In 1999 Mary Rocca and Eric Grigsby purchased the 21 acre property after a 3 year search for the “ideal” vineyard site.  Mary called upon renowned winemaker Celia Welch, then Celia Masyczek to produce the label’s first vintages. The debut bottling was the 2000 Syrah, a varietal which to this day garners praise and awards for the Rocca family.

But Rocca really got on the map in 2002, when its Grigsby Vineyard Cabernet came in #1 in a blind tasting of 12 Rising Star Cabernets. Later, the wine was taken with a group of 12 other Cabernets to show in France’s 12 Best Cabernets from California. It came in #1 over there as well. Finally, those same 12 Cabs had another blind tasting competition in SF to see how they would rank by American consumers. It came in #1 again! Rocca’s star was rising fast. But so far they have been much under the radar, but I have a feeling that this will change soon. The current winemaker Paul Colantuoni worked for many years under Celia Welch (Scarecrow) and has taken a few pages out of her “note book” and it shows with the new wines.

Rocca 2014 “Vespera” Red Blend “Estate” Napa Valley 
Retail 52.00 – GGWC 49.99
Use code VESPERA upon checkout

It will come as no surprise but the Vespera 2014 Proprietary Red Blend is  a real crowd-pleaser. The wine is forward, easily accessible, immediately delicious and enjoyable young.  As soon as it’s poured, the wine comes across as warm, rich and inviting. There are deep layers of dark ripe blackberry, cassis, and black cherry aromas here, comfortably interwoven with subtle hints of oak spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate.  On the palate this is a gorgeously soft, smooth blend that lushly coats the entire palate without a hint of heaviness or astringency.  It ends with a long, complex but silky tannin finish.  This is a wine that’s ready for full enjoyment right out of the gate.

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A decade in retrospect, the 2007 Vintage from Frank’s Cellar

On Saturday, March 11, we tasted 10 wines from the 2007 vintage and shared them with a crowd of about about 35-40 guest in our tasting room.

The 2007 vintage lineup included the following:

  • Ramey “Hudson vineyard” Chardonnay, Carneros
  • Walter Hansel “Cahill Lane” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
  • Lioco “Carneros” Pinot Noir
  • Paul Lato “Sine Cera” Fiddlestix Vineyard
  • Page Proprietary Red, Napa Valley
  • Trespass “Rendezvous ” Cabernet blend, St. Helena, Napa
  • Ramian “Chapter 7″ Cabernet Blend, Mt Veeder Napa
  • Kamen “Estate” Cabernet, Sonoma
  • Coho “SummitVine” Diamond Mt, Napa
  • Malk “Estate” Stag’s Leap, Napa

All the wines showed well and everyone had different favorites. The vintage didn’t fail nor show lackluster after a decade in my temperature-controlled wine cellar.

The “winners” if we were to crown them, were the following:

Coho & Kamen Cabernet: both of these showed gusto, great body and flavor with ample “mountain” tannins.  I’d say both wines could be drunk till 2020-22.

Trespass Rendezvous: this estate grown Cabernet blend (FYI next door to Spottswoode), benefited from a good 90 minute decanting before we served it, or it might have been a bit too tannic if we didn’t. The blackstone fruit was still as gorgeous as upon its release a good 8 years ago!

Paul Lato Pinot Noir:  the Fiddlestix is always an early ripening vineyard source.  This wine reminded me of a great Burgundy.  Not as bold as Paul’s other Pinots, but a Well-crafted gem at the hands of one of best winemakers in California.

Ramey Chardonnay: the Hudson Ranch would be a Premiere Cru if it was in Burgundy, and that wine was probably the crown jewel of the tasting, surprising everyone. No one believed a California Chardonnay could age this nicely!

Not to take away from the other wines, as Hansel Cahill Lane still had good fruit, with a slight hint of oxidation.

The Lioco might have been a little tired, but was still liked by everyone.

The Page, Malk, and Ramian still have a lifespan of about 3-5 years left; Ramian even a little longer, for those who still have some of these wines in their cellar. The Malk showed some leathery, tobacco flavors alongside its nice dark berry fruit.  The Page was very silky,  courtesy of the large dose of Merlot in this blend. The Ramian was still “in-your-face” bold, intense mountain grown fruit that wowed everyone and was agreed upon that it would drink well for another 5-8 years.

The next vintage perspective will have to wait a few years – 2009 and 2010 vintage will be on the docket. In the mean time, be sure to take a look at the current vintages from each of these winners and I am certain that you will not be disappointed!

Happy Sipping!

Your Patron Saint of (soft) Tannins.
St. Frank



The Martinelli family has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since the 1880’s. At the ages of 19 and 16, Giuseppe Martinelli and Luisa Vellutini eloped from their small village in the Tuscany region of Italy, making their way to California looking for land to farm and start a winery.

In 1918 Giuseppe died, leaving Luisa with four children and the farm to care for. Their youngest son, Leno was twelve years old at the time and had wanted no other career in life than to be a farmer. Leno’s two older brothers wanted nothing to do with the impossibly steep hillside, so after completing the eighth grade, Leno finished school and took on the sole responsibility of farming the Zinfandel vineyard. His family told him that only a jackass would farm a hill that steep. Hence, he and his vineyard earned the name Jackass Hill.

In 1973 Lee Sr. took over management of his Uncle Tony Bondi’s estate, which was comprised mainly of apple orchards, and began planting vineyards in the rich soil of the Russian River Valley. Soon considered a premium grape grower, Lee’s fruit was in great demand from many wineries. Lee and his wife, Carolyn, realized the exceptional potential to create superb wines from these grapes, and decided to start their own winery, and the rest as they say…. is history.

Martinelli 2015 “Bondi” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 71.99
Use code MARTINELLI during checkout

Galloni 97 Points: “The 2015 Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch, from Martinelli’s coolest Pinot site, is another stunner. Silky, nuanced and wonderfully expressive on the palate, the 2015 possesses remarkable intensity but in a decidedly mid-weight style by Martinelli standards. Dense and compact in its center, the 2015 needs at least a few years to open up. Even today, though, it is dazzling. Early to bloom and late to ripen, Bondi Home Ranch enjoys an especially long growing season.”

Make sure to check out the not so shabbily rated 

Martinelli 2015 Zio Tony Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley  
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 71.99
Use code MARTINELLI during checkout

Galloni 96 Points: “The 2015 Pinot Noir Zio Tony Ranch is another fabulous wine from Martinelli. Dark, round and inviting, the 2015 possesses striking depth and intensity. Succulent black cherry, plum, spice, leather and rose petal shape this utterly compelling Pinot. Sweet floral notes add attractive aromatic lift and refinement.”

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Jason Kesner, winemaker extraordinaire at Kistler created yet another amazing wine. Jason was the longtime vineyard manager at Hudson, when in 2002 he produced 25 cases of his first wine for some of the top restaurants like French Laundry, Gary Danko and Golden Gate Wine Cellars! The following year he produced a massive 75 cases, and the rest as they say is history. Moreover, Jason has brought Kistler to new heights as well, where he has been in charge of winemaking since 2012.  The KESNER CHARDONNAYS are on the “Highly Recommended List” at the French Laundry for over 10+ years straight

Kesner 2014 Chardonnay “Rockbreak” Sonoma Coast
Retail 65.00 – GGWC 61.99
FREE SHIPPING on six or more
Use code KESNER during checkout

On the nose you’ll be greeted by notes of quince, orange and honeysuckle and a touch of minerality.  The palate is lush and intense, even fleshy offering up a platter of citrus, sweet Anjou pears and quince , a touch of candied ginger.  The wine is lush, yet extremely well-balanced with just the right touch of acidity on the mid-palate, leading into a long clean finish where you’ll encounter just another whiff of very pleasant minerallity.

Winemaker Notes: “Grown for us at the Michael Mara Vineyard at the intersection of the Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Sonoma Valley. Lifted essences of fleshy white peach, citrus rind and wet rocks. Newly sliced Gravenstein apples and fresh whey. Vines struggling for purchase in a confusing mix of newer loams riddled with ancient landslide cobble. Wonderfully full but balanced body, well buttressed by vibrant acids with a lingering finish. Native fermentation in barrel, natural acids, 10% newer Francois Frères cooperage. Sur lie 16 months.”

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Patricia Green Cellars is located in the Ribbon Ridge Appellation of the Willamette Valley on a 52 acre estate purchased in 2000 by Patty Green and Jim Anderson. The winery, and thus the two friends and business partners, are noted for producing a tremendously broad selection of Pinot Noirs from several vineyards representing some of the better sites in the Willamette Valley with a particular emphasis over the years on Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills and the Chehalem Mountains appellations. Ribbon Ridge is a 3.5-mile long by 1.75-mile wide ridge that extends from the Chehalem Mountains. The ridge rises 683 feet from the Chehalem Valley floor, giving it an island-like appearance.

Patricia Green 2014 Pinot Noir “Old Vine” Estate 
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 41.99
Use code PG14PN during checkout

Winemaker Notes: ”The difference between the older and younger blocks here is always pretty amazing to people. As the vines continue to age these older vines continue to sink deep root systems into the soft sandstone sub-soil. Our water is spring fed and very minerally in nature. That is what these older vines have tapped into and that is what they pull up and put into the fruit. Savory and bringing in both black and red fruit spectrums so this has a wide range in the mid-palate. Ultimately this wine is defined by the mineral laden “ribbon” that intertwines the fruit and carries the flavors onto the sinewy tannin structure underlying the wine. This is refined and elegant while still being surprisingly broad shouldered.”

Galloni 94 Points: “Dark red. Lively, sharply focused aromas of fresh raspberry, candied flowers and spicecake, backed by a zesty mineral nuance. Juicy, incisive strawberry, bitter cherry and peppery spice flavors deepen and gain sweetness with air while maintaining urgency. At once concentrated and nervy, finishing with excellent focus and suave, late-arriving tannins.”

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This ONE acre vineyard located next to Grace Family in St. Helena has been putting out some amazing wine over the past couple of years.  All courtesy of 100 Point winemaker Peter Heitz who turned this little piece of dirt in a pile of gold flakes!  The winery is owned by two couples, neighbors, the Martin and Croshaw families, thus MC4! The 2014 vintage marks the sixth release from this great venture and I am proud to serve it up!MC4 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate” St. Helena, Napa Valley 
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 69.99
Use code MC4 at checkout

The 2014 weather was nearly perfect for Cabernet, and this year’s release is one of the best MC4 releases to date. It reminds me of a combination of the 2012 and 2013 vintage.

It has a gorgeous dark purple hue and exquisite aromas of black currant, chocolate, licorice and a touch of dust.  The wine is full in body, loaded with bright black stone fruit, chocolate,  anise and a whiff of subtle brown spice notes.  This youngster shows it potential immediately.  Only 126 cases of this youngster were produced. The wine’s mid-palate is very elegant, almost silky. The flavors keep on coming and lead into a long, yet unctuous tannin finish lasting a good 30 seconds.  I was lucky get an extra allocation of this great wine, so hurry to get some of this great well-priced Napa Valley Estate Cabernet!

Winemaker notes: “The sixth release from the hand tended MC4 Estate.  Dark fruit, red pomegranate and subtle brown spice notes are darkened by roasted sage and ripe plum aromatics.  A focused entry widens, revealing dark berries, cassis and dark chocolate, accompanied by red lift and dimpled texturing”

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REALLY IT STILL EXISTS – GREAT QUALITY, UNDER $45 Napa Cabernet by A 99+ Winemaker



The legend of the Old Poodle Dog… Back in the Gold Rush days of San Francisco the most popular French restaurant was named Le Poulet D’Or (which actually mean the Golden Chicken). Many of the miners found the unfamiliar language of the restaurant’s name difficult to pronounce so it was mangled into (Old) Poodle Dog, and soon the restaurant had a new name.

The Old Poodle Dog became one of the most fashionable eateries in San Francisco and resided in several different locations over the years. Sadly when the blight of Prohibition appeared the proprietor closed the doors exclaiming “Great cuisine cannot be served without wine.” I couldn’t agree more.

Winemaker Phil Titus from Chappellet greatness for the 2 decades, has been at the winemaking helm at Coho since 2012 and it really shows.

Coho 2014 “Old Poodle Dog” Cabernet, Napa 
Retail 48.00 – GGWC 44.99
FREE SHIPPINNG on 6 or more
use code OPD during checkout

Since it is a Coho wine, and it is the much anticipated 2014 vintage, I hope you’ll be as excited as I am about this wine. This blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot was sourced from the same vineyards Coho works with for its designated varietal program. This is a fun, but very serious wine that comes with an economical friendly price tag. On the nose one is greeted by intense black stone fruit and chocolate notes. On the palate this youngster shows great finesse and overflows with bright black currant, mocha and a touch of toasty vanilla notes. Full in body this youngster will please both wallet and palate.

Also check out these other great Coho wines (assort for free shipping)


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Philippe Melka’s most amazing white ever

“Five rows of Viognier span the top of the north ridge of our amphitheater shaped vineyard. Situated on steep mountain terraces, the thin rocky soils force the vines to struggle which in turn brings out intensity and complexity in the fruit. Steady sun exposure during the day followed by afternoon shade blesses us with the ability to achieve both ripeness and long hang time. This in turn adds depth and complexity to the fruit.”

Skipstone 2014 Viognier “Estate” 
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 57.99
Use code SKIP during checkout

The 2014 Skipstone Viognier exhibits a delicate light citrine color that reflects just like the faceted jewel. The nose is very generous revealing enticing aromatics of white peach, honeysuckle and jasmine with crushed rock notes that provide remembrances of youth spent on a hot summer day by the river. On the palate this wine is seamless, elegant and full bodied. The structure is balanced and complete with well integrated acidity and a long, satisfying finish.”

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Owner, winemaker Curt Schalchlin has been producing high quality Rhone varietals at a very respectable price level for years.  Curt worked for some of the best winemakers in industry and went solo about over a decade ago, and with a very strong showing in his Sans Liege and Groundwork productions, and the rest as they say is history.  His latest Prophetess XII/XIII received rave reviews from press and consumers alike – HURRY for this one!

Sans Liege Prophetess XII/XIII Syrah Blend 
Retail 50.00 – GGWC 47.99
Use code PROPHETESS at checkout

Winemaker Notes: “The fire cracks and his gaze follows the twirling smoke upward. Through the twisted juniper overhead there is a glimpse starlight in the indigo sky. Scents of confectionery, blue fruit, cinnamon graham cracker, fennel, smoked meat, dark chocolate and plum hang in the air. Turning the spice covered rabbit on the spit he bites off a piece of venison jerky and follows it with a big gulp of cola from the molded glass bottle in his weathered hand. It took nearly the whole day to ascend to this spot, but it was worth it.”

Robert Parker 94 Points: “Made from 73% Syrah & 27% Mourvedre that’s from the 2012 and 13 vintages, the Prophetess saw 22-34 months in 41% new French oak. This inky colored blockbuster has tons of ripe, sexy notes of blackberry jam, licorice and smoked meats in a full-bodied, plush and luxuriously textured package. It’s one of the top wines I’ve tasted from winemaker Curt and should drink nicely over the coming 4-5 years, and I’m sure it will evolve beyond that as well. Readers looking for rich, textured, character filled wines that won’t break the bank need to check out these latest releases from winemaker Curt Schalchlin.”

Don’t miss the other Sans Liege releases as well!

Click here or on the links above to order!



Hey Aldo, when you come by on Friday, bring me a couple pounds of walnuts, some fruit and vegetables, two dozen eggs and a “black chicken”. And thus went one of the hundreds of inquiries during prohibition when selling wine was not legal. Aldo Biale called his jugs of Zin a “Black Chicken” to avoid any unwanted attention from regulators. Today Black Chicken is 100% Legal, so you can get this legendary creation by name.


FYI – Aldo died in 2009, but in his memory the Black Chicken lives on!  If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History you can even see a image of Aldo with his old punch down stick and a picker’s box!

Biale 2015 Zinfandel “Black Chicken” Napa Valley 
Retail 50.00 – GGWC 47.99
Use code BIALE during checkout

Full of Blackberries, vibrant black cherry, dried berries, maple, brown and black spices, cinnamon and ginger bread. The entry is soft and gives way to supple round tannins with a delectable center and persistence of fruit. The lovely finish is the signature of this elegant, surprisingly feminine, and remarkably balanced Zinfandel that is immediately drinkable and worthy of 5 to 7 more years of cellar time.

Click here or on the links above to order!