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Walnut Creek Magazine

Viader Wines are as Remarkable as Their Origins

Mar 17, 2017 01:44PM ● By Fran Miller

Winemakers throughout the Napa Valley agree that Howell Mountain grapes have a superior quality. If a vintner utilizes the fruits of this hallowed AVA, he/she is quick to broadcast the acquisition in tasting notes, or on a label. There is no doubt that a Howell Mountain derived wine is fine indeed. And if that wine and its grapes are actually grown, pressed, and bottled on Howell Mountain itself, it’s even better – especially if that winery’s vines have been expertly tended for the past 30 years, as at Viader Winery and Vineyards.

The Viader view. Photo by Cathy O'hagain

Located on the western facing slopes of Howell Mountain at 1,300 feet, Viader (pronounced via-dare) is a leading first growth Napa Valley estate established in 1986 by trailblazer Delia Viader. Recognized worldwide for consistently producing award-winning, very limited production red wines and red Bordeaux-style blends, Viader is not exactly a secret, but its limited production and distribution have given the label cult status. The winery produces only 4,500 cases each year for its club members, a few special restaurants, and those who find their way up the mountain for a by-appointment-only wine tasting visit where the reward is not only spectacular wines, but spectacular views as well.

Viader’s fabled locale is situated within the Vaca Range on the northeast side of the Valley overlooking St. Helena. The high elevation means warmth during the day, and cooler nights resulting in a Cabernet grape that struggles to survive, the outcome of which is a highly concentrated grape of exceptional quality. Viader’s vines are planted European style, in rows that flow up and down the steep mountain, allowing them to follow the path of the afternoon sun. Delia was first to implement this style in the Valley and her efforts have more than paid off. Viader’s wines are intensely aromatic, with deep color and dense complex layers of dark fruit. Varietals include the signature VIADER blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, a "V" Petit Verdot blend, the "Black Label," an elegant and flavor concentrated Cab/Syrah/Malbec blend, and single varietals under the DARE by Viader label: 100% Cabernet Franc, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% Malbec, 100% Tempranillo and a dry rose of Cabernet Sauvignon. “Our wines involve all of the senses, and deliver without ever taxing the palate,” says Delia. “Everything in our wine invites a pleasant sense of well being.”

Delia Viader

While Viader wines are remarkable, Delia’s story is even more extraordinary. A true pioneer, she is one of just a handful of “from the roots up” women vintners in the Valley, and likely the only to speak six languages. Born in Argentina, she spent much of her formative years in Europe – mostly France where her father was in the Diplomatic corps. She came to the United States as a single mother of four, and as a post-graduate student (she holds a doctorate in Philosophy from the Sorbonne University in Paris) to pursue advanced business studies at MIT, UC Berkeley and UC Davis. While in California during her studies in the early 1980’s, she became aware of the opportunities in the United States to start a career and raise her family in a healthy environment. A desire to create a legacy for her children, and an instinct for entrepreneurship, led her to the Napa Valley where she recognized the area’s viticultural potential. Securing a loan from her father, she acquired the Howell Mountain property and in 1986 set out to create a world class wine estate. Her inaugural release was a 1989 VIADER Proprietary blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc.  

Delia Viader with her son Alan, and daughter Janet. Photo by Cathy O'hagain

Two of her children are now involved in the family business: son Alan is now responsible for winemaking operations and daughter Janet oversees the winery's sales and marketing efforts. The casually elegant Delia – she favors cashmere and cowboy boots - remains deeply involved in directing Viader, and is the ultimate self-proclaimed “wine-mother” - mother of the vines, wines, and the winemaker.

Tours and tastings are available daily between 10am and 3:30pm by appointment only. Call the winery at (707) 963-3816 or email: All tastings are seated, private experiences. Limited seating precludes groups larger than six. Experiences include:

Portfolio Wine Tasting ($60/person): Viader’s most popular wine tasting experience includes a wine flight of 3–4 current release wines from their VIADER and DARE by Viader selections, many of which are only available at the winery or through the VIADER Wine Club.

Reserve Library Wine Tasting ($85/person): Focused on older vintages of their highly coveted signature blend, VIADER “Liquid Cashmere,” this tasting includes a serving of seasonal cheeses, and a winery & cave tour.

Cellar Experience Wine Tasting, Winery & Cave Tour, offered Fridays, 1–3pm or by Special Request ($100/person): A private wine tasting led by winemaker Alan Viader; available November through August (excluding the harvest months of September and October) for parties of up to 6 guests and includes a Reserve Library Wine Tasting. 

All photos by Cathy O'hagain:

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