Thomas Rivers Brown’s Sensational Chardonnay!

Senses Wines is the dream of three childhood friends. Chris, Max and Myles partnered with celebrity winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, to produce world-class wines from renowned vineyards owned by their families. Since founding, Senses production has grown to include many coveted vineyard sites throughout Sonoma County.

The Senses estate vineyards are located in the West Sonoma Coast region of northern California, specifically in the small town of Occidental where the three founders grew up. Ideal Goldridge soil, healthy, mature vines, warm days balanced with cool nights and a grower who has been working the land since 1982 all contribute to Robert Parker’s assessment of the vineyard as “…one of the great Grand Cru Chardonnay sites in California.

Senses 2016 “Charles Heintz” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 64.99
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Think golden apple and fresh flowers on the nose and something savory but hard to put a finger on. Rich tropical fruit on the palate is complemented by a delicious concentration of citrus and honey without being sweet. The smooth mouthfeel is balanced by solid acidity that lingers on the finish.

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Also be sure to check out these other fine wines by Thomas Rivers Brown!
Post Parade, Hestan, 4 Winds, Pulido Walker, Revana, Shibumi Knoll, and Stone the Crows

4 Barrel, 95 Point “Sleeper” Cabernet

Chuy Ordaz has hand tended the Montecillo Vineyard for over 40 years. These old Cabernet Sauvignon vines seem to nod in respect towards Chuy when he walks by them or when he stops to tuck a shoot or remove a leaf. Chuy remarked about the 2015 vintage, “2015 is classic Montecillo – very good year, very good wine”.

Camino 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Montecillo Vineyard”
GGWC 64.99 net
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Winemaker Notes: “The character of these 54-year-old vines will not be deterred. Clinging to the hillside terraces high in the hills of Sonoma, the wild mountain personality and regal nature beg your attention. Concentrated and brooding in the glass, the wine is perfumy with lavender, violets, and graphite. The bold, dark fruit is emboldened by the fine, chalky tannins and the persistent mineral finish. Always bottled unfined and unfiltered after nearly 2 years in barrel.”

Robert Parker 95 Points: “The Camino Cabernet Sauvignon Montecillo from Moon Mountain emerges from a vineyard planted in 1964 on St. George rootstock, hence it was never prone to phylloxera. The vineyard is planted between 800 and 2,000 feet in elevation. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon has a fabulous nose of charcoal, barbecue smoke, blackberry and cassis with some forest floor and underbrush. It is a big, juicy, concentrated and beautifully textured Cabernet. It is a major sleeper of the vintage, and can be drunk over the next 20-25 years.”

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100 Point Vineyard Manager’s White

As the 6th generation farmer of his family’s Napa Valley ranch, Matt Hardin has a natural appreciation of the exceptional place that is the Napa Valley. Matt manages his full-time work as vineyard manager and partner in Barbour Vineyards with his commitment to managing the family ranch. In his time with Barbour Vineyards, Matt has farmed some of the most renowned vineyards in Napa including Hundred Acre, Herb Lamb and Checkerboard.  Many of these vineyards produced 100 point rated wines!

Matthew Wallace 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
GGWC 31.99
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Bright and expressive, the 2017 Matthew Wallace Sauvignon Blanc displays exotic aromas of ripe pears and sweet lychee, with fresh honeysuckle and citrus to balance the nose and lift the mouth. On the palate, the wine is textured and silky, with a refreshing minerality and clean finish. This vintage is a unique and vibrant expression of Sauvignon Blanc. – Julien Fayard, Winemaker

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UNDER $40.00 – 95 Point “old-timer” still has it!

Walter Hansel Winery has been synonymous with good quality and well-priced wines for years.  Real crowd-pleasing wines for those who don’t want to break the bank and still want to get a good quality glass of wine.  The 2015 Cuvee Alyce Chardonnnay might be one of Steve Hansel’s best efforts to date.  Even with a 95 from Parker (which I think was 1 or 2 points shy from where it should be) this wine will impress both beginner and advanced oenophile.

Walter Hansel 2015 Chardonnay “Cuvee Alyce” Russian River Valley
GGWC 39.99 NET
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The 2015 Chardonnay Cuvée Alyce is the richest and most exotic of these wines. A classic Russian River Chardonnay, the Cuvée Alyce is laced with the essence of tangerine, honey, roasted almonds and butter. This open-knit, inviting Chardonnay will drink well right out of the gate.

Wine Advocate 95 Points: “The 2015 Chardonnay Cuvee Alyce (named after his mother) is produced from a field blend of Hyde and Hudson Wente selections. This is a big Chardonnay made from tiny berries. Orange marmalade, tangerine oil, honeysuckle and citrus are all present in this beautifully textured, full-bodied Chardonnay that shows little evidence of oak. It should drink well for at least a decade.”

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Get this wine for a steal & I give you FREE SHIPPING!

I would never condone stealing, except when it comes to this Pickpocket from our Sans Liege friends. All joking aside, Sans Liege has made a name for itself as one of the best Rhone Varietal producers in the state, and this latest release might be one of the best ones yet-to-date.

Sans Liege 2015 “Pickpocket” Templeton Gap, Paso Robles
GGWC 49.99
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The 2015 Pickpocket (100% Grenache) was sourced from the Alta Colina & Derby vineyards. As the light is stripped softly from the bookcases, heavy curtains and sullen marble floors of this country manor, your host is likely to pour you a nightcap from some inky carafe. You are met with a rich perfume of brandied cherry Ceylon tea, fresh plum, nutmeg shard and black chocolate. A final cup of fine ground coffee is served. The sunken glass of the windows waxes to obsidian, and a prick begins worming in your mind: this place has magic. The sense comes quickly and carries with it a taste of old growth forest, burnt cinnamon, tiny sweet strawberries, creek fresh mint and fog. Now in comfortable repose in your room, you notice the creep of long shadows. It is a hours till dawn, and the sheets will make a poor shield from the darkness to come. This wine has great aging potential. I would advise to decant this wine a good two hours before consumption and serve slightly below room temperature.

Only 8 barrels (200 cases were produced), so this will be gone in no time.

Winemaker Notes: “It’s been hours since another soul has entered the room. You take a deep breath and notice once again the comforting scents of clove, ceylon tea, birch beer and cherry coulis with cocoa. As you prepare to depart, the library door groans open. A figure appears, looking suspicious with an old leather bound book tucked protectively under his arm. In his haste, he doesn’t notice the pressed sprig of lavender that falls to the floor. With an anxious glance over his shoulder he slips behind a shelf of books and disappears.”

Also be sure to check out: 

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John Caldwell grew up in Napa into a family that ran a shoe business. John eventually turned the one business into many more.  Living in Napa and making money, he purchased 54 acres of land and had plans to develop some homes.  Unfortunately that backfired and now he was “stuck” with 54 acres of dirt.  He had been on trips to France, and one thing let to another that he was going to start a vineyard.  On one of his trips he decided that the only way to get vines from France was to smuggle them into the country.  With the help of some friends in New York and Canada he started to bring in vines from Haut Brion.  Unfortunately on his last of 5 trips he got caught by customs agents.  They wound up confiscating his last load, but John got lucky that via a lawyer friend he was released with a warning and a fine.  His 4300 vines were in a barn in Napa and that started the success story that Caldwell Vineyard would become years later.

In the mid-late 90’s I met John and we tasted through some barrels, when he said, you know this is not “Rocket Science”!  At that time, Philippe Melka was his winemaker, and the next day Melka asked him what that “blend” was all about that he made the day before.  That said, John created “Rocket Science” under my eyes and a new brand was born. So many years later, I am still a big fan of this wine.

Caldwell 2015 “Rocket Science” Red Napa Valley
GGWC 69.99
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This is real wine – real Rocket Science. It is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabenet Franc,  Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Tannat, all sourced from John Caldwell’s estate vineyard at 1200 feet elevation in the Coombsville area of Southern Napa Valley. A delicious, full bodied, mouth filling and layered that’s got great fruit and structure without being overly intense or extracted. Laden with flavors of plum, cranberry, currant, coffee and chocolate with a few little hits of black pepper, cinnamon and earthy goodness. The gorgeous dusty tannins and pretty acid make this a serious wine by any yardstick. This full bodied wine will pair very well with the likes of a rib-eye, rack of lamb or hardy dish. Limited production!

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La Vie en Rosé

La Vie en Rosé

by Robert Joseph

In 1975, Pamela Vandyke Price, wine correspondent of The Times of London, wrote in The Taste of Wine that “No one… has ever sat discussing a pink wine for more than a few minutes except to establish whether it is pleasant as a wine in its own right or as a shadow of something else that might be white or red.” 

Today, while the wine chatterati stay up all night discussing orange wines and autochthonous varieties, the public has gone wild for pink — and not just in the summer months, the traditional season for rosé.

What’s driving the trend — and is the end in sight?

A look back at pink 
Pink is a paradox. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the shade was not even officially acknowledged by the English language until a reference to “pink-coloured” appeared in the 1680s. Now, it is the colour most associated with little girls; in 1918, an American trade magazine called The Infants’ Department declared that “pink being a decided and stronger colour is more suitable for the boy”. 

As a wine style, pink has also had a conflicted history. In recent times, as Elizabeth Gabay MW points out in her book Rosé, Understanding the Pink Wine Revolution, most professionals have behaved as though “serious” wine came in two colours: red and white.
History, however, reveals that the fortunes of rosé have always risen and fallen — and every rise takes everyone by surprise. Three centuries ago, a French writer called La Framboisière published a book called Les Oeuvres in which he described three colours of wine: white, red — vermeil — and clairet whose colour “is in the middle of the two others. Which is why it excels over the others.”

Part of the pink paradox may be the nature of the colour itself; it’s not part of the electromagnetic spectrum, so there are no waves of pink light. To generate pink, other colours must be added or subtracted from red, meaning it was historically a difficult colour for artists to work with. Its relative rarity as a dye or a paint meant that different cultures and times have ascribed different meanings to it. When the writer Olivier de Serres described La Framboisière’s clairet in the late 15th century, for example, there were no pink clichés to fall back on, so he described clairet wine as rubis orientalis (the red of the setting sun) and oeil de perdrix (the pale pink of the eye of a partridge). Those became descriptions of the ideal colours. When the wines were paler they were either sold as gris — grey — or “improved” with a little red wine that was also thought to make them taste fruitier.

The social class of the pink wine drinkers also contributed to its poor image. The wines de Serres and La Framboisière enjoyed were field blends of paler and darker-skinned grapes. Larger volumes of cheap pale-hued piquette were made by passing white over the skins left in the vat after the red wine had been drawn off. This low-alcohol, vinous equivalent of what British brewers would call “small beer” was the preserve of manual workers and not even thought worth subjecting to tax. The production of cheap, poor-quality French rosé survived until as recently as 1971 when the British writer Julian Jeffs noted: “Very cheap beverage pink wines are undoubtedly blended in France by wholesale merchants using a mixture of red and white wines. And one has heard terrifying references to cochineal.” 

Some writers wrote approvingly about Tavel, the most famous Rhône appellation for pink wine, as the “only rosé that ages”, and others noticed the surprisingly high price of the Provence rosés from Domaine Ott. But French rosé continued to have what Janice Wilson — UK marketing manager at Food and Wine from France — described in a 1988 interview in The Grocer, as a “cheap image”. 

Pink on the up
Gabay believes the turning point for rosé globally began in 2007, when there was a “massive increase in production and consumption… [and an] increase in marketing focusing on pale pink ‘Provence-style’ rosé and a lifestyle image of beaches, pools, glamour and millennial-girl pink fun”. Perhaps not surprisingly, this was also the same period when social media and the iPhone, with its high-quality camera, appeared. Consumers could now photograph themselves sipping pink while next to a blue pool, and posting this idealised Provence-style vision to the world.

In 2014, French rosé production rose by 50 percent to 7.6m hl, well ahead of Spain, the US and Italy. While global consumption of still wine remained more or less stable between 2002 to 2015, pink wine increased by 30 percent, according to the French government-backed research agency FranceAgriMer.

Gilles Masson, director of the region’s Centre d’Expérimentation et de Recherche sur le Vin in Provence, thinks the phenomenon was “both very progressive and spontaneous” and a result of a steady process that began at the beginning of the century. It was not planned, but happily coincided with some segments of the market turning away from heavy, high-alcohol styles. “It’s the result of a long conversation with consumers who wanted something lighter. I don’t know if the changes in winemaking, especially harvesting at night, are the cause or the effect of the change in style. I think the effect was mutual.”

During the same period, the colour pink itself was undergoing an Instagram-driven renaissance, becoming so ubiquitous in design and fashion that a popular version acquired the name “Millennial pink”. And winemakers such as Gavin Quinney of Château Bauduc in Bordeaux confirm that across the world, pale, Provence-style pink is most consumers’ first choice. Again, Masson is clear. “The colour was not a marketing choice –it happened naturally, there was no study.” 

When trying to explain why rosé now outsells white in French supermarkets and sells so well across the world, Masson says that, in France at least, women have been crucial. “In supermarkets, it is women who do most of the shopping. A few years ago they had difficulties finding red to please their men,” he says. The beauty of rosé, he adds, is that it’s not complicated and people feel they are less likely to make a mistake — a social faux pas — whatever rosé they choose. Not only that, but the wine style, being lighter and less tannic, meant that the women themselves enjoyed it. “They imposed their taste and choice on their men. Men used to say rosé is for women. We don’t have any data, but I often see how consumers react. Men grimace at first, then they enjoy the wine.”

Masson’s theory is supported by AgriMer figures, showing the percentage of French women who declared themselves to be non-wine drinkers dropped dramatically from 47 percent in 2010 to 39 percent in 2015.

Hollywood pink
No discussion of the rise of rosé would be complete without a reference to “Brangelina”. The 2013 launch by Brad Pitt and his then wife Angelina Jolie of a Provence rosé made for them at Château Miraval by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel certainly gave the wine style and region a big dose of Hollywood glitter.

However, it was Sacha Lichine, another outsider to Provence, who deserves a lot more credit. Lichine’s larger-than-life, half-Russian, half-American father, Alexis, had shaken up Bordeaux when he bought an estate in Margaux, renamed it Prieuré-Lichine and pioneered wine tourism in a part of France where it was previously almost unknown. Following the sale of that château, Sacha — a similarly memorable character whose appearance and self-confidence are reminiscent of Orson Welles — made similar waves in 2006. Having bought an estate called Château d’Esclans, and with the help of top Bordeaux winemaker Patrick Léon, he launched a pale-hued barrel-fermented wine called Garrus. Its €80.00 ($95.00) price tag made it the most expensive rosé in the world.

Lichine’s strategy for selling Garrus and his more commercially priced Whispering Angel rosé relied on shoe leather. As Alex Hunt MW, managing director of the London distributor Berkmann, says: “He must have visited and revisited almost every single state in the US and every island in the Caribbean.” Hunt believes that, from the outset, it was the beautifully packaged Whispering Angel that opened the way for other rosés. “What Lichine did was bring together elements that seemed to be quite incompatible: a fresh easy-to-drink wine, made with the same care as a fine Burgundy; out of control St Tropez beach parties and an immaculately manicured château.”

Gilles Masson shares the credit more broadly. “We are lucky to have the stars of the region, and they are lucky to have us. We worked for many years before they arrived and they benefited from the visionaries of 30 or 40 years ago. Domaines like Ott and Minuty were the precursors but lots of work was done by little estates and coops who worked for quality and focused on technology, technique and brain power. The brain lies at the heart of rosé production.” However, he adds after a pause, “when it comes to image and export success, the stars brought a lot”. 

Still, while Masson says: “It’s flattering to be copied and to be a reference for the category, it’s also dangerous”. He adds “it would be a shame if all rosé were the same colour. There is a lot of responsibility for Provence to be the leader and show difference, knowhow and terroir. A colour doesn’t make a wine.”

Will rosé ever be taken as seriously as the finest reds and whites? Masson says that “even if the average price has gone up, it would be very difficult to reach the price of top whites. There are wines that are priced for pleasure and wines that are priced for prestige. Wine has to link to emotions, sharing and conviviality, holidays, savoir-vivre. People will pay more, but it will be long before people pay a lot more.”

Gabay sees a “Jekyll and Hyde scenario with, on the one hand, serious rosé and on the other, the market being swamped with commercially successful pale pink”. 

More rises and falls are inevitable. 


ZinSation of the Month

Gamba Vineyards is a small, family owned vineyard and winery in Sonoma County. The  110 year old 27 acre Gamba Estate Vineyard parcel rests on the Eastern edge of the beautiful Russian River Valley on gently rolling bench land above the valley floor. Planted to Zinfandel in 1900, the Gamba Estate Vineyard consists primarily of Old Vine Zinfandel, as well as small separate blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon. This organic and dry-farmed 35 acre vineyard is owned by Gus and Paulette Gamba. Guided by a family heritage of six generations of wine grape growing, it is a firm belief at Gamba that wines are made in the vineyard.

Gamba 2016 Zinfandel “Old Vine” Starr Road
GGWC 54.99
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Robert Parker 94 Points: “The 2016 Zinfandel Old Vine Starr Road Ranch is deep garnet-purple colored with a nose of baked cherries, raspberry preserves and stewed plums with hints of baking spices, potpourri, licorice and chocolate box plus a waft of dried herbs. Very big, rich and full-bodied, it packs in the berry preserves and spice box flavors with a firm, chewy frame and oodles of tart freshness, finishing long. 440 cases produced.”

Jeb Dunnuck 94 Points: “The 2016 Starr Road Ranch Old Vine is also gorgeous. Black raspberries, cedary spice, ginger, and exotic flower notes, full body, sweet, present tannin, and a beautiful finish all make for a downright irresistible Zinfandel that delivers serious pleasure.”

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Wine, It Really “Can”!

You might know that I had many concussions playing soccer, and when you read this you will think Frank really lost his mind. But you will not be believe it, it is  something you might want to laugh about… Wine in a can.  But please don’t, it is a real and considerate wine project!

This is not some “cheap, ersatz” grocery store, corner liquor store product.  The guys at West & Wilder are very serious about this venture!

West & Wilder Proprietary White Blend
GGWC 22.00 net
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The “White” is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Vigonier, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and a whiff of Muscat.  Low alchol (12.5%).

Quality: Beautiful and delicious, refreshing and uplifting wines that make you smile. West & Wilder craft great wines through their long term & insider relationships.

Convenience: Removing the mystery from when or how to enjoy with a conveniently sized and fresh package. Enjoy now. It’s that easy.

Responsibility: The sustainable and recyclable solution, cans are simply the best and safest way to carry your wine. Over 33% more efficient than bottles.

It is not Chateau Margaux, but a fun and well-made “party, July 4th, back yard BBQ, or just sipping on the porch” white wine!  It comes packaged in 3 x 250ml cans (equivalent to 1 bottle = 750ml).  Give it a try, you will be happily surprised.

We sell it (ideally) in the equivalent of 1 case (9 Liter),   12 packages of 3 cans each. This will make for great July 4th party tasting!

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Blockbuster White, under $35!

The precipitous drive to the vista point has you on edge. Sensing you are close, you roll the window down and the crisp breeze carries in scents of lemongrass, honeycomb, wildflowers and oregano. Together you sit on the hood of the car with a blanket wrapped around your shoulders and share a snack of Asian pears and salted Marcona almonds. You made it and it was worth it. But it’s just beginning. The wine is a blend of 63% Grenache Blanc & 37% Roussanne, and was sourced from the  Alta Colina Vineyard in Paso Robles.

Sans Liege 2016 “Call to Arms” Proprietary White, Paso Robles
GGWC 33.99 Net
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Jed Dunnuck 93 Points: A blend of  Grenache Blanc and  Roussanne, the Sans Liege Call to Arms comes entirely from the Alta Colina Vineyard in Paso Robles and was barrel fermented and spent 18 months in a combination of stainless steel, new French oak and neutral barrels. This total blockbuster white is locked and loaded with notions of butter citrus, tropical fruit, orange blossom and spice. Big, rich, unctuous and opulent on the palate, with beautiful depth and richness that never seems heavy. It’s a sensational wine that will be a giant killer in blind tastings.

Robert Parker: “A blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, the 2016 Call to Arms offers up a pretty bouquet of lemon oil, honeycomb, melon and peach. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, supple and texturally glossy without being overbearing, underpinned by juicy acids and finishing with chalky grip. This reminded me of a cool vintage from the Rhône valley’s Château des Tours.”

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