Storybook Mountain Vineyards

The History

Storybook Mountain Vineyards, originally known as Grimm Vineyards and Wine Vaults, was founded in 1883 by Adam Grimm. Grimm purchased 400 acres of high-elevation land four miles north of Calistoga and planted extensive vineyards on the site. In 1889, he was joined by his brother Jacob – yes, “brothers Grimm”! – who helped Adam direct the Chinese laborers who dug three large caves for wine aging into the property’s mineral-rich volcanic rock.

By 1919, with Adam relocated to San Francisco, Jacob was making sacramental and medicinal wines, which were permissible during Prohibition. Post-Prohibition, the winery was abandoned and the vineyard subsequently destroyed in 1964 by the disastrous Hanley Ranch fire. (The caves survived.)

In 1976, Jerry Seps, a former professor of European history, and his wife, Sigrid, fell in love with the wild, abandoned site and purchased 90 acres surrounding the original winery, planting roughly half to grapevines. The Seps renamed the vineyard Storybook Mountain to denote its fairytale beauty and to honor the original founders. Advised by legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff that the hills above Calistoga, with their red clay-loam soils and eastern exposures, were the best place in California to plant Zinfandel grapes, the Seps replanted the vineyard to Zinfandel. Subsequently they added Cabernet Sauvignon, other red Bordeaux varieties, and Viognier.

The first Storybook Mountain Zinfandel, released in 1983, earned a gold medal, and more accolades followed. In 1989, the 1984 Reserve Zinfandel became the highest-rated Zinfandel in history. In 2003, Wine & Spirits Magazine named Storybook Mountain “Artisan Winery of the Year” and included Storybook among its Top 100 Wineries in the World, an honor we have now won 14 times.

While Storybook was garnering acclaim for its intense, beautifully structured Zinfandels, Jerry Seps was methodically mapping out sections of the estate vineyard where red Bordeaux varieties might thrive. Jerry chose cooler, north-facing parcels with thinner soils, which he began planting in 1994. The first Storybook Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 2005.

During the 42 years since the Seps family purchased the estate, Storybook Mountain has earned distinction after distinction. In 1994, The United States Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, poured Storybook Mountain Zinfandel to honor that year’s Nobel laureates. The wines have been served in the White House by three Presidents. In 2005, famed critic Robert Parker characterized Storybook as “representing the pinnacle of wine quality in California” and one of the six best Zinfandels in the world.

Today, Jerry and Sigrid, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Colleen and Rick Williams, continue building an impressive legacy of world-class, artisan wines.

For more information, please visit our Trade Assets page.

The Vineyard

 Located at the top of Napa Valley four miles   northwest of Calistoga, our estate vineyard   reaches elevations of 1250 feet on an eastern   slope of the Mayacamas Mountain Range,   creating an ideal eastern exposure   characterizing many of the world’s most   acclaimed vineyards.

The vineyard is divided into over 100 separate micro-blocks based on grape variety, sun exposure, rootstock and clone. Open to the morning sun, the vines easily ripen their fruit, yet their oblique angle to the hot afternoon sun tempers the heat spikes and heat accumulation that can bake grapes, leading to overripe flavors. Furthermore, the Russian River to the west funnels cooling afternoon breezes to our vineyard, resulting in temperatures often ten degrees cooler than in the valley below.

Rainfall patterns in our northernmost section of Napa Valley also contribute to our estate vineyard’s singularity. During spring, the area north of Calistoga is among the rainiest in Napa County, often receiving twice as much precipitation as the cool-climate Carneros district in the southern end of the valley.

This amount of moisture – given our vineyard’s relative coolness and clay soils – means that most of our mature vines do not require irrigation, a blessing especially during drought years. Water conservation, however, is just one element of our commitment to sustainable farming. We are a certified organic vineyard and thus refrain from the use of insecticides, pesticides and commercial yeasts, instead using environmentally friendly farming techniques reflecting our determination to be responsible stewards of the land.

The Caves


The 130-year-old wine caves at Storybook Mountain Vineyard were dug by Chinese laborers at the direction of Adam and Jacob Grimm, brothers who founded Grimm Vineyards and Wine Vaults. The earliest public reference to the caves was in a publication called the Viticulturist, on July 8, 1889: “Mr. Grimm is now engaged in driving two tunnels 10 x 100 feet into the mountainside for a cellar, where he intends to store and age his wines.”

A third tunnel was added at a later date, and the three connected. A round room was dug out between two of the tunnels, which Grimm Vineyards used as a riddling room for aging its sparkling wines.

The caves are dug into rhyolite rock, volcanic in origin, which provide a consistent, year-round temperature between 55 and 60 degrees F., with high humidity. These conditions create an ideal natural environment for barrel aging Storybook Mountain wines. In addition to storing more than 400 French, American and Hungarian oak barrels, our historic caves also serve as the tasting venue for visitors to Storybook Mountain.

Current Offerings

2018 Mayacamas Range Zinfandel   

            “The wine has grace and energy, delivering dark-cherry roundness directly into the tannins and their bone-broth savor.  Those tannins combine blueberry skin freshness and a hint of bitter almond in a lasting, supple impression.  Heady and beautiful. 94 pts, Wine&Spirits magazine

2018 Eastern Exposures Zinfandel

            “… this gold standard of Napa Valley red wine … This is a savory red, all about brisk and bold tension in its structure and freshness in its fruit.  The lively interplay of floral, herbal, fruity and umami is a window into the complexity this wine will develop with age.  Drink some now to enjoy a Napa Valley classic in its youth, then cellar the rest for a decade or more.  96pts Wine&Spirits magazine.  Top Zin of 2022, top 100 wines of the year.

2019 Bottled Poetry Zinfandel

            Just released and vintage not reviewed.  A blend of our softer lots of Zinfandel with 24% of the Bordeaux varieties. Of the 2018, Connoisseurs’ Guide wrote “balanced, firmly structured, but still deep and tasty …” The same applies to the 2019; Zin with a deeper tannin structure as a core for our berry, black cherry fruit.

2019 Estate Reserve Zinfandel

            Just released and vintage not reviewed.  Of past vintages the comments have been: “few can rival the eloquence and sophistication found here.  … a complete and carefully crafted offering that, while long on varietal soul, has an uncommon resemblance to finely structured claret …” Connoisseurs’ Guide   “Today the great vintages of Storybook Mountain Estate Reserve … stand among the greatest wines of the Napa Valley, including those now ancient cabernets Andre Tchelistcheff made.” Josh Greene, editor, Wine&Spirits magazine.

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

            “Attractive aromas of crushed dark berries, cloves, anisette, cocoa and dark earth.”  My favorite comment from an earlier release of our cabernet: “from someone who knows cabernet in the old guard; it’s not slutty or sweet.” Wine&Spirits magazine.

2019 Four Reds Blend

          Four Reds is a lighter, more accessible, but well structured version of our traditional Cabernet, with the true Bordeaux traits of herbs and forest floor to go with its berry fruit. It remains typically Storybook in its clean, focused mouth feel, that avoids sweetness, providing instead a flavorful rendering of Bordeaux’s unique savory yet fruity combination.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc