Summit Lake Vineyards: Vintner Bob Brakesman

Summit Lake Vineyards View
The Winter View of Summit Lake Vineyards, overlooking Pope Valley.

A hideaway, high atop Howell Mountain. Summit Lake Vineyards

High on top of Howell Mountain, lies a stunning tasting destination. It’s richness enhanced by a solitude of quiet and pristine views of much of Pope Valley. This is not one of the posh, pricey settings Napa is known for. This unique property a rustic, down to earth and relaxed setting. It’s one where pretentiousness is a four letter word.

The wines of Summit Lake Vineyard
The Wines of Summit Lake Vineyard, Howell Mountain

Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery, founded in 1971 by Bob and Sue Brakesman. Located within the Howell Mountain AVA, Summit Lake cultivates intense fruit. This intensity is due to their unique micro-climate above the fog layer and the soil. The soil consists of red clay and volcanic ash. Combine this with the proximity to the sun and strong breezes in the afternoon and it’s a perfect storm for intense grapes. It’s a family affair…

Summit Lake Vineyards and the Brakesman family
Bob Brakesman, Bob Brakesman, Danny Brakesman, Heather Griffin, Mark Griffin, Clair Griffin (in front), Gretchen Brakesman, Brian Brakesman

Unique experiences are vast in Napa Valley, but none more so than Summit Lake Vineyards and Winery.  The property consists of a few outbuildings and the Brakesman home, built in the 1800’s. In the spring and summer, you will taste right in the vineyards, under a large shady oak tree. In rainy or cold weather, at the kitchen table. Regardless of when you taste the experience is one of a kind.  This is a family run operation, now becoming a rarity in Napa. The people of Summit Lake Vineyards are gracious, friendly and unpretentious.  The location is serene and peaceful. It’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Napa.

At 25 years old, Bob Brakesman was looking to build a life for him and his wife.  He had just graduated from college and wanted to move north out of San Jose. He’d been looking for a while, but Napa’s prices, even in those days were expensive.  Brakesman received an inheritance key to his future. It would pave the way for his wife and family and their life in the vineyards. This is the story of Summit Lake Vineyards beginning.

There’s a little run down ranch in Angwin. I said, “What is Angwin?!”

Listen in as we hear Bob’s adventure in wine and how he surprised his wife with their new life on Howell Mountain and his history from his time at Freemark Abbey in the early days, to the harvest parties rivaling Burning Man in the 70’s.

The Wine

I tasted through several of the wines and found each interesting. The one that stayed with me, was one of Brakesman’s favorite, Summit Lake Vineyard’s 2011 Zinfandel. Existing zinfandel grapevines (possibly pre-prohibition) were discovered on the property by the Brakesman’s after they purchased it. The 2011 Zinfandel is rich and distinct with black fruit, chocolate, and black pepper.

The exquisite Summit Lake Vineyards Zinfandel

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Summit Lake Vineyards: Vintner Bob Brakesman

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