A Big Shot Cab at Micro Price…

 
Although John Fetzer sold the Fetzer brand to a large corporation in 1992, John and his siblings retained a few thousand acres in ranch land and vineyards for the Fetzer family.  After dividing up the vineyards among the family, John focused on replanting his own vineyards and on other land development projects.  By 2001, this workaholic, insomniac vigneron, who lives for building projects, realized he still had a lot he wanted to do in the wine industry.  He then joined forces with his wife, Patty Rock, to launch the Saracina and Atrea labels – a much smaller sized project compared to the Fetzer brand.

Who is the “Big Shot” for whom this vineyard is affectionately named? That would be John Fetzer’s brother, Joe Fetzer, who was raised as a winegrower and is considered one of the pioneers in Mendocino County grape growing. Joe’s vineyard, located on a hillside overlooking Saracina Ranch, lives up to its name. Ruggedly terraced on a steep, southeast facing slope, it makes a bold statement. But Joe has a soft side, as does the vineyard, which avoids the intense late afternoon sun, and thus preserves the Bordeaux varietal character.

Saracina 2013 “Big Shot” Cabernet Sauvignon 
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 41.99
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Winemaker Notes: “Classically black ruby in color, our inaugural release of Saracina Cabernet Sauvignon shows true varietal aromatics of currant, black olive, toasted oak, and savory herbs. The palate is supple and elegant, with rich black cherry flavors, graceful tannins, and a long finish. Cabernet’s food-friendly character means that it pairs well with a wide range of dishes, from a simple rosemary-thyme-rubbed roast chicken to braised beef short ribs or a steak.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

What makes a Crisp Wine?

You’ve probably heard the word “crisp” uttered by the puckered lips of one of your wino friends, but what actually is a crisp wine and what makes it crisp in the first place? Let us demystify this often-used, confusing term.

The word “crisp” is exclusively used to describe white wines and is a reference to both a wine’s acidity as well as its dry — as in not sweet — characteristics. A wine is crisp when there is a good amount of acidity present that gives you a taste sensation similar to fresh squeezed lemonade, combined with an absence of sugar or strong fruit flavors. For these wines, the acidity and dryness are playing the major roles in terms of taste.

Crisp wines are perfect for sipping on a porch while lounging in the sunshine, or at your next backyard barbeque. A crisp wine should cleanse and awaken your palate, as opposed to a wine that saps the moisture from your mouth. It should taste refreshing and is the perfect wine to serve cold on a hot day.

These are wines that are best served young; they aren’t made for much aging, as the best grapes for these bottles are picked when they’re still not fully ripe, resulting in lots of acidity without a ton of sugar. This lack of high sugar also means these wines are low in alcohol, making them insanely drinkable. Try to drink them in their most current vintage because that’s when they’re freshest.

You’ll find crisp wines whenever you pop a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Assyrtiko, Albariño, Torrontes and even young Riesling. Some people try to claim that crisp wines aren’t very interesting, simply labeling them as “basic” quaffable wines. That simply isn’t true, though it’s an opinion that continually gets reinforced by snobby wine types. In fact, crisp wines can be excellent for pairing with food, especially when that food comes from the sea.

A few good examples:
ATREA 2015 THE CHOIR WHITE BLEND
BRIDESMAID 13 PROPRIETARY WHITE, NAPA VALLEY
SARACINA 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC ESTATE MENDOCINO
YOUNT RIDGE 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC, ESTATE, OAKVILLE
BENANDANTS 2015 MALVASIA BIANCA “CATIE’S CORNER” RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
MILANGE 2016 ROSE OF PINOT NOIR, SANTA BARBARA

Click on any of the links above for complete tasting notes or to purchase.

A Black Chicken is not a Black Sheep… especially when you get FREE SHIPPING.

 

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
FREE SHIPPING ON 6 or more
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!

Disciple of Scarecrow winemaker produces an amazing, under $50 Cabernet!

 
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
FREE SHIPPING ON 6 or more
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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.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Real Napa Value Still Happens! Killer UNDER $45 CAB

Priest Ranch is a historic Napa Valley property established in 1869 by James Joshua Priest, a Gold Rush prospector. In 2006, Priest Ranch wines were born to pay tribute to the history of the property and Napa Valley. Produced from the historic Priest Ranch, the  wines showcase the diversity of the terroir and elevations of their vineyards.  Priest Ranch embodies the essence of Napa Valley, from the trailblazing mindset of its establishing pioneers to today’s spirit of epicurean and agricultural excellence. Inspired by adventurous pioneers like James Joshua Priest and others who have helped shape the Napa Valley we call home, Priest Ranch is dedicated to producing estate-farmed wines of uncommon quality and character.

Priest Ranch 2013 “Estate”  Cabernet, Napa Valley 
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 42.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
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The 2013 is a big, bold and well-structured wine.  From the start you’ll be immersed in lusicious black stone fruit, licorice and a touch of spiciness and smoke.  On the mid-palate, more intenisity and loads of bright black currant, anise and a whiff of dark chocolate that leads into a long, but intense finish with powerful, yet nicely grained tannins.  I suggest to decant this youngster 90 minutes before serving.

Click here or on the links above to order!

WINE COUNTRY PRE-SEASON UPDATE!

Dear Friends,
As you are probably aware, the 2016-2017 winter was one for the books!  After 5 years of drought, we got drenched!  We are looking at rain and snow totals 150-200% of normal!  With some flooding, but no major damage we came through this winter season as happy farmers!  The aquifers are replenished, the reservoirs are at 100% capacity and the wineries water reserves are completely replenished. 

The vineyards are looking very happy, with budbreak a few weeks later than normal, which was to be expected after this long rainy winter.  I was able to visit with some wineries/vineyards up and down the state.

Stephen Hansel from Walter Hansel winery said: “We measured just under 60 inches of rain since July 1. The vines have gone through bud break starting 2 weeks ago and would normally enjoy the moisture that is present. Most of rainfall is positive. Currently the vine velocity is high causing some drying out and also negating the presence of modest mildew. We will continue to manually work the vineyard and spray organic sulphur with backpacks if the wind stops and temperatures rise.The vineyard looks very good and with a dry spring and summer the vines will long forget a heavy rainfall winter.”


Piggig Matthis owner/winemaker of Sanguis said: “Though the last 5 vintages represented a continued “win streak”, both the vines and the entire ecosystem in our area desperately needed this cool/cold winter along with rainfall that is about 60% above “normal” – for us, that’s about 18-20 inches – for a much needed deep sleep and to leach the salts that accumulate around the root system out of the soil.

We are probably 2 weeks from bud break in most vineyards.  The later the better because in cool wet years like this, there seems to be a risk of frost well into April (as we experienced in 2011).  Fingers crossed!

Things are warming up now, with daytime highs occasionally in the 70s, and I expect that we will see quite a bit of vigor.  That means (a) a lot of work and good timing, and (b) the plants will behave very differently from the past 3-4 years and we’ll need to be on our toes.

But this is all good stuff so far – oaks are blooming like crazy and will throw lots of acorns, and other plants are behaving likewise – that means more insects and more food for all the critters that have been trying to chew on our lovely bunches of grapes, and less root competition for water (oaks are especially greedy when things get dry!).  

We expect all this to be of great long term benefit for overall vine health and that of the overall environment. And it will be a great vintage!”

Gary Lipp from Coho had this to say: “The Valley floor vineyards were a little harder to work in early-mid March, but as of a week ago they were looking “very happy” and we experienced only limited issues – especially after the record rainfall we received this year. The hillside/mountain vineyards on the other hand seem to have handled the heavy rains better as the soil drained very well!

My winemaker, Phil Titus is extremely pleased with was might be developing – although much later compared to the 4-5 drought years we experienced before.  I’d say we are a good 2-3 weeks behind that cycle, which means we are only a week behind the “old days” schedule.”

John Fetzer owner of Saracina/Atrea winery says: “People have frequently asked me these past few months, “What is all of this rain doing to the vines?” The answer is “nothing for us to be concerned about.”  In the winter months, the vines go dormant and are more resistant to cold temperatures and disease. The rain replenishes the groundwater reserves, which the vines tap into during their growing season. The main concern with heavy rains is erosion. That’s why we plant cover crops, like mustard, to help replenish the soil and prevent erosion. Though a rare occurrence, standing water in the vineyards for extended periods can damage the base of the vines if it does not dissipate.   Ensuring that the vineyard soil has adequate drainage and is sloped properly prevents this type of damage. Early spring dormancy also gives us time to prune the vines and prepare for the next harvest. There is rarely any downtime on the ranch.

A prolonged drought can really take its toll since too much stress on the vines will eventually kill them. On the other hand, it has produced some fabulously concentrated grapes for our recent drought-year vintages. We had been hoping for a little more rain here in California, and boy did we get it. Nevertheless, we’re singing in the rain!”

As you can see, this unusually wet winter is both welcome and challenging. I am looking forward to seeing how the vines adapt, and even more to tasting the next year’s production! Read more at FrankMelisWine.com and sample the wines at GoldenGateWineCellars.com! And, as always, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 415-337-4083 if I can ever be of assistance to you or answer any of your wine related questions.

Gratefully yours,
Frank Melis

The Real “Nuts and Bolts” of wine…

Herman Syrah is the “story” of tall tales, Wrangler Jeans, and bold wines crafted by Russell P. From. This winery has become a real head-turner since it was created a little over a decade ago. Russell is a real “Rhone Ranger” and that has not escaped the notice of numerous publications garnering many 94-96 point ratings and creating a real “cult-like” following.

Herman Story 2015 Syrah “Nuts & Bolts” 
Retail 52.00 – GGWC 49.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code HERMAN upon checkout

Typical Russell From style wine! This wine offers up an inky purple color. On the nose you’ll encounter  ripe, densely  packed blackstone fruit aromas, with a touch of pepperiness. On the lush palate this wine will coat your palate with complex,  vibrant black currant, chocolate, spice and cherry-cola flavors with a touch of zingy acidity.  The wine goes on for a long time and  finishes big and bold with surprisingly silky tannins!  VERY LIMITED PRODUCTION!

Winemaker Notes: Coming up over the grade with the whole valley opening out beneath you, decked in green late evening and honest to God rainbows, you’ve got the windows down in the aged blue Mercedes headed to shoot clays at your friend’s vineyard. It’s hard to hate nights like this. Blueberries and shotgun shells, Bailey’s steeped coffee, charred cherries, crushed velvet, smoldering oak, mahogany dashboard, distant kerosene lamps, new lilacs and the thought of someday maybe getting a Chris-Craft.

Robert Parker (2014) 94 Points: “A year in, year out killer wine, the 2014 Syrah Nuts and Bolts is another stunner that gives up ripe, full throttle notes of blackberries, peppered meats, game and singed leather. Big, rich, gorgeously textured and hedonistic, yet also balanced, pure and fresh, it’s a quintessential Paso Robles red that delivers the goods. Drink it anytime over the coming 5-8 years.”

Also check out the very limited release HERMAN STORY 2014 SYRAH “BIEN NACIDO” SANTA BARBARA

Click here or on the links above to order!

Don’t say White Wine is not Real Wine…

Founded by husband and wife team Sarah and Chris Pittenger in 2009, Gros Ventre Cellars is a small, family-owned winery operating out of the Sierra Foothills. They produce less than 1,000 cases of vineyard-designated wines such as Pinot Noir from the True Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley, along with several new wines from the burgeoning wine region of El Dorado, where Chris is also the winemaker for “Rhone-varietal” winery Skinner Vineyards.

Gros Ventre 2016 Vermentino, El Dorado
Retail 26.00 – GGWC 23.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12
Use code VERMENTINO during checkout


Winery Notes: “Our 2016 Vermentino is our first-ever white, and one of our first wines from the El Dorado region. Since relocating to the Sierra Foothills a few years ago, we have consistently found ourselves in some of the most interesting up-and-coming vineyards in California, and we couldn’t go another year without making some El Dorado wines ourselves. This Vermentino has been co-fermented with a touch of Picpoul Blanc, which brings bright, refreshing acidity to complement the minerality found on the palate. It offers notes of citrus leaf, lemon zest, white flowers, and a hint of Nashi pear.”

Also check out Chris’ amazing Pinot: GROS VENTRE 2014 PINOT NOIR, SONOMA COAST - 92 POINTS

Click here or on the links above to order!

A 95 Point “Knock-Out” Napa Cab

Purlieu means “the edge of the forest” or “an outlying area.” In this case, it is a reference to their home base in the new Coombsville AVA, at the edge of the forest and the entire Napa Valley. Symbolically, “purlieu” refers to their approach to winemaking, to exploring the outskirts and navigating the boundaries of what one may expect of a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the key to successfully walking that edge lies in maintaining balance: between innovation and tradition, confidence and restraint, depth and refreshment. Purlieu is the culmination of several seasoned and determined wine professionals’ efforts to produce the finest Cabernet Sauvignon possible from the best estate vineyards in Napa Valley, all under the guidance of winemaker Julien Fayard (assistant winemaker at Lafite Rothschild and former assistant to Philippe Melka) and ace viticulturist Steve Matthiasson.

Purlieu 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 
Retail 100.00 – GGWC 94.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
Use code PURLIEU during checkout

Robert Parker 95 Points: “The real knock-out is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Although it’s under $100, it’s still not a bargain, but this is a superb example of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky purple in color, with beautiful blackberry and cassis fruit, a touch of creosote, charcoal and some subtle background oak, the wine hits the palate with authority, serious extract and richness, but enough acidity to frame up its boisterous and exuberant parts. It is a big, rich, concentrated, mouth-filling Cabernet Sauvignon with relatively sweet tannin. It should drink well for 15-20 years, possibly longer.”

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The BEST Sauvignon Blanc in California

 

Last week my tasting group conducted our first “blind” Sauvignon Blanc tasting in a long time.
The lineup included:

  • Arkenstone “Estate” (95 Pt)
  • Paul Lato (94 Pt)
  • Merry Edwards (93 Pt)
  • Vineyard 29 (95 Pt)
  • Crocker & Starr (93 Pt)
  • Lieu Dit (93 Pt)
  • Peter Michael (94 Pt)
  • Bevan (94 Pt)
  • Morlet (93 Pt)
  • Lail (93 Pt)
  • Arietta (92 Pt)
  • Dragonette “Grassini”

The Winnner DRAGONETTE!

Dragonette prevailed with 6 first place votes in our group of 12 tasters wind up with, ahead of Arkenstone and Vineyard 29 (they each 3 first place votes) – Dragonette also received 3 Second and 2 Third place votes – so a WINNER!

Dragonette 2014 Sauvignon Blanc “Grassini” Santa Barbara 
Retail 50.00 – GGWC 44.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code DRAGONETTE during checkou
t

The Vineyard: Grassini is an exceptional vineyard located in Santa Barbara, upon small hills and river benches of well drained, super fine clay loam soils and serpentinite. The vineyard is meticulously managed and farmed.

The Wine: Complex kaleidoscopic aromas and flavors. On both nose and palate you’ll encounter peach, honeydew, kiwi fruit, granny smith apple, pineapple and fresh coconut, to stony mineral notes of granite, graphite, and a touch of sea shell, to fresh herbs (thyme, basil) and spices (nutmeg, clove). This is a well-balanced wine that will please many “RED” wine drinkers alike! Extremely limited. Only 250 cases produced.

Click here or on the links above to order!