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Sterling Vineyards
Location: Sterling Vineyards is located on a hilltop in the north end of the Napa Valley of California. Sterling Vineyards' winery is accessed by visitors via an aerial tramway due to the limited parking space at the top of the hill.
Vineyards: Sterling owns and farms 1200 acres of vineyards throughout the Napa Valley. From Winery Lake Vineyard in the Carneros region of the south valley to Three Palms vineyard and Diamond Mountain Ranch in the north end of the valley, Sterling owns some of the finest vineyard sites in California.

History: Peter Newton, an Englishman who ran the San Francisco based paper company, Sterling International, founded Sterling Vineyards in 1964 with 50 acres of vines. He was convinced that varieties other than Cabernet Sauvignon (for which the Napa Valley was becoming known) would be important. Merlot and Chardonnay were included among the first plantings at Sterling.

Sterling's first wines were produced with the 1969 vintage and the winery buildings were finally completed in 1972. The winery was built at the top of a 300 foot volcanic knoll. The exterior style of the buildings is reminiscent of the look of the white villages on the Greek island of Mykonos. As a reminder of Sterling's English roots, the design also includes the church bells from St. Dunstan's Church in London. The church was destroyed in World War II but it's bells chime on the half-hour in the Napa Valley.

The original owners sold the winery and vineyards to Coca Cola in 1977 when Coke decided to get into the wine business. In 1982, Sterling was sold to Joseph E. Seagram and Sons when Coke found the wine business a little less rewarding that it had expected.

Sterling Vineyards became the 'crown jewel' among the wineries that Seagram owned. By supplying the winery with talented people and proper funding, Sterling became one of the top wine brands in the U.S. From 1982 to 2000, yearly sales of Sterling's wines moved from less than 60,000 cases per year to nearly 400,000. During that time of growth, wine quality improved.

In late 2001, Diageo (a UK drinks conglomerate) purchased Seagram and blended Sterling Vineyards into their existing wine business. It will be interesting to see if they continue with the quest for excellence that was a hallmark of the Seagram ownership.

Evaluation: Sterling Vineyards produces wines of very good quality in one of the worlds most favored grape growing areas. Using grapes from its own collection of vineyards as well as grapes from vineyards under long-term contract, Sterling is able to maintain control of the viticultural (in the vineyard) practices. This gives Sterling the ability to control the quality of the fruit that goes into its wine and the ability to produce wines of higher quality.

Style: Under winemaker Rob Hunter, Sterling has a fruit-forward style to its wines. Maximum extraction of flavor and color from the grapes is achieved through the use of the most modern winery equipment and practices.

Wines: Sterling has a variety of wines with an emphasis on those grapes found in either the Bordeaux or Burgundy regions of France. There are also several levels of wines based on price range and quality.

Reserve Wines - Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Merlot, Reserve Chardonnay
These are Sterling's 'best of the best' wines designed to benefit from cellar age. They carry high prices and are meant to show just how good Sterling can be.

Single Vineyard Wines - Winery Lake Pinot Noir, Winery Lake Chardonnay, Three Palms Merlot, Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Occasionally a Winery Lake Merlot and Diamond Mountain Merlot are produced.
These are distinctive wines produced only from grapes grown in the vineyard for which the wine is named. Winery Lake Vineyard, Three Palms Vineyard and Diamond Mountain Ranch are among California's finest vineyards.

Core Wines - Napa Cabernet, Napa Merlot, North Coast Chardonnay, North Coast Sauvignon Blanc.
These wines are the main wines for which Sterling has been known. Very good quality on a consistent basis has been the key to success.

Vintner's Collection - Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast Merlot, Central Coast Chardonnay
This level of wines from Sterling was sold only in restaurants from 2000 when these wines were first made until the summer of 2002 when they were released to retail stores. These wines represent very good value for the money. They are produced from Central Coast vineyards to which Sterling has long term access.