Owner & winemaker: Lore Olds
Vineyards: 10 acres, all estate-owned
Vineyard management: Organic, dry-farmed
Soils: Red volcanic loam
Grapes grown: Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache
Annual production: 4,800 bottles
- In stark contrast to the stereotypical California powerhouse reds, Sky Vineyards has always made light, claret-style Zinfandels and Syrahs, meant for drinking with food.
- The winery is off the grid, and relies mainly on solar panels for power.
- Lore Olds designs the artwork for the labels himself.
- The family lost their home and a portion of their vineyards in the devastating 2017 wine country fires, but they’ve persevered and are rebuilding and replanting.
High on Mt. Veeder, isolated from the rest of the increasingly commercialized Napa Valley, sits a project that’s a throwback to another age of California winemaking. Lore Olds founded Sky Vineyards here in 1972. He learned winemaking in Oregon after college, then spent years as winemaker at Mayacamas, one of the foremost producers of “traditionalist” Napa Cabernet (think “Judgment of Paris”, not Robert Parker). Lore still runs the vineyards and winery today, with support from his two daughters, nephew, and partner. The Sky wines defy the archetype of modern, high-alcohol, jammy California Zinfandels–instead, Lore makes light, Claret-style reds intended for drinking with food, and possessing a unique ability to age.
Farming here takes “a lot of blood, sweat, and tears from the family,” as Lore puts it. The vineyards are 2100 ft above sea-level on an east-facing hillside with reddish volcanic soils. They farm organically using zero irrigation and employ permanent cover cropping and promote the presence of birds and beneficial insects. The low-intervention winemaking involves hand-harvesting, fermentation in open-top bins, punchdowns by hand, and pressing in a traditional basket press. The goal is to let the site speak for itself. The Olds family also focuses on reducing their carbon footprint and minimizing water use at the winery. Since they’re off the grid, all power comes mainly from their solar panels, with limited generator use.