Located in the St Helena AVA, Hourglass is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. The Napa Valley is roughly shaped like an hourglass, and the vineyard is located at the narrowest point or “pinch.” Because of the terrain, afternoon temperatures are naturally moderated during the growing season. This helps retain the all-important acidity that is critical for balance.
During the late 1970s, Ned Smith planted his first 4 acres of Zinfandel. He sold his grapes to other wineries until the 1990s, when his vines were destroyed by phylloxera. Smith turned this disaster into an opportunity, and in 1992 he began replanting his land with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ned’s son, Jeff, played an integral role during this reestablishment phase. Dr. Kliewer of UC Davis lended his consulting expertise to the vineyard site’s natural potential. The first vintage of Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 2001.
Hourglass’ neighbors include Tychson Hill (Colgin), Vineyard 29, Freemark Abbey, and Duckhorn. The vineyard is located a couple miles north of the town of St Helena. The hillside vines rise to about 75 feet above the Napa Valley floor and face east. They enjoy morning sun and cool, moderate afternoons.
Grapes grown at higher elevations ripen earlier and harvest is a multi-step process. Classified as the Hambright series, soils are nutrient-poor and unfertile. This leads grapes with a high skin to juice ratio that produce complex, multifaceted wines.