mount Veeder has always attracted independent spirits. Most of us were always farmers only, tending our own vineyards and selling the fruit off. The big difference today is that many of the growers have become vintners too - Mount Veeder quality is now widely recognized, with an array of primarily small, family wineries. The next generation is getting active, bringing a lot of spirit and energy. The appellation council has grown from barely a dozen members a few years ago to over thirty now.

What makes Mount Veeder wines different?

Whitney : The mountain gets the California sunshine, but the bay keeps Mount Veeder vineyards cool, like Bordeaux . So, our wines seem to have aspects of both, with plush fruit and structure, and also great acidity. There are no "flabby" wines from Mount Veeder . It really is kind of a crazy appellation.

We're able to ripen our fruit a little slower, and get very small berries and very intense flavors. Our vines have to struggle. If we get 3 tons per acre we are jumping up for joy. The wines have a special minerality, the flavors are very different from those from the deeper soils down by the river. Cabernet Franc has been a big hit from our particular site. It's real spicy and real ripe. People are begging us to plant it and sell our fruit to them.

Mary : There was a winery here for many decades, but prohibition killed it. So when our family bought the property, there were just vines, in various states. In the 1950's, 60's, and even 1970's there wasn't a lot of demand for hand-farmed, intensely flavored hillside grapes. For many years we sold grapes to anyone that would buy them: some of these beautiful grapes added a lot of depth to jug wines! Meanwhile, our Dad was always keeping the best fruit for us, to make wines for family and friends. Luckily, demand for premium wines took off, and so Dad decided it was time to start making wine commercially in 1999.