Boatique Winery owners combine love for classic boats with award-winning wines
Lake County's Boatique Winery, perched atop a mountain in Kelseyville, may be the only winery on the planet where you can sip gold medal wines and wander through a collection of museum-quality wooden boats.
And they're not just any boats. The 14 sleek, pristinely restored classic and custom-built wooden power craft have won major awards, including Best of Show at the prestigious 2016 Antique & Classic Boat Society International Boat Show (for “Touch of Glass,” a 1955 Chris Craft Cobra), and Most Elegant Boat at the 2013 Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance (for “Curvaceous,” a 1938 Canadian Greavette Streamliner). Their collection also includes two cars: a rare 1964 Amphicar Model 770, and a 1957 Ford Thunderbird.
Every craft in the 10,000-square-foot showroom is a dazzler, but the one-of-a-kind 33-foot Van Dam Alpha Z - a streamlined swashbuckler with a handcarved dash fashioned from a single piece of Honduras Mahogany - is considered a design masterpiece. Completed in 1998, it has been featured on the cover of noted design magazine Graphis and in the pages of Playboy.
“It's the beauty of these boats that attracts collectors,” said Healdsburg resident Bob Mount, who along with his wife, Madi, owns Boatique. “That and the skill that goes into making and building them, the patience it takes to create perfection. They're works of art.”
The genesis of the Boatique collection began in the early 1960s. Bob Mount was working his way through college, spending his summers at Lake Berryessa cooking, cleaning, pumping gas on the docks, and doing whatever else was needed. In his spare moments, he fell in love with the low-slung wooden speedboats towing skiers or touring jauntily around the lake. He dreamed of owning one someday.
Although Sonoma County residents for 45 years, Bob Mount and his wife Madi (née Ehrlich) were raised in Napa. They became good friends in junior high and both graduated in 1961 from Napa High School, but they didn't start dating until they were college seniors. He was at UC Berkeley, majoring in zoology, and she was at San Jose State, where she obtained a bachelor's degree and a teacher's credential.
They married in 1966, living in San Jose while she taught and he earned his master's in microbiology. Later, after relocating to Sonoma County, Madi Mount returned to school to earn a master's degree in early childhood education from Sonoma State University. She would teach for 33 years, and in the mid-1980s was voted Sonoma County Teacher of the Year.
Meanwhile, Bob Mount, after working in hospital laboratories in the South Bay and later running the lab at Sonoma County Hospital, founded a clinical laboratory of his own, eventually selling it in 1992 to Damon Clinical Laboratories. He later founded Redwood Toxicology Laboratory; when he sold it in 2006, it was reportedly the largest toxicology lab in the world.
It was around this time that the Mounts began collecting wooden boats and decided to enter the wine business.
They had owned ski boats over the years for fun and play with their three children (and eventually their eight grandchildren). But they had purchased a boat rare enough to serve as the starting point of their collection.
That first boat, a 1941 Chris Craft Barrel Back, was the kind of beautiful wooden runabout that Bob had dreamed of owning during those long-ago Lake Berryessa summers. That boat then led to another.
“You know how men are,” Bob Mount said with a laugh. “If we like something, we can't get enough of it.”
Soon the Mounts began looking for a place to store their collection. The family had spent time over the years in Lake County, and ended up purchasing 51 acres of land in Kelseyville, complete with a big barn to accommodate the boats.
The land, in the Red Hills appellation, was located at the top of the Mayacamas Mountains and known for rich volcanic soil. It came with 37 acres planted to vines (they now have more than 100 acres planted), which suited the Mounts. They had enjoyed making Zinfandel from a 1-acre vineyard at their Santa Rosa home, and at one time maintained a 4,000-bottle wine cellar that was heavy on California reds.
Opened in 2015, Boatique has collected more than 25 medals and awards for its wines in its first four years. The first vintages entered into competition sailed away from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition with one double gold (2012 Cabernet Sauvignon) and three gold medals; the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc won the North of the Gate Wine Competition's Best White Wine and Winemaker of the Fair awards; and Wine Enthusiast Magazine has ranked numerous Boatique wines in the 90s, including 93 points for the 2013 Malbec. Last year, Boatique won bronze medals for its 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 Rosé of Malbec and 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon in The Press Democrat's North Coast Wine Challenge.
One aspect of owning a winery that makes both Mounts happy is the opportunity to use it philanthropically. They allow many local nonprofits to use the winery for fundraising events, as well as donate wine and Clear Lake boat rides for auctions.
At Boatique, visitors are likely to ask the owners to name their favorite boat rather than the wine they like best.
Bob Mount thinks about it. “Madeleine,” he said. “And also Alpha Z.”
“They're all my favorites,” his wife said, smiling. “I love each one.”
IF YOU GO
Events at Boatique Winery
March 23: “New, New, New Party.” See the latest addition to the Boatique collection, a 1939 Chris Craft Barrel Back, along with new wines and new labels. Featuring food and wine pairing stations, live music, meet-and-greet with the winemaker. $10 or free for club members. 8255 Red Hills Road, Kelseyville 1-4 p.m.
Tallman Hotel: Restored 19th-century hotel/livery stable with 17 individually designed rooms. 9550 Main St., Upper Lake. 707-275-2244. tallmanhotel.com.
Cottage at Boatique Winery: A private cottage with vineyard and mountain views, deck, kitchen and living/dining area. Sleeps 2. 8255 Red Hills Road, Kelseyville. 707-279-2675. boatiquewines.com.
Blue Wing Saloon: Worth-the-journey comfort food. 9550 Main St., Upper Lake. 707-275-2244. tallmanhotel.com/restaurant.
Park Place: Mouth-watering, Italian-influenced dishes rule here and are done to perfection. 50 Third St., Lakeport, 707-263-0444. parkplacelakeport.com.
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