LAST CALL for 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:

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.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

BEAUX FRERES (winemaker’s hot new wine) AT ½ the PRICE

I just found this hot-new winery that will dazzle you both in taste as well as cost!  The “Hundred Suns” winery is still very much under the “horizon” but not for long. Grant Coulter, a Califonia native traveled the world after receiving his enology degree.  He worked harvest with the best of the best in California, France & Australia, eventually settling in Oregon.  After a few stints as Assistant winemaker in a few wineries, he landed at Beaux Freres, where he soon became the Head Winemaker.  Grant is responsible for the amazing 2013, 14 & 15 vintages at Beaux Freres (all high 90’s, Top 2 wine of the year, etc.).   With his wife he created his own label “Hundred Suns”, a tiny Pinot Noir and Syrah venture.

Hundred Suns 2015 Pinot Noir “Sequitur” 
Retail 47.00 – GGWC 44.99
Use code SUNS during checkout

The ‘15 Sequitur Vineyard (Mike Etzel, Beaux Freres’ private vineyard) is a  50 case gem!   This single vineyard Sequitur bottling is a two barrels composite.  Half of the composition was Clone 943, 100% destemmed and fermented in a terracotta amphora. This produced a luscious wine with ripe blue fruit and sweet earthy tones mixed with just a hint of red terracotta texture.  This was blended with a  50% whole cluster fermented barrel.    The wine offers up a great nose of bright red fruit and berries – hints of cherry aromas are  supported by a hint of spice and a touch of sweet vanilla. Purity and finesse from start to finish.  This youngster is medium to medium full in body with silky grained sweet tannins.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

It is FINALLY HERE, A “different” White Blend

This is only the second vintage of Annia, here Ribolla Gialla takes the lead in the blend. There is a story that George Vare liked to tell us about Ribolla, according to the late, great Stanko Radikon, Ribolla is the consummate supporting actor when blended into a wine under the 50% threshold. at that minority level, the grape will truly morph into the background, providing the floors, the walls and the ceiling for the other grapes to adorn. in the 2016 Annia, the 60% of Ribolla in the wine is flattering; stone fruit and baked apple with green almond on the palate that plays off the Tocai’s citrus blossom and pear skin. the 9% of Hyde Chardonnay in the blend tightens the wine a bit, but in reality it just steps aside and gives the two Friulian varieties a stage to play on; however, expect the Chardonnay to get involved as the wine ages.

Only 3 barrels produced!

Massican 2016 “Annia” Proprietary White Blend, Napa Valley 
GGWC 35.99
Use code MASSICAN during checkout

This stunning blend of Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay and Ribolla Gialla, is lively, intense, and perfectly balanced. Medium to full in body with notes of nuttiness, Meyer lemon, a hint of spice on the nose.  On the elegant, lush palate you’ll encounter touches of honey, citrus and creaminess that synce together nicely in the glass. The flavors are well-balanced with nice richness but nothing overwhelming.  The wine was aged in mostly neutral barrel, some stainless and concrete egg.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

Exploring Minerality – What does that really mean?

Exploring Minerality

By Elisabetta Tosi, Wine Science

Minerality = [SS + A + CC] – [E + T] – [O²]
(Those interested in figuring out what this odd formula means should keep on reading.)

Funny how things happen. Until the 1990s, the term minerality didn’t appear in the most acclaimed guides, not even the Oxford Companion to Wine. For wine lovers all over the world, flavors were basically fruity, floral, spicy, herbal…

Then, suddenly, this new word – minerality – emerged to become the trendiest descriptor in the wine lover’s lexicon. Googling it produces more than a million results. The term itself is relatively new: according to a study examining the word’s evolution in French literature, associations between minéralité (minerality) and vin (wine) have increased since 1985. Yet, despite this recent explosion of popularity, a unique definition has not been created.

“Think of the taste of the sea, like oysters,” was one writer’s description. “It’s like chalk, or flint,” suggested another. Or, the smell of the ground after a rain… No, wait a minute, that has already a name – petrichor – although almost nobody knows or uses it. For most people, minerality in a wine means aromatic characteristics such as wet stone, graphite, smoke, sometimes even hydrocarbon. Others associate the word with acidity or saltiness in wine. And there are still others who argue it relates to the soil where the grapes were grown.

“Soil contains minerals (potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, etc.), and some people think they could be transferred to wine during winemaking,” says Marco Li Calzi, enology professor at Ecole d’Ingenieurs de Purpan (France). “However, opinions differ about the ability of grapes to absorb these minerals from the soil and especially about the resulting sensory impact.”

“In a study conducted at UC Davis by the Hildegarde Heymann group,” Calzi continues, “various white wines were studied by two methods: Projective Mapping (PM), which used a panel of industry professionals (winemakers, sommeliers, wine professionals, etc.) and the Sensory Descriptive Analysis (DA), by means of a panel of trained judges. Eventually, in both experiments, they found that minerality is most highly correlated with acidity.”

For soil, minerality is often correlated with volcanic soils; in fact, many people believe that if a wine is perceived as mineral, it must come from volcanic soil. But what does such a soil add to grapes and, as a result, to the final wine? According to Maurizio Gily, agronomist and publisher of Millevigne, who is also a consultant to several wineries in Italy, “it’s hard to say precisely, because volcanic soils don’t have one unique identity, so we might say that the key to interpreting this kind of soil is heterogeneity.” As an example, Gily notes the detailed differences between a vineyard planted in the Campi Flegrei area (Campania) and another one cultivated in the Etna (Sicily), or Soave (Veneto). “Usually, the concept of minerality is easier to find in cold climates and is linked to low pH, so this would indicate that it is more related to the climate than to the soil,” he continues. “Anyway, if a relationship between soil minerals and organoleptic descriptors exists, it must be very complex, and has not really been investigated thus far.”

Acidity. Cold climate. Low pH. Altitude. And volcanic soils. It seems that maybe we are putting together some pieces of the puzzle.

To learn more about volcanic soils and the impact they have on minerality, I reached out to John Szabo MS, author of the notable book Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power. Our conversation follows:

Why did you decide to study volcanic wines? Are they more mineral than others?

“Volcanic wines, as a very general category, tend to fall more on the savory-salty-earthy side of the flavor spectrum (you could call them mineral), but not necessarily more mineral than wines grown on other geologies. I came to write a book on volcanic wines sort of by accident, at one point about seven years ago making the connection between a group of disparate wines that fascinated me – Santorini, Etna, Badacsony and others – wines that all happen to come from volcanic soils.”

And what if the secret of the current success of mineral wines around the world is just their innate appeal, in other words their “drinkability?” In this case, though, it might be just a matter of acidity-saltiness balance…what do you think?

“The answer depends on your definition of minerality. But for me, the wines I describe as mineral are invariably very “drinkable”, thirst-quenching, fresh and gently salty.”

Last question: what is the definition of minerality according to your research? Is it possible to find “mineral wines” in non-volcanic soils?

“I’m working on some research to come up with a more specific definition of minerality, based on measurable components in wine. One component could be geosmin (the main contributor to petrichor), though many consider that a fault. The more interesting avenue of research however is an investigation into the salt component of wine: sodium chloride in seaside vineyards, but also other mineral salts and acid salts that could derive/evolve from soil composition. These would be quantifiable and testable “minerals” in wine, and thus definable. More speculatively, I plan to look into the electrical conductivity of wine, and measure ions that could also originate in the soil and be present in wines, to a greater or lesser extent.”

Drawing my own conclusions, I’d say that the definition of minerality in wine still remains an open question, depending very much on the personal concept that each of us has about the word. However, in this article, we’ve found that in the characterization of “mineral wine” almost everybody agrees with the presence of certain elements such as acidity, cold climate and volcanic soil.

And here is the explanation of the initial formula at the top of this article. Conceived by prof. Marco Li Calzi, this summarizes our current knowledge:

Minerality = [SS + A+ CC] – [E+T] – [O²]

Where SS = Stony Soils, A= Acid, CC= Cold Climate, E+T = Esters (fruity aromas) + varietal Thiols (fruity aromas characteristic of some grapes, as sauvignon blanc) and O²= oxygen.

It’s just a playful equation, of course, but it gets the idea across, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to explore this yourself with a few wines that  nicely exhibit minerality, here are some suggestions:


Click here or on any of the links above to order! And, as always, feel free to call me at 415-337-4083 for personalized assistance!

Must have 2 barrel stunner by 100 Point wine magician

Mike Smith, who we sometimes call “Mr. 100 Pointer” (Carter Cellars, Myriad, Scarlett, etc.), has taken the Beckstoffer Georges III vineyard’s stunning fruit and produced an equally stunning wine for 12C.Because of its prime location and high demand, this vineyard is known for its production of many great Cabernets exhibiting the FAMOUS “Rutherford Dust” mystique. The Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III sits in the heart of the Rutherford AVA, which was originally planted by Georges DeLatour of Beaulieu in 1928.

The rows used are between the Silverado Trail and Conn Creek Road.  The Northern/Southern exposure provides for Sunny Days and allows the warm temperatures to heat the soil producing great concentrated flavors, while still maintaining a complex character. Magically, this offsets the cool breezes in the late afternoon, which enable the ripening process to be more controlled in order to sustain the flavors.

Incidentally, 12C get’s its name from Twelve degrees Centigrade or Fifty-five (55) degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimum storage temperature for wine.

12C “G3″  2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 
Retail 120.00 – GGWC 114.99
Use code 12C during checkout

Winemaker Notes: “Twenty-fifteen gave us all the raw materials to produce what might be the best 12C G3 to date. Dark purple to the rim, captivating scents of dark cherry and cassis combine with dark chocolate notes and a potpourri of baking spices. A full-bodied explosion stretches across the mid palate seemingly flowing forever. Sweet and polished tannins, pure ripe Cabernet Sauvignon fruit and Rutherford soil accents shine brightly in this wine. The concentrated and pure finish is detailed perfectly by fresh natural acidity allowing this wine to stretch for miles. Cellars this big boy for 3-5 years and you will be rewarded with an even more polished and articulated beauty.

Robert Parker 95 Points (2014): “The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon G3 Reserve Beckstoffer George III ratchets up the level of concentration, has a more opaque bluish purple color and more blackberry and blueberry fruit with pen ink and graphite. There are even loamy soil undertones in this full-bodied, delicious wine meant for drinking over the next 10-15 years.”

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

Can’t dance the Foxtrot? Drink it instead!

The Foxtrot winery was created by Torsten and Kicki Allander who believe that the key to producing world class wine is total control over the grape growing and winemaking process from start to finish. To this day, both remain an integral part of the family business, with Kicki spending her days in the estate vineyard meticulously cultivating the vines, and Torsten overseeing quality control.

The Story behind the Label: Every year, just in time for harvest, Foxtrot has had a resident Black Bear around the vineyard. Sometimes he has been known to make an appearance at picking time and pickers would comment that it looked like he was dancing when standing up on his hind legs. At the winery they have come to affectionately call him Fred and he has graced the label ever since.

Foxtrot 2015 Chardonnay “Four Shadows” 
Retail 55.00 – GGWC 49.99
Use code FOXTROT during checkout

Mix & match OK with Foxtrot Pinot Noir

The wine has a medium to light lemon color with stunning aromas of citrus, stone fruits, a whiff of melon and subtle spice. These flavors continue on the palate with a complex minerality framed by a rich mid palate with subtle spice, tropical and citrus fruits, and lengthy finish. The crisp acidity in this wine serves as a refreshing counterpoint to balance the richness and roundness of the wine. This wine can be consumed in the near term or aged for 5 to 8 years.

Foxtrot 2014 Pinot Noir “Foxtrot Vineyard” 
Retail 62.00 – GGWC 59.99
Use code FOXTROT during checkout

Mix & match OK with Foxtrot Chardonnay

Sourced from the estate’ 20 year old self-rooted vines. The resulting wine is incredibly balanced with a stunning nose of bright red fruits, and a classic  oriental spice and slight earthy tones. The intensity of the fruit and earthiness continues on the palate and is wonderfully framed by the vibrant acidity and bold silky smooth tannins with a long lingering finish. The 2013 Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot Noir can easily be aged for up to 10+ years but can also be consumed in the near term with decanting.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

Travel Notes ~ Monterey County

Monterey County ~ Travel Notes

By Matt Kettmann, Wine Enthusiast

Few places in California have welcomed visitors longer than Monterey County, home to one of the four presidios that Spanish colonists established on the West Coast in the late 1700s. Over the centuries, fishing, farming and tourism have thrived here. It’s also one of the best places on the planet to grow wine grapes.

The city of Monterey is ground zero for visitors. Thanks to author John Steinbeck, Cannery Row became the geographic heart of California’s literary landscape. Today, this waterfront strip is better known for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a vanguard of modern marine science.

Just to the south, surrounding the golf haven of Pebble Beach and its craggy, cypress-lined coastline, the quaint communities of Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea offer art galleries, tasting rooms and bistros that clamor for the attention of passers-by. North of Monterey, the sprawling former Fort Ord Army Base has become home to California State University-Monterey Bay. The nearby town of Marina offers urban wineries and a cultural scene on the rise.

Escape the fog and head inland toward the famed racetrack of Laguna Seca or into the Carmel Valley, a long, dramatic canyon filled with equestrian estates and steep vineyards. All-inclusive resorts abound, as does a buzzing strip of eateries and side-by-side tasting rooms.

Most of region’s wine comes from the Salinas Valley. The chilly Monterey Bay tempers the heat of the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone and Arroyo Seco appellations, where Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varieties thrive.

Finally, there’s Big Sur, that wild, wonderful stretch of coastline where condors soar and redwood-studded mountains rise high above Highway 1. It merits an entire weekend itself, if not more.

The region’s top grape varietals include:
Chardonnay – Chardonnay flavors range from ripe and tropical in the Santa Lucia Highlands to bright and fresh from Arroyo Seco and elsewhere.
Pinot Noir  - Expect variety: Pinot Noir is lush and concentrated in the Santa Lucia Highlands, well structured from Chalone and racy and delicate in Arroyo Seco.
Syrah – Rustic, gamy and wild in Carmel Valley, Syrah conveys styles from savory to zesty in the Santa Lucia Highlands and Salinas Valley.

The best examples from this area are for sure: Pisoni, Lucia, Wrath, Camino, Capiaux, Roar, Cattleya, to name a few  - We have a limited amount of these wineries currently in stock.


Click here or on any of the links above to order!

Yes… 100 Point Winemaker’s UNDER $50 CAB BLEND

Kirk Venge has a long list of great wineries he has helped put on the map (Beau Vigne, Trespass, MilAnge, Venge, etc.).  He has produced many amazing wine garnering scores between 95-100 Points!  So for this Release of “First Cut” the Renterias struck “gold” from the starting line!

The 2015 First Cut is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Sirah which were sourced from four amazing vineryads in the Napa Valley (including Hyde and Chiarello).  Only 325 cases were produced and given the quality/cost ratio this wine will go fast!

Renteria 2015 “First Cut” Proprietary Red , Napa Valley 
Retail $52.00 – GGWC 49.99
Use code 1CUT upon checkout

The 2015 First Cut Red is a deep, dark wine that brims with layered aromas of black stone fruits, chocolate, crushed rock, violets, earth and black spice.  The wine is lush and intricate, each sip reveals more and more of this complex blend. Flavors galore boom long across the mid-palate, framed by well-integrated notes of toasty vanilla and silky tannins. The finish is long with hints of black spice, turned earth and mocha.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Psst… Remarkable Pinot by SF Chronicle’s FIRST EVER FEMALE EMPLOYEE

Being regarded as a pioneer in her field was business as usual for Nan McEvoy. Her grandfather, Michael De Young (as in the The Young’s Museum), founded the San Francisco Chronicle in 1865 and Nan started there as a cub reporter (a rare position for a female at the time), gradually working her way up and eventually serving as Chairwoman of the Board from 1981 to 1995. When a director’s bylaw forced her into retirement at age 72, Nan set about doing what she does best—making things happen—and McEvoy Ranch was born. Always an activist with a spirit of adventure, she was an early member of the Peace Corps and John D. Rockefeller’s Population Council. Nan was named Food Artisan of the Year by Bon Appetit in 2003. Nan passed away in March 2015 at the age of 95, and the reins of McEvoy Ranch have since been taken into the very capable hands of her son Nion.
McEvoy 2013 “Evening Standard” Pinot Noir, Estate – Petaluma Gap 
Retail $48.00 – GGWC 44.99
Use code MCEVOY upon check out

The 2013 McEvoy Pinot Noir “Evening Standard” is a wine of elegance and structure — a cool-climate coastal wine with a balanced, old-world style that embodies the pioneering spirit of Nan Tucker McEvoy. This vintage is brilliant ruby in color, with aromas of cherry, pomegranate and cranberry, along with notes of black plum, rose and a touch of anise. It’s full in body and lively in the mouth with flavors of complex red and black stone fruits, and anise, with additional savory notes and a slight touch of minerality. Ready to drink now and capable of aging many years.

Also check out the 98 Point rated MCEVOY 2016 ROSE “ROSEBUD”

Click here or on the links above to order!


Rare Jewel … Thomas Brown’ 95 Point UNDER $75

Hestan Vineyards was born from the culinary passion of Stanley Cheng and his wife, Helen. Stanley pioneered hard-anodized cookware in the 1970s and has continued to improve the ways we cook through innovations from back-of-house to the backyard.  His meticulous  pursuit to perfection with pots and pans carried over the vineyard, and the rest… is history.Hestan 2014 Cabernet “Meyer” Napa Valley  
GGWC 74.99
Use code MEYER during checkout

The Meyer is the most opulent and flamboyantly styled of the trio of Cabernet Sauvignon made at Hestan. This is the first year that Thomas Rivers Brown has made the Meyer, and has really nailed the vivacious character that was established early on for this cuvee by winemaker Mark Herold.  This Cab is a real knockout.

Wine Spectator 95 Points: “Strikingly complex and detailed, with supple, harmonious blackberry, currant, anise, licorice and crushed rock flavors. Gains depth while holding focus and persistence. Drink now through 2032”

Click here or on the links above to order!