Dave Phinney’s Stunning 95 Point Limited Blend

The Story by Dave Phinney: “Life is an endless procession of surprises. The expected rarely occurs and when it does, make sure to erase it from your memory because it’s highly unlikely to repeat itself. That should be the definition for farming and more specifically grape growing. When we first purchased a portion of the iconic Crane vineyard it was mainly because of the four acres of ancient Zinfandel that are a St. Helena landmark. Of course, we knew there was Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and two rows of Merlot as well, but we considered these a bonus, if you will. That all changed the first time that we tasted the Cabernet in the fermenter. The young wine was massive. It had huge amounts of brambly black fruits and tons of weight on the mid pallet. The color was an amazingly dark violet hue. The aromas were so sophisticated for a wine of this age. We were dumbfounded…. in a good way. Immediately we began the discussion of what barrels to use, how long to leave it on the skins, etc… etc. It was a pleasurable panic. Grown men acting like a couple of giddy school girls. Eventually we calmed down and just enjoyed the moment. We welcomed the surprise. Now three years later we welcome you to enjoy this surprise, our surprise. Because none of us know when it may come again.”
G.B Crane Vineyard 2015 “El Coco” Proprietary Red Blend, Napa Valley
Retail 78.00 – GGWC 74.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code ELCOCO upon checkout

The 2015 GB Crane  “El Coco” crafted by Dave Phinney  is a blend of  Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Sirah and Old Vine Zinfandel.  Aromatics, abound and complete, the “El Coco” is replete with a wide spectrum from boysenberry jam and black plum to candied raspberries and nutmeg. The palate is ripe with dark stone fruits, blueberries, a hint of meatiness and confectionary orange, akin to mandarin encased foie gras. With just enough tannin to bind the flavors together. The wine finishes elegantly with a salivating savoriness that lingers.

Winemaker Notes: “Bold and concentrated, the 2015 El Coco is abundant in a ripe dark fruit continuum—black plums and boysenberry compote—and a hint of meatiness and toffee. Energetic and rich on the palate, the wine radiates with dark stone fruits, cinnamon and fresh Madagascar vanilla. With a nice balance of acidity, tannin and fruit, the El Coco begins to soften and finishes with length.”

Robert Parker 95 Points (2014): “The third blend Dave Phinney and winemaker Kevin Fox are turning out is the El Coco Proprietary Blend Composition. There are 490 cases for this vintage. It is a spectacular wine, with an opaque purple color and a big, sweet kiss of pen ink, graphite, blackberry, blueberry and violets. Its supple, sweet tannin is amazing, and the wine builds incrementally to reveal terrific viscosity, fruit intensity and extraction, with a savory spiciness. This is a stunner to drink now and over the next 15+ years.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Scarecrow Winemaker’s Astonishing New Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc

Celia Welch does not need an intro, but in case you wouldn’t know who she is – She’s the brainchild (i.e. the amazing winemaker) behind the following highly rated and highly regarded wineries including Scarecrow, Corra, Barbour,  Keever, 2480, Kelly Fleming, Bucella, etc.  For the past couple of years she’s been involved with a new project called YOUNT RIDGE. The property is based in Oakville, I know with a name like Yount Ridge, you’d think Yountville!  I was excited to taste the latest releases and was completely smitten by the wines.


Yount Ridge 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Oakville
Retail 100.00 – GGWC 94.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
Use code YR14CS at checkout


This is the new Scarecrow! A blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Malbec and 0.5% Merlot. Goregous dense ruby/purple color. The wine has a lovely nose loaded with dark fruit, plum and blackberry.  On the palate you are greeted by fresh, deep, dark and rich black stone, dark chocolate, anise and a touch of spice  flavors that roll over your tongue.  The wine is robust in body, yet very-well put together, well-balanced fruit to acid ratios. The Yount Ridge Cabernet is a very sophisticated wine that show class, balance and finesse!  This is a “Celia at her best” wine!  The wine finishes with seductive and silky grained tannins.

Yount Ridge 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Oakville
Retail 40.00 – GGWC 37.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code YR15SB at checkout


Only 3 tons were yielded from the property (2 Tons of Sauvignon Blanc and 1 Ton of Sauvigon “Musque Clone”.  All the grapes were selectively hand-harvested from their organically farmed vineyard. This might be the best SB in Napa this year.  The wine offers up a greenish hue and shows of its great aromatics on impact.  On the palate you are greeted by elegant notes of citrus, mango, grapefruit a medium body with nicely layered flavors and the right touch of crisp acidity.  This is a gorgeous wine and probably Celia’s best white ever!

Click here or on the links above to order!

Thriller… THOMAS RIVERS BROWN 97 & 95 POINT CABS

In 1997, while visiting the Napa Valley, Dr. Revana discovered a small parcel of prime vineyard land in St. Helena.  He immediately sensed the property’s potential. The area was already known for producing some of the world’s most sought after Cabernet Sauvignon and the property’s gravelly soils, sloped pitch, and excellent exposures seemed perfect for growing grapes. Studies of the soil composition confirmed that it was an ideal location for premium Bordeaux varieties. In 1998, Dr. Revana hired acclaimed vineyard manager Jim Barbour to plant and maintain the 9-acre estate vineyard. Renowned winemaker Heidi Barrett has been responsible for crafting the exceptional wines of the Revana Estate vineyard since its first vintage in 2001. She has left an indelible imprint and today winemaker Thomas Brown continues the tradition of making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in the Revana style.

Since we only receive a small allocation of both wines, we offer both wines as a “package” – 2 bottles each of the Estate 2014 Cabernet and “Terroir” Napa 2014 Cabernet.  This 4 pack qualifies for FREE (GROUND) SHIPPING.

Revana 2014 “Estate” Cabernet, Napa Valley
Retail 160.00 – GGWC 155.00
Free Shipping on 4-Pack
Use code REVANA14 during checkout

Robert Parker 97 Points: “The best of the three ( and it’s a pretty spectacular wine) is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena. Gorgeously opaque blue/purple in color, the wine offers up notes of blueberry and blackberry fruit, some licorice and graphite, followed by a full-bodied, layered and opulent wine with terrific fruit intensity, great purity, and class and presence on the palate. This is sensational stuff, and the best wine I have ever tasted from Revana. Drink it over the next 15-20 years.”

Thomas Rivers Brown Notes: “Nose = Initial impressions give notes of eucalyptus and floral components, reminiscent of lilac and rose hips. Hints of black olive and deep plum round out the bouquet. Palate  = The generous mouthfeel on the palate reveals deep blue fruit and toasted brioche, giving way to layers of toffee, baking chocolate and clove accenting the lush, lingering finish.”

Revana 2014 “Terroir” Cabernet, Napa Valley
Retail 110.00 – GGWC 105.00
Free Shipping on 4-Pack
Use code REVANA14 during checkout

Wine Spectator 95 Points: “Pure, rich, dense and driven by extracted blackberry, boysenberry, licorice, currant, cedar and cigar box nuances. Most impressive for the direct and authoritative presence. Best from 2020 through 2038.”

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Blind Tasting (95 Point Rated) Chardonnay Winner

We don’t do a lot of (enough) blind tastings, especially Chardonnays.  So I am excited to share the results of my latest tasting group endeavor. The lineup included some well-known and highly-regarded and high-scoring wines. Our group of 14  tasted and reviewed the wines twice, with almost identical results.

The lineup:

  • DuMOL Chloe (95 RP)
  • DuMOL “Estate” (96 RP)
  • Walter Hansel Cuvee Alyce (95 RP)
  • Talley “Rosemary” (94 RP)
  • Saxon Brown “Durrell” (94+ RP)
  • Radio-Coteau  “Wingtine” (96 RP)
  • Hudson (93 AG)
  • Littorai “Charles Heintz” (96 RP)
  • Joseph Phelps “Pastorale” (94 RP)
  • Bevan “Ritchie” (95 RP)
  • Tyler “W Block” (95 AG)

The Winner –

  1. Tyler “W Block” with 8 First, 5 Second and 1 Third Place votes
  2. DuMol Choe received 4 First, 3 Second and 4 Third Place votes
  3. Bevan Ritchie received 2 First, 4 Second and 4 Third place votes

Tyler 2014 Chardonnay “W Block” Bien Nacido, Santa Barbara
Retail 62.00 – GGWC 59.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code TYLER during checkout

Anthony Galloni 95 Points: “One of the highlights in the range, the 2014 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard – W Block exudes class. Lemon confit, chamomile, butter, orange blossom and lightly honeyed notes all flesh out effortlessly. The Bien Nacido is an especially creamy, voluptuous Chardonnay within the Tyler range. Today it is particularly expressive. The W Block emerges from old vines planted in 1973.”

Winemaker Notes: Dense and powerful, full of lemon curd, anise and black tea. Well structured with bright acidity and minerality. 225 cases produced; 12.7% alc. 2014 the earliest vintage of the the decade so far. From the eastern edge of the Bien Nacido property, here the vines grown in the most shale laden gravel soils. These well drained, mineral soils along with the fact that the vines are planted on their own roots back in 1973 always produce the most powerful chardonnay. We were down 30% overall, but super intense, wines with good acidity.”

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2017 Napa Vintage Preview

2017 Napa Vintage Preview
Heatwaves during the early stages

by Vincent Sauton, Fruition Sciences

Today, we review some of the aspects of the 2017 growing season in Napa. While Bordeaux suffered some very serious frost events earlier this year, followed by unprecedented heat waves, Northern California has endured a series of heat waves following an extremely wet winter.

Growing degree day accumulation and plant development stages
In spite of the heat wave which struck earlier in June, 2017 looks very much like 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages in terms of thermal time or in terms of evaporative effects combining light, wind speed, and vapor pressure deficit as measured by ETref.

The speed at which growing degrees days have  accumulated in Napa this season isn’t very different from previous years. Since 2014, each vintage reached similar thermal time scores: almost 700 degrees days by the solstice. Consequently, the cold and wet winter hasn’t detoured the path for 2017. Given the similarity of 2017 to the last 3 vintages in terms of temperature, the dates at which bloom, set and later on veraison and sugar loading occur should look very similar to those past vintages.

The climatic demand on grapevines is also similar. The evapotranspiration, or ETref is also similar to past vintages at this time. Like 2016, the start of this growing season had quite of cloud cover, which lowered the evaporative demand and transpiration rate early in the season.

Early heat wave and effect on plant water use
What marks the 2017 growing season apart from recent vintages is the high frequency of heat waves. By looking at the severity of vapor pressure deficit, we can characterize the severity of a heat wave. This high frequency of heat waves that we have seen in 2017 hasn’t occurred in the past.

Because vine water status at this stage of the season is generally high (particularly in deep rooted vineyard site where large amounts of water during the winter provides a lot of water supply), cavitation in response to heat wave is not the main concern, except maybe on vineyard sites with small root reservoir .
Irrigation strategy after heat wave

In terms of water supply (particularly in shallow rooted vineyard sites where amount of plant available water is limited regardless), heat wave can have a tricky effect on vine water use after it is over. During a heat wave event, the rate of transpiration increases markedly. The speed at which water molecules are being pulled through and out of the plant accelerates. Thus, soil water reserves that would have lasted the vine a week or more are used in a few days.

  1. What to do in practical terms? If plant transpiration rates can increase during a heat wave, then you need not to worry. The rise in transpiration reflects vine ability to access more water to meet vine extra water needs during that heat event.
  2. Keep in mind: the rate at which water is transpired during a heat wave event is much higher. It means that the level of water available in the root reservoir is also depleted at a faster rate. Thus, following the heat wave, it is wise to check your plant-based transpiration ratio to get an early water deficit warning.
  3. Anticipating a brutal decline in vine water use, by monitoring a fast decline in plant-based transpiration ratio, will help protect your vines from sudden water deficit symptoms. We have classically observed visual symptoms of water deficit after the heatwave, caused by a more brutal restriction of soil water supply.
The Takeaway
Because of  the fast temperature accumulation, vineyards are likely to experience a similar timeline for plant and fruit development as in 2014, 2015, and 2016 if weather indexes keep pointing to the same trajectory. However, the high frequency of heat waves justifies  a particular attention to transpiration ratios, earlier in the season compared to last year. In situations where root reservoir sizes are limited, the water supply may soon be limited and – paradoxically despite the wet winter – 2017 may display more severe symptoms of water deficit than last year in some situations.

To be continued…

Be sure to visit our blog http://www.FrankMelisWine.com  for this and other recent articles and tasting notes!

Philippe Melka’s Rock Star Effort

Fahri & Constance Diner created Skipstone after successful careers as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.  The vineyard is sits like an amphitheater carved into a horseshoe-shaped mountain hidden high above Alexander Valley. With their European roots Fahri & Constance strive to create the best wines to rival the quality and artistry of California’s most highly regarded wine estates.  Add Philippe Melka, winemaker extra-ordinaire and you see where this is going…

Skipstone 2014 Oliver’s Blend “Estate” 
Retail  134.99 – GGWC 124.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
Use code SKIP during checkout

OK to mix & match with other Skipstone Wines

Winery Notes: “Our annual approach with Oliver’s Blend is to create a blend from up to 20 individual small lots of Cabernet Sauvignon from our steepest, rockiest hillsides. Each lot has a unique profile (based on soil type, exposure and clonal selection) and blended they
create a foundation. This Cabernet Sauvignon is then embellished with our other blending varietals to best showcase the vintage. This year the foundation Cabernet was structured and powerful. We left it as the primary voice at 98%. The remaining 2% is Merlot which added a lovely roundness and fleshy mouthfeel to the wine. The wine is beautifully expressive of our site. With so many pockets of soil differentiation and exposures, Oliver’s Blend is a symphonic compilation of aroma and flavor. This coupled with clonal diversity of three separate Cabernet clones creates an exceptionally complex wine. Year after year, this is a wine of profound power and elegance.”

Robert Parker 94 Points: “The 2014 Oliver’s Blend is largely Cabernet Sauvignon (98% with 2% Merlot) aged in nearly three-fourths French oak for 18 months prior to being bottled. Loads of earthy, loamy soil notes intermixed with underbrush, blackcurrants, black cherries, tapenade and some subtle oak are present in this dense purple, full-bodied, muscular style of wine. Like most 2014s, it is already showing plenty of deliciousness and should continue to do so for at least another 15 or more years.”

Also check out the most amazing white made by Philippe Melka as well –

Skipstone 2015 “Estate” Viognier 
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 57.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code SKIP during checkout

OK to mix & match with other Skipstone Wines

The 2015 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.

Winery Notes: “Five rows of Viognier span the northern peaks 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. To balance the weight and intensity of this voluptuous grape, we limit the exposure to oak and avoid malolactic fermentation. Thus the final wine is full but bright and absolutely delicious.”

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Value White that puts a $mile on your face, keeping $$$ in your wallet!

Our friends at Sans Liege have been on a roll for some years now.  At our New York tasting this wine blew the minds of many of the attendees.  I even got comments like: “This is better than many “real” Rhone wines!” or “wow, amazing quality for the value!” Do I need to say more, this is a winery that  puts a $mile on your face while  keeping $ in your wallet!

Sans Liege 2014 Cotes du Coast, White Rhone Blend
Retail 28.00 – GGWC 24.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code COTES during checkout

Your fingers are intertwined as the wind brushes across the golden bluff. Breathing deeply, you take it all in. Jasmine, honeysuckle and the remnants of your long awaited outing alfresco – donut peaches & freshly whipped vanilla cream, sweet white corn, buttered and salted sourdough, orange pith. Not wanting it to end you share the last goat’s milk caramel and with it you sense the salinity of the waves crashing on the rocks below. The flavor lingers as you close your eyes, willing the moment not to end. The wine is a blend of 41% Viognier, 26% Roussanne, 18% Marsanne, 15% Grenache Blanc.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Pinot Noir blind tasting winner

In a recent blind tasting of 2014 Pinot Noirs, Alma Fria beat out some big boys (and girls).  Our tasting group consisted of 13 wine professionals, and we meticulously (blind) tasted all the wines twice.

The lineup included:

  • Argot (96 Pt. Parker)
  • North – by Alban (96 Pt Parker)
  • The Hilt “Vanguard” (94 Pt Parker)
  • Rhys “Horseshoe” (95 Pt Parker)
  • Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Hapgood (96 Pt. Parker)
  • Lucia “Garys’ Vyd” (95 Pt Parker)
  • J. Rochioli “Three Corner’ (95 Pt Parker)
  • Paul Lato “Seabiscuit” (95 Pt Parker)
  • Alma Fria “Holtermann”

The winner – ALMA FRIA with 7 First, 2 Second and 2 Third place votes, ahead of Paul Lato with 4 First, 4 Second and 3 Third place votes and lastly Argot with 2 First, 3 Second and 5 Third place votes.

Alma Fria 2014 “Holtermann Ranch” Sonoma Coast
Retail $70.00 GGWC $64.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code ALMAFRIA during checkout

The highlight among the Pinots, the 2014 Alma Fria Pinot Noir Holtermann Vineyard is the most powerful and punchy of these wines. A rush of cherry, red stone fruit, dried flowers, tea leaves, mint and anise run through this bold, expressive Pinot. The tannins are a bit burly and need time to soften, but there is good potential here, not to mention tons of pure personality. I highly recommend to decant this youngster 30-45 minutes prior to serving to get full enjoyment of this baby.

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Thomas Rivers Brown “Perfect-ly” crafted Chardonnay

Shibumi Knoll is a very small  Napa winery that was founded by wine collector Don Ross. Don attained a small knoll north of St. Helena in the early 2000s.  On the property was a small 3/4-acre vineyard, a modest cottage, a guest house and a winery. The cottage on the knoll was renovated and became the owner’s residence.  The name “Shibumi” stems from a book that Ross read many years ago and has special interest because it introduced him to the concept of Shibumi, a Japanese word describing a physical and emotional state which translates to “effortless perfection,” “understated elegance,” or “perfect peace.” When Ross decided to make his own wines – “Shibumi Knoll Vineyards” was appropriate.  Add Vineyardist Extraordinaire Dave Abreu and the exceptional winemaking skills of Thomas Rivers Brown and you have the making of a “dreamteam.”
Shibumi Knoll 2014 Chardonnay
Retail 95.00 – GGWC 89.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code SHIBUMI during checkout

Thomas Rivers Brown: “Our Chardonnay has a rich golden complexion, beckoning you to taste. You can smell the delectable notes of warm vanilla, honey pomelo with a hint of flirtatious spice. As you taste the wine, elements of lemon, green apple and grapefruit, kissed by a floral blush are immediately sensed by your palette only to be balanced by warm caramel. The mouth feel is warm and luscious as the finish plays out with a clean, fresh sensation. The wine is balanced and complex making it drinkable now and will carry on beautifully for years to come.”

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Navigating a Wine List

Navigating a Wine List

By Allen R. Balik, Napa Valley Register

We’ve all experienced it — perhaps some more than others. You’ve been planning a special night out with family and friends and eagerly await the transcendental experience of dining in a majestic restaurant.

On entering this palace of gastronomy, you are struck by its beauty and the regal nature of the entire scene. Now comfortably seated with your guests, you wait for the menus to be delivered by servers.

Then the moment of truth arrives. Here comes the wine list. Are you excited and intrigued with the search ahead or intimidated by its sheer size and complexity? Are you thinking, “Who can read all this and still enjoy the evening?”

With today’s computers, iPads and ever-changing vinous choices, the sight of the leather-bound and beautiful calligraphy of the tome is more or less a thing of the past. But for many, the wine list can still be intimidating regardless whether it was printed or downloaded that day (better ensuring the availability of your selection) or penned by hand as many were some time ago.

The construction of the list can directly relate to your comfort level in navigating through its content. Most lists are first arranged by wine type — sparkling, rosé, white, red and dessert — and that’s easy enough to understand. Yet how the wines are listed under these general categories may be challenging. Is it by varietal, country, region, assumed taste perceptions (e.g. light, crisp, fruity, rich, full bodied) or even price?

Today’s lists, regardless of the method used, are generally organized in a more “user-friendly” manner geared to inform rather than intimidate. But its sheer complexity may still be discouraging, and even if I understand the layout, what about all these names I can’t pronounce?

It’s always good to remember that the sommelier is your friend and there to help. The advice he or she offers can enhance your entire dining experience, so be sure to take advantage of the expertise. Asking the server about a dish’s preparation or the chef’s suggestion is common place at the table. Why not seek the same advice from the sommelier when it comes to your choice of wine?

To deconstruct and simplify any wine list, start by narrowing your selection process as you would with the menu or other shopping experience. If you know you want fish, you don’t have to spend time perusing the beef dishes. If you walk into a department store to buy a sweater, you don’t have to look at the fragrance, shoe and shirt displays. By the same token, if you want a white wine, don’t worry about the daunting list of reds and others. If cabernet is your choice, don’t worry about the pinots and zins. And if you can’t pronounce it, just point and ask the sommelier for help. Getting any easier?

Many years ago, I was on a business trip in Tokyo. We were having dinner at a heralded new restaurant featuring “Franco/Japanese” cuisine as it was all the rage in Japan at that time. I was handed the wine list by our host and asked to select a wine. My eyes widened and began to drift to the right side (price column) of the page. It was then our host politely extended his hand to cover the prices and said with a smile, “Just concentrate on the left side.

I frequently recall this exchange as price is often a determining factor in wine selection. So here’s another way to better focus your exploration of the list. If your limit is $50, don’t worry about all those wines that are more expensive.

Nowhere is it said that a great wine list must be intimidating or that a great wine must be expensive.

Now that you’ve better focused your choices and feel more comfortable with a wine list, remember that experimentation is also fun, so try something new from time to time. As you now know, the sommelier is there to assist you. Tell him or her you’re looking for something a bit different and what you like so he or she can guide you on the exploration with any number of good choices.

The best message here: Don’t be intimidated by the list. Just enjoy the experience even if a little help is needed.

—-

A personal note from Frank Melis:  I suggest to bring your own bottle. It is cheaper to pay the corkage fee and you’ll enjoy what you know.  By doing so you’ll save a bundle of money as some wines are marked up 200 to 250%. As always, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 415-337-4083 or email frank@GoldenGateWineCellars.com  and let me be your personal sommelier. I’ll help you select a few wonderful wines to have on hand to be prepared for any occasion.