Walter Hansel has become synonymous with great quality at a great price!  Year after year these wines seem to impress me and my clientele alike.  The first vines were planted in 1978 just a up the block from Kistler!  The actual winery did not start till 1996 when they produced 3 barrels of Pinot Noir and 10 barrels of Chardonnay, and the rest as they say, is history!  Stephen Hansel (Walter’s son) had one of the best winemakers as his tutor (Tom Rochiolli) so it is no surprise that they are still putting out great wines decades later.  Year after this winery has produced amazing “Dollar Cost Average” under priced wines!

Walter Hansel 2014 Pinot Noir – South Slope, Russian River 
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 42.99
Use code HANSEL14 during checkout

OK to mix & match with other Hansel wines

Galloni 95 Points: “Hansel’s 2014 Pinot Noir The South Slope Vineyard is bold and explosive, with tons of exuberant fruit. Bright red cherry, plum, rose petal and spice are front and center. A classic Russian River Pinot, the South Slope is absolutely gorgeous today. Hints of leather, tobacco and game underpin a core of flamboyant Russian River Pinot fruit. The 2014 is every bit as impressive as it was last year.”

Click here or on the links above to order!


The Complete Guide to Botrytis

The Complete Guide to Botrytis

There are many ways of making sweet wines, but the most famous examples use a potentially deadly method. The fungus Botrytis cinerea attacks grapes (and occasionally other parts of the vine) in humid conditions. It can develop into devastating gray rot but, in the right conditions, a desirable Botrytis infection occurs, producing what is called noble rot. Many of the world’s greatest sweet wines are crafted from the furry, mold-covered shriveled grapes that result.

In the vineyard 

Botrytis helps make some of the world’s greatest sweet wines.
© Wikipedia

Many of the great sweet wine regions tend to be sited near a body of water where mists are created, such as the confluence of a faster moving, colder tributary with a slower, warmer, main-stem river (as with the Bodrog and Tisza in Tokaj  and the Ciron and Garonne at Sauternes). There needs to be sufficient sunshine to dissipate the mist as the day progresses, limiting the growth of the fungus, and enough warmth to allow grapes to fully ripen.
More generally, noble rot can occur when a period of rain near harvest time is followed by dry weather. In New Zealand, for example, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc growers usually rush to pick the bulk of their crops if rain threatens at harvest time. But a parcel may be left out in the hope that subsequent sunshine will create the required microclimate for noble rot.

Certain grape varieties are more susceptible to rot as they have soft skins and closed bunches, which do not allow airflow around the berries. Semillon is prized because of its thin skin and rich, oily character. The best-known other examples among white grapes are Sauvignon Blanc (a minor partner in most Sauternes, but a valuable contributor of acidity to a blend with Semillon), Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Tokaj’s Furmint. Merlot and Pinot Noir are among the most rot-susceptible of the major dark-skinned varieties, though botrytized red wines are seldom attempted as noble rot damages pigments producing brownish colors, and off aromas can derive from the phenolics in the skin.

Botrytis cinerea is present throughout the year in most vineyards, but will only develop and affect fruit when conditions suit. It can live through the winter as mycelium (small cylindrical filaments) or sclerotium (fruiting bodies) within dormant buds, vine bark or on plant debris on the ground. Old cluster stems are thought to be a particularly common site of concentration.

This necessitates prompt removal of prunings in vineyards prone to infection. Controlling botrytis is dependent on a range of practices, including allowing air movement through the vineyard and not allowing canopies to become too dense – which not only blocks airflow but also makes it harder to spray fungicides if needed. However, in modern, sustainable vineyards, systemic preventative chemical sprays are frowned upon; in any case botrytis is able to build up a resistance to most fungicides.

Humid nights and early mornings late in the season (around late September in the Northern Hemisphere) allow germination and the infection to take hold, then warm, dryer days are required to limit the growth of the fungus. Destructive gray rot develops when the botrytis causes the grape to split rather than shrivel, allowing other fungal and bacterial infections to take hold. This can occur earlier in the season if warm humid conditions occur while the grapes are unripe; the time around veraison, when the grape begins to soften and change color, is the most risky. Continued wet weather will also cause the fungus to spread through the bunch as gray rot.

The mycelium and sclerotium structures in the vine wait for sufficient water (around 15 constant hours of rain, mist, dew or irrigation) and nutrients (especially sugars) in maturing fruit for the spores to germinate, forming millions of conidiophores – structures that closely resemble grape clusters. These then release conidia (the individual “grapes” on the cluster), which land on the fruit. The development of rot proceeds for about a month before harvest. The conidia (spores) develop hyphae (filaments) that sink through the skin into the berry pulp. In less humid conditions these filaments draw water away through the berry skin to evaporate.

The fungus also releases enzymes that break down the pectin component of the cell walls of the berry. The sugars in the berry are concentrated and the botrytis begins to alter the grape’s acidity. Tartaric acid appears to undergo significant metabolic degradation. Thus, while the grape needs to be mature before the mold strikes, producers of dessert wines do not want the grapes to be super ripe, as they want a backbone of acidity to carry through the process to ensure balance and age-worthiness. In turn this gives another reason why the timing of the harvest is absolutely crucial.
Meanwhile, glucose is oxidized into gluconic acid, which is responsible for the apricot character in botrytized wines. The degree to which this oxidation happens varies between different grape varieties. Malic acid levels seem to be relatively unaltered, aside from being concentrated along with all other components apart from water.

Under a microscope, botrytis looks uncannily like a bunch of grapes.
© UC Davis

The berry shrivels and dehydrates but must not split if it is to be used for a dessert wine. By the end of the process it will only release a couple of drops of golden liquid. This drying of the grape and concentration of the juice appears to modify the metabolism of the botrytis mold, stabilizing its development. In addition botrycine and other antiobiotics are produced, which prevent other bacteria and fungi such as Penicillium and Aspergillus from creating phenolic off flavors.

The microclimate around the bunch varies, so individual berries within the bunch can display different levels of rot. In turn there can be considerable variation in levels of botrytis across bunches in the vineyard. For top producers in Bordeaux, the Loire and elsewhere, this necessitates multiple passes through the vineyard, allowing some bunches more time to develop rot, thus achieving some measure of consistency.
Few producers can charge Sauternes Grand Cru prices to pay for such labor-intensive hand harvesting, so they will pick once and sort the affected berries from the bunches in the winery. The heavily reduced yield (10 to 20 percent of a standard crop) and risks of leaving fruit on the vine also have cost implications. Attacks from hungry birds either eating whole berries or pecking holes in fruit – encouraging the spread of gray rot – increase costs by requiring the purchase, deployment and removal of netting.

The best vineyards deliver the necessary conditions for botrytis development with sufficient regularity to make them economically viable to concentrate on sweet wine production. Nevertheless great Sauternes Crus are priced to allow for around one year in four where no dessert wine is made and the wine is sold cheaply (usually in bulk) as Bordeaux Blanc. Between the two extremes are years where dessert wines are made but with less pronounced botrytis characters.

In Germany, great botrytis-infected Trockenbeerenauslese wines can be made, but not with enough regularity to devote vineyards to the category. Many wineries here will make a range of styles from a single site, leaving a few rows from each vineyard parcel on the vine to develop botrytis or become ice wines. German wine classification is based on sugar levels in the grapes, not the finished wine; Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese grapes can be fermented to dryness, and particularly in the first two cases, noble rot is uncommon. Grapes for Beerenauslese (selected overripe berries from late harvest fruit) and Trockenbeerenauslese (selected shrivelled berries) categories must contain more sugar than can be fermented out and therefore signify sweet wines, which almost always contain botrytis. Versions from sun-dried grapes are legally possible, if very rare due to the climate.

Botrytized wines have been made for centuries in various parts of Europe where conditions are favorable, though early versions would not have been intentional. Historical documentation suggests Tokaji in Hungary was probably first; Laczkó Máté Szepsi (ancestor of leading modern producer Istvan Szepsy) is credited with first writing down the Aszú process in 1630, though an inventory document listing Aszú wines dating back to around 1571 has been found (Aszú translates as dessicated, though it was associated with noble rot from this time). Tokaji wine was first sent to by the Prince of Transylvania to Louis XIV of France in 1703; the latter referred to the wine as Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum (Wine of Kings, King of Wines), thus providing the impetus for the production of botrytized wines in Sauternes, which was certainly well organized by the mid 19th Century.

In the Loire valley, fragrant rich botrytized wines are made from Chenin Blanc, notably in Bonnezeaux, Chaume and Quarts de Chaume. In Alsace, Sélection des Grains Nobles wines are made from Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer Riesling and Muscat. Riesling is responsible for the most prestigious wines in Germany and Austria, but other grapes such as Scheurebe and Silvaner may be used in the former. The Austrian town of Rust near the Neusiedlersee is known for its Ausbruch (the Austrian equivalent of Aszú) dessert wines from a range of varieties including Chardonnay, Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc and Welschriesling. Furmint was once more dominant here, reflecting the historical link between Rust and Tokaj, and is now making a minor comeback. Pink dessert wines have even been made from Pinot Noir.

Most of these regions producing botrytis styles, in both hemispheres, are relatively cool, humid mescoclimates. Riverina in central New South Wales, Australia is somewhat unusual, with its hot summers and low annual rainfall. But even this region gets late autumn rains and high humidity at the end of the growing season enabling botrytis to develop.

In warmer regions, like much of California, only a few vineyards have suitably humid microclimates, and even then production volumes vary wildly each year. Far Niente’s Sauternes-inspired Dolce operation in Napa tried various methods to make output more consistent, spraying blocks with cultured botrytis, only to see untreated blocks performing better. They now rely on natural conditions to shrivel their Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, and sometimes only 5 percent of fruit grown makes the final selection – with a sizable proportion often eaten by wasps.

In the winery 

Botrytized Furmint grapes await crushing at the Borlovagrend winery in Tokaj.
© Tokaji Borlovagrend

The pressing of grapes affected by noble rot is a tricky business. Gentle pressing with no crushing beforehand may to be used to further guard against the ingress into the wine of undesirable bacterial or fungal infections spoiling the final wine. In contrast to dry white winemaking, later pressings tend to be of higher quality as they contain more sugar and botrytis-derived flavor compounds. The most shriveled grapes may need several pressings to release any juice at all.

Classic Sauternes winemaking involves a very slow fermentation over two or more months; the yeasts – even though they are specially selected for the job – struggle in a must which is so high in sugar. Botrytized musts also tend to contain antibiotics such as botrycine and be low in nutrients enjoyed by yeasts such as ammonia and thiamine. Therefore stuck (halted) fermentations are fairly common.

The development of botrytis cinerea also produces another key group of polysaccharides (sugars). These are mainly polymers of mannose and galactose with some glucose and rhamnose with antifungal properties which inhibit fermentation and increase acetic acid (volatile acidity) and glycerol during fermentation. Acetobacter on the grapes can produce high levels of volatile acidity (acetic acid) and ethyl acetate; if balanced by other components in the wine they add complexity, but if they dominate they become a fault.

Care must be taken to avoid re-fermentation, as many of these sweet wines will have enough residual sugar to further raise their alcohol by volume another 5 or 6 percent. Once fermentation has reached the desired balance of alcohol and residual sugar, fermentation is stopped by adding sulfur dioxide.
At the end of fermentation the wine is cloudy and hard to clarify due to the presence, interspersed in strand-like structures through other substances, of large-molecule glucane colloids, which do not settle, resist fining, and require cold settling over several weeks to make the particles even larger if conventional filtering or centrifuging is to be attempted without rapid clogging of equipment. Glucanase enzyme additions, which break down glucans and speed up the process, are permitted in EU winemaking regulations.

Cold stabilization is used alongside sulfur dioxide to ensure that the fermentation stops. Nevertheless, as well as the challenges to clarify the wine, Sauternes and similar wines are prone to throw crystal deposits. This because botrytis produces saccharic and mucic acids, which then form insoluble calcium salts after the wine is bottled. These are harmless to consumers, if disconcerting.

While malic acid remains present in a botrytized wine, malolactic fermentation is rare, due to the sulfur dioxide additions used to halt the alcoholic fermentation. Otherwise, high sugar and glycerol levels would probably assist the process.

A top Sauternes might be bottled after 16 months in new oak barriques, an Australian Botrytis Semillon might spend three years in barrel, while wines from the Loire and Germany tend to be bottled the spring after harvest. Tokaji is traditionally aged oxidatively in partially filled casks; the risk of microbial spoilage is reduced by high sugar and alcohol levels.

During both vinification and bottling, higher-than-average levels of sulfur dioxide additions are needed, as the enzyme laccase – a product of botrytis – increases risks of oxidation, and will stand up to standard sulfur additions. It is the key factor determining the golden color of dessert wines. In addition, gluconic acid is synthesized by any acetic acid bacteria that enter the wine, forming lactones that bind sulphur dioxide. These two factors mean botrytized wines are permitted higher additions under European Union regulations.

In the glass
Botrytis modifies many of the relevant chemical compounds that shape flavor and aroma (including terpenes, which may be where medicinal notes in botrytized wine derive), and synthesizes new ones such as sotonol, which is usually associated with honeyed aromas. That said, some grapes, like Muscat, lose more varietal character than others, such as Riesling and Semillon.

Some of the descriptors associated with noble rot wines, like honey, flowers, ripe apricots, dried fruit and marmalade might also be applied to dessert wines made from other methods, such as ströhwein, or vin de paille. Picking a botrytis wine in a blind tasting usually involves searching for a combination of the above characteristics with some more medicinal aromas, with notes of wet absorbent cotton or the smell of wet sticking plaster in the shower.

If you’d like to discover some of the flavors and characteristics of a botrytized wine for your self, give the Covenant “Zahav” Muscat Canelli or the Semillons by Stony Hill and Chateau Les Justice a try! And, as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 415-337-4083 or by emailing!


Bevan New Releases!

The much anticipated and highly rated Bevan Cellars
“Big Napa Cabernet/Cabernet Blends” have finally arrived!
The 2015 vintage was outrageously good in the quality department but o-so-small
in the quantity department.  2016 is anticipated to be (almost) back to normal quantities!

FREE SHIPPING ON 4 Bottles. Use the discount code BEVAN during checkout!

Bevan 2015 “EE” Proprietary Cab Blend (98-100 Points Parker)  199.99

Robert Parker 98-100: “As for the 2015 Proprietary Red EE, this is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Cabernet Franc. The wine looks like a candidate for perfection, with a black/purple color, striking nose of spring flowers intermixed with forest floor, blackberry and cassis. The wine is opulent with a voluptuous texture, loads of sucrosity from this vintage’s small yields and a killer finish of more than a minute. It should drink well for 20-25 years.”

Russell Bevan notes: “The new vintage of EE from the Tench Vineyard is the most powerful we have created. It shows more Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics than previous vintages. Cabernet Franc in the blend is incredibly fruit driven and pumps out aromatics like never before.”

Bevan 2015 Sugarloaf Proprietary Cab Blend (96-100 Points Parker) 199.99

Robert Parker 96-100 Points: “The 2015 Sugarloaf Mountain Proprietary Red that began as an equal-part blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot seems to be an equal follow-up to the perfect 2014. Incredible aromatics of spring flowers and blue and black fruits are followed by a long, deep, skyscraper-like wine with explosive fruit intensity, loads of glycerin and a wonderfully, fleshy, succulent mouthfeel, which is certainly a characteristic of the top 2015s. This should drink nicely for 15-20 years.”
Russell Bevan Notes: “Sugarloaf Mountain Proprietary Red Wine can be described in one word, consistent. Vintage to vintage the wines are so similar. Looking back on my last years notes, the descriptions have not changed much; Cocoa, Espresso, flowers and blackberry. Super round and complex, opulent with an incredible finish.”

Bevan 2015 Ontogney Proprietary Cab Blend (NYR – STUNNNING!)  97.00

Russell Bevan Notes: “Ontogeny! In 2015, the Ontogeny blend has more Tench Cabernet as its major component than ever before. This ratcheted up the red fruit profile and the aromatics. Like all of the Tench wines, this is fruit driven, but the Cabernet Franc and Merlot deliver hints of Cigar and Dark Chocolate. Powerful, but Graceful”

Robert Parker 96 Points (2014): “There are 700 cases of the Ontogeny Proprietary Red, a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Totally dry, even though there is a wonderful sucrosity to the fruit. The wine has stunning blackberry and cassis notes, spring flowers, supple tannins and a long, multidimensional mouthfeel. It is a sexy beast for sure and best drunk over the next 15 or so years.”

Click here or on the links above to order!


96 Point Rated KILLER Petite Sirah

A British couple settled in the hills of Mendocino where they found  land with schist-like Cote–Rotie soils on a windblown cool mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which would become their “estate” vineyard. With the assistance of Justin Smith (Saxum), Crole Meredith  & Steve Lagier (Lagier-Meredith), Mike Officer (Carlisle) and Wells Guthrie (Copain) they set out to plant what has become a much regarded Rhone-varietal vineyard. Wells helped develop and maintain the vineyard. Under the tutelage of the great Roar winemaker (Scott Shapley) they have put some very good quality and well-priced wines on the wine map!

Halcon 2015 Petite Sirah “Tierra Theopolis” Yorkville Highlands 
Retail 36.00 – GGWC 33.99
use code HALCON during checkout

Deep rich ruby color. Nose of graphite and black fruits. Silky smooth mouthfeel, flavors of black plum, black cherry and roasted meats. A supple, well balanced wine. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak puncheons with native yeast and 50% whole cluster. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Only 140 cases produced.

96 Points by Jeb Dunnuck (formerly of Robert Parker): “While I love the Syrah from Paul, I’m not sure his Petite Sirah isn’t his best wine. The 2015 Petite Sirah Tierra is another total hottie that offers fabulous notes of plums, exotic flowers, incense, pepper and peach in a full-bodied, seamless package. It has no hard edges, fine, fine tannin, building structure and a great finish, all while holding on to a terrific sense of elegance. It’s already drinking brilliantly, yet my money is on it keeping for at least a decade or more if well stored.”

Click here or on the links above to order!


Screaming Eagle Winemaker’s Grenache Rocks!

In case you didn’t know her yet, It all started in the late 80s when Heidi Barrett began working for Dalla Valle as an “independent winemaker”. She began to develop a tiny project called Screaming Eagle shortly afterwards, and from there, things escalated quickly. With 5 perfect 100-point scores for her wines in the span of just a few years, Heidi skyrocketed to international fame, setting a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine – $500,000 for a 6L of 1992 Screaming Eagle at the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 2000. Today, Heidi maintains a stable of ultra-premium client wineries, including Paradigm, Lamborn, Amuse Bouche, Au Sommet, Fantesca, and Kenzo, as well as her own brands La Sirena and Barrett & Barrett. She and Bo live among their vineyards in Calistoga. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, flying her helicopter, making art, and gardening.

LA SIRENA 2014 Grenache, Napa Valley 
Retail 50.00 – GGWC 46.99
Use code LAS14GREN upon checkout

Heidi Barrett says: “This 2014 Grenache from La Sirena has a lovely garnet color with wonderfully open aromatics of ripe red plums, currants, and cedar. Juicy red fruit character reminiscent of bright cherry and cranberry shine in a soft, silky wine with a medium body and nice texture. Tannins are light yet it maintains a lengthy finish with just a touch of spice from French oak. The blend is 100% Grenache from two steep hillside vineyard blocks in St. Helena. Delicious upon release and will continue to evolve and improve with a bit more time in the bottle. Suggested pairings – Paella, hearty pasta dishes, burgers, sausage, or wild duck. Enjoy.”

Make sure to check out Heidi’s LA SIRENA 2016 CHARDONNAY, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY

Click here or on the links above to order!


Is Sauvignon Blanc the World’s Most Reliably Good White Wine?

Is Sauvignon Blanc the World’s Most Reliably Good White Wine?

by Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator

I am obliged, I feel, to preface all I’m about to say with the public confession that I once disliked Sauvignon Blanc. Its intrinsic herbaceous or vegetal notes irritated me. I have long since changed my mind—and palate.

So what changed? Well, obviously, me. But also, I like to think, Sauvignon Blanc as well. After decades of tasting and drinking Sauvignon Blancs from California, Washington, Oregon, New Zealand, France, Italy, Australia and Chile, I now firmly believe Sauvignon Blanc is the world’s most reliably good dry white wine.

Now, I’m not saying that Sauvignon Blanc is the world’s greatest white wine. Chardonnay and Riesling, at their best, vie for that title. And I’m not saying that Sauvignon Blanc is even the world’s most interesting dry white wine (whatever that means).

Jaded white wine drinkers can today find their palates perked by the intriguing likes of Spanish whites such as Godello, Verdejo and Albariño or Portuguese varieties such as Vosinho, Rabigato and Gouveio. Then there are Greek whites such as Assyrtiko and Moschofilero, among others. The list of “interesting” white grape varieties available to us today is impressive and growing.

That acknowledged, I have to say that if I’m in a restaurant and I want a white wine that’s almost guaranteed to be dry, has good, often brightly crisp acidity, partners obligingly with all sorts of dishes (fish, pork, chicken, Chinese, Mexican, etc.) and won’t cost me next month’s mortgage payment, then the choice is obvious: Sauvignon Blanc.

You know your wines. What are the odds of getting a really fine, rewarding Chardonnay today for less than, say, $40 a bottle? Not terribly good. Some exist, to be sure. But they take some looking, even almost insider knowledge, to find.

Now, what are the odds of getting a really good Sauvignon Blanc for less than $40 a bottle, even if you know nothing about wine? Why, it’s a slam dunk.
Actually, the odds are good of getting a fine, rewarding Sauvignon Blanc for half that price. And it’s not just a matter of one underpriced source such as Chile (which creates excellent Sauvignon Blanc) skewing things. Instead, nearly every wellspring of Sauvignon Blanc in the world offers truly fine versions that limbo under the $20 bar.

If the price bar moves up to that $40 mark, hell, even Napa Valley, which is nobody’s idea of a wine-value haven, delivers the goods.

With everyone chasing Chardonnay (which for Napa Valley producers mostly means sourcing from Carneros), it’s easy to forget that Napa’s true, homegrown, actually-in-the-valley white wine star is Sauvignon Blanc. You’ve got Spottswoode’s superb Sauvignon Blanc ($40), Kamen ($46), and a clutch of different offerings from Bevan, Scarlett, to name but a few among dozens of Napa Valley contenders. Also Shared Notes by Jeff Pisoni and his wife Bibiana is one for the ages!

Not to be forgotten are the host of impressively high-achieving Santa Barbara County Sauvignon Blancs from the likes of Paul Lato, Brander, Gainey, Dragonette, Rusack and Vogelzang, among others. Nearly all the Sauvignon Blancs from this oft-overlooked area are reasonably priced.

Why is Sauvignon Blanc so worldwide-reliable? Partly it’s a matter of universally good, and cross-border knowledgeable, winemaking. Once a winery has decided upon its intended style, which is usually a consequence of whether its grapes are cool-climate (New Zealand, Chile, Loire Valley) or warmer-climate (Napa Valley, parts of Sonoma County), then winemakers everywhere know how to proceed.

Cool-climate Sauvignon Blancs tend not to see much, if any, barrel-aging. They feature zingy acid and bright citrusy and tropical fruit flavor notes. New Zealand’s Marlborough district at the northern tip of South Island pioneered this style and rode it to vastly profitable victory. Wineries everywhere took note and copied accordingly, if they could.

Warmer-climate Sauvignon Blanc trades on a rounder, riper, fig-scented fruitiness and denser texture. Here, barrel-fermentation and barrel aging is rewarded. Often, producers will treat part of their harvest only in stainless tanks and blend that with barrel-treated wine, in the process delivering both freshness (stainless steel) and winemaking-influenced (barrel treatment) flavor complexity.

Everywhere, producers of Sauvignon Blanc know what they’re doing. Not least, unlike with Chardonnay, they also know their limits. Precisely because there is no temptation, as there is with Chardonnay, to rival a scale-the-summit monument like Montrachet—because no such equivalent exists with Sauvignon Blanc—producers of Sauvignon Blanc have no delusions of grandeur.

Consequently, they’re free. Winemakers everywhere accept the grape both for what it is and, more important yet, what it isn’t—and can never be.
For example, you never hear anybody saying that you absolutely must cellar Sauvignon Blanc for its greatness to be revealed. You don’t even hear much about terroir, except in a broad-scale climate sense. Since winemakers have no illusions that their Sauvignon Blanc child is—or even could be—a genius, they are good parents. They allow, even encourage, the grape to be what it is.

For us drinkers the result is exceptional reliability. Most Sauvignon Blancs taste like one. Above all, they consistently taste good, almost without regard to price or source. Most Sauvignon Blancs, even in the lower price range, are anything but bland. When you think about it, that’s pretty remarkable right there. (Of course, you do have to like the distinctive taste of Sauvignon Blanc.)

So there you have it. It partners well with many dishes, from mild to spicy. It’s reasonably priced. Not least, you don’t need insider knowledge to come up with a winner.

Sauvignon Blanc really is the world’s most reliably good white wine!

Check out Frank’s Sauvignon Blanc Suggestion list (mix any six for FREE SHIPPING) use code FRANKSB during checkout

Click here or on the links above to order!


Surprise! Another 96+ Rating for Spottswoode

Robert Parker is quoted in Wine Spectator as saying “When the history of Napa’s great vineyards is written, the 40-acre Spottswoode vineyard will be counted among the finest grand cru vineyards of the region.”

Spottswoode is a family-owned historic vineyard and winery renowned for its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. Established in 1882 by George Schonewald, the estate is distinguished by the pre-prohibition Victorian home depicted on the wine label. Spottswoode was christened by Mrs. Albert Spotts in 1910 and it was acquired by Mary and Jack Novak in 1972. Mary released Spottswoode’s first Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982, exactly one hundred years after the estate’s founding.

Spottswoode 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 
Retail 195.00 – GGWC 189.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
Use code SPOTTSWOODE during checkout

Robert Parker 96+ Points: “This first-growth estate in St. Helena has produced a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon that is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. It is certainly one of the wines of the vintage. Gorgeously opaque purple, it offers up notes of spring flowers, blueberries, blackcurrants, some baking spice and graphite. It is full-bodied, concentrated and rich, with layers of fruit. The wine builds and builds on the palate, with a great finish of 45+ seconds. This is a sensational 2014 to drink over the next 20+ years.”

Also check out their equally stunning Spottswoode 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Click here or on the links above to order!


Happy Labor Day!

Hard work never fades… it lives in your achievements, it lives in your success stories, and it always inspires the generations to follow. Today is the occasion to celebrate your every effort with pride. May you be blessed to reach new heights again in the year to come.

I wish you a very Happy Labor Day!


Pre-Harvest Report

Today, a pre-harvest note. I will follow up in a few weeks with a report on the official harvest itself.

Some wineries have already started the 2017 harvest, others are not far behind.  It is usually the Sparkling Wine producers that hit the dirt first.  All over Carneros, the first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes for this year’s bubbly were harvested in early-mid August.

Gandona’s Estate

Gandona Winery (Philippe Melka) Pritchard Hill, Napa

Thanks to some early heat and abundant water availability to the rootzone, a slightly early budbreak was followed by a much cooler bloom, creating a smaller over-all fruit set. The clusters have turned out to be a bit smaller than in the past, but the berries have remained proportionally small which is an ideal skin/juice ratio. This one factor will really add a lot of structure and color to what might turn out to be a “prettier” vintage. While there have been some heat events, it is still cool at night and compared to the past few years, is turning out to be a cooler year over-all. I expect the Gandona wines to be vibrant and energetic more than fat and dense, but with the high skin material, should still be rather powerful.

Byron Kosuge
checking out the fruit

B. Kosuge (Byron Kosuge) Carneros

It was a record breaking wet winter followed by a dry spring. Budbreak, depending upon where you are, was a week to two weeks later than last year, which was a very early vintage.  Despite the wet winter, spring was dry in most of coastal California and the early summer—late May, June and early July—was quite hot. Lots of hydric stress. The result of all this was lots of early growth followed by an earlier than expected need for water.  The plentiful winter rains left lots of moisture in the soil which was beneficial for soil micro life, and the vines overall have a lot less nutrient stress than the last couple of years of the drought. This bodes well for their ability to fully ripen the crop.

Very little has been picked so far so it’s hard to have anything to say about the potential quality. The last two weeks have been cooler than average, with lots of fog, which has been kind to the plants and has kept the fruit in good shape—not much sunburn, dehydration, etc. Harvest for will be starting this weekend and with the warm weather forecast for next week, I think we’ll be quite busy!

Paloma’s Estate Vineyard

Paloma (Sheldon Richards) Spring Mountain

It has been a great growing season at Paloma. An excellent fruit set, especially tin the Merlot. The new Cab Franc block doing very well. You can see a little smoke haze in this photo. No fires in Napa but some in the surrounding counties. No worries!

Paloma’s Estate Vineyard photo

Remember, as always, I am here to answer your wine questions and give recommendations. Don’t hesitate to give me a call at 415-337-4083 or email


Last Call for 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
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.”

Click here or on the links above to order!