Our vineyards are located at the top of Howell Mountain in distinctive, volcanic, brick-red soil. This growing environment is the inspiration behind the name Red Cap.

For us, life’s path has been anything but a straight line. Through luck, vision, and hard work we have carved out an idyllic lifestyle in the mountains above Napa Valley.

Tom’s interest in fine wine was sparked while he was working in finance for IBM, sampling wines on business trips and trading recommendations with friends. But it wasn’t until he changed careers in 1991 that his appreciation for wine really took off. Tom left his IBM financial career to pursue a career as a chef. He attended California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he graduated with high honors.

Tom then went to work in some of California’s best restaurants for such culinary legends as Michel Richard (Citrus) and Bradley Ogden (One Market), eventually taking a position at Brava Terrace Restaurant in St. Helena. Cooking for some of the most prominent vintners and winemakers in Napa Valley, Tom tasted the fruits of their labor alongside great wine country cuisine. It was here that his love of California wine was cemented.

Outgrowing our Napa residence after the birth of our second child, we purchased a 10.5-acre property on Howell Mountain in 1998. Vineyard planning began in 2000 with viability studies, archeological, biological, and botanical surveys and mountains of paperwork required for the permitting process. The land was finally cleared and prepped in 2003, the same year our third child was born.

The grapes and the kids have thrived in this precious part of the world. The vineyard has garnered much praise from vintners and growers in the Valley and the grapes have been incredible. Red Cap Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet showcases this special fruit and the land on which it is grown. Enjoy!

We are often asked how we chose our name and label. Our vineyards are located at the top of Howell Mountain in distinctive volcanic, brick-red soil. It helps to produce fruit of incredible depth and richness. This growing environment is the inspiration behind the name Red Cap. The image of the boy on the swing is our way of expressing the feeling of this special place: carefree, happy and excited to be alive.

Our Vineyards

Red Cap Vineyard

The Altemus family planted Red Cap Vineyards on a beautiful site near the summit of Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley. The rocky, volcanic soils and the unique Howell Mountain microclimate produce fruit of exceptional character and quality.

Planted on virgin land in 2003 at an elevation of 1900 feet, the Aiken loam soil is deep, red, and peppered with fractured rock. The terrain is a rolling plateau at the top of the mountain. The vineyard yields about two tons of grapes per acre. Cabernet Clones 4, 7 and 169 were used on 101-14 rootstock and the vine spacing is five feet by seven feet. Our grapes are organically grown and hand farmed.

Alko Ranch

We source the fruit for our Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc from the Alko Ranch vineyard, located on the eastern side of Howell Mountain. This location offers an ideal growing climate for Sauvignon Blanc grapes, providing warm daytime temperatures balanced with cool mornings and evenings. The complex minerality of the vineyard soils (Pleasanton loam and Bressa-Dibble-Sobrante) is beautifully reflected in our wine. The grapes are Clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock, planted in 2002. 

Red Cap Vineyards’ Winemaker, Rudy Zuidema

I was born in Sacramento, California, and grew up in the nearby agricultural community of Davis. Building on a love of the outdoors and an interest in farming, I studied Plant Science and Agricultural Management at the University of California, Davis, where I focused on viticulture.

Tom and I met while working in a local restaurant called Brava Terrace. I was mentoring under two winemakers by day and waiting tables and cooking by night. Tom was the chef de cuisine for many of my shifts. He taught me much about the art of cooking and this closely paralleled my wine making efforts. We became very good friends and laughed at the idea of one day making some wine together.

Upon graduating from UC Davis in 1991, I moved to Napa and took a position at the famed Oakville Grocery. Working alongside wine buyer Mary Danielak, I tasted thousands of wines, refining my palate and expanding my base of knowledge about vineyards, vintages and winemaking styles. In 1993, eager to gain hands-on winemaking experience, I traveled to Australia’s McLaren Vale to work at Wirra Wirra Winery. Under the guidance of Australian winemaker, Ben Riggs, I learned techniques for achieving ideal ripeness, cap management and extraction—techniques that I still employ.

After returning to the United States, I worked for St. Clement Vineyards and White Cottage Ranch under my mentor Dennis Johns. From there I moved on to Cuvaison and Honig Vineyard, where I was the assistant winemaker working alongside James Hall, of Patz and Hall Wine Company. In 1996, I joined Robert Craig Winery as winemaker, where I spent the next seven years focusing on terroir-driven Cabernet Sauvignon production from Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, and the Napa Valley floor.

Eager to combine my love of agriculture and winemaking, I moved to a post as the winemaker and vineyard manager for Ehlers Estate from 2003 to 2008. This was an incredible opportunity to experience what can be achieved through an estate-run program.

Now, as a consulting vineyard manager and winemaker for small estate programs, I get to combine a passion for agriculture with an expansive knowledge of winemaking. In the vineyard, we follow organic and biodynamic farming practices to naturally enhance the flavorful diversity of the estate’s rich tapestry. This natural approach continues in the winery, where we emphasize classic, small-lot techniques and gentle handling to craft balanced wines that embody a sense of elegance, purity and power.