Occidental = Kistler 2.0 & FREE SHIPPING

Steve Kistler does not sit still – after selling his interest in his name sake winery (Kistler) he put all his energy in his new Occidental venture and it really shows.  Last week I tasted through the portfolio and was very impressed!

Occidental Pinot Noir, Freestone-Occidental
GGWC 69.99
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The Freestone-Occidental (blend of Bodega Headlands, Occidental Station, and Bodega Ridge vineyards) shares the same winemaking techniques as their other vineyard designated pinot noirs.

The Freestone-Occidental is a vibrant, perfumed wine with a chiseled red-fruit character that is typical of the wines from our Bodega Headlands and Bodega Ridge properties. The  Freestone-Occidental offers a superb balance of primary red fruits and saline elements. It conveys outstanding energy, precision and lift in the mouth and finishes vibrant and long with discreet tannins. Its modest alcohol (14.1%) makes this wine a perfect complement to any meal. It is delicious now and will develop nicely in bottle.

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CALL 415-337-4085 for availability and orders!



This fully ripe Cabernet Sauvignon shows intensely aromatic tones of spiced plums, cranberry, cherry tobacco, and a note of warm toasty vanilla. On the palate the texture is immediately broad and plush, with bright, fresh berry notes and dusty mocha/dark cherry flavors both simultaneously enveloping the palate. The finish displays surprisingly resolved tannins given the overall weight of the wine, and fades to a lingering impression of fresh cherry.

Keever 2015 “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
GGWC 134.99
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96 Points: An awesome bouquet of sweet cassis, cedarwood, incense, and dried flowers. As with all the wines from Celia Welch, this beauty is impeccably balanced, has medium to full-bodied richness and depth, subtle background oak, and a great finish. It shines for its purity and elegance as well as its depth of fruit and intensity. Drink it over the coming two decades or more.

Vinous 94+ Points: “The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is a very beautiful wine, especially within the context of the year. Sweet red cherry and purplish berry fruit, lavender and spice are nicely woven together in this very pretty, understated wine. Medium in body and classy, Keever’s Cabernet has so much to offer. Above all else, the 2015 has a good bit of freshness, something that is rare in this vintage.”

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94 Point ~ Powerful & Impeccable Chardonnay

The wrath of Juno sent Aeneas wandering the Mediterranean in Vergil’s Aeneid. For the ancient Romans, ira or wrath, was a tool of a god, an unstoppable anger driven by forces greater than man. One can argue that we see such fury in both the might of nature and the passion of art. Wrath appears in the edgy power of Robert Plant’s voice and the raw wail of Eric Clapton’s guitar. It is frozen into Jackson Pollock’s violent splatters of paint. Wrath is in the wall of maritime fog that rolls into the Salinas Valley and the relentless afternoon winds that scream through our grape trellises.

Wrath 2016 Chardonnay “San Saba Vineyard”
GGWC 49.99
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Jeb Dunuck 94 Points: “Light gold-colored, the 2016 Chardonnay San Saba Vineyard has a richer, powerful bouquet of melon and ripe orchard fruits intermixed with white flowers, brioche, and hints of minerality. Clean, pure, and elegant, with a light, medium-bodied, graceful texture, it’s an impeccably balanced, classy Chardonnay to drink over the coming 3-4 years.”

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The Rocket’s Red Glare over Napa Valley

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.

Part II: 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, and his first retail account

Caldwell 2016 “Rocket Science” Red Napa Valley
GGWC 71.99
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A voluptuous nose is dominated by black raspberry, black currant, ripe blueberries, black olive, cassis, clove and white pepper. A raspberry attack leads into a full, juicy mouth of ripe plum and cherry. The structured cocoa tannins gives way to a long finish of chocolate covered strawberries.

The 2016 Rocket Science is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 12% Syrah, 10% Malbec, 5% Tannat, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Carménère, 5% Merlot

Winemaker Notes: “The only sure way to know you’ve got a supernova in your sights is to do a diagnostic… fragrant spices, explosive fruit, finish like a long-tail comet… check. This high-octane vintage draws you in with inviting aromas of raspberry, plum, anise, and rose petals lighting up the red spectrum. Cocoa, leather, and fresh black tea fill in the darker side. Fluid dynamics take over with a full-throttle cherry attack. Mellow, sweet tannins carry the day while this wine’s long, pomegranate finish streaks across the sky with nothing to stop it but another sip.”

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Flamboyant 97 Point Napa Cab

Turnbull Winery has been on fire as of late (no pun intended – 2017 Napa fires) receiving many 97-100 point ratings.  Winemaker Peter Heitz has been at the helm since 2007.  His is also the owner/winemaker at Shypoke winery in Calistoga.

Turnbull 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Black Label” Napa Valley
GGWC 149.99
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Vinous 97 Points: “A big, huge wine, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label shows the more exotic personality of the year. Super-ripe dark cherry, plum, new leather, licorice and sweet spice notes build as this flamboyantly ripe wine shows off its personality. Readers should expect a full throttle, intense wine built on pure power. Blackberry jam, chocolate, spice, new leather and new oak gain volume in this striking, explosive wine from Turnbull.

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The BEST Sauvignon Blanc in the US Bar None is HERE!

Russell Bevan and Victoria De Crescenzo knew they were on to something special way back in the late 90′s when impromptu blind tastings with friends and trips to Napa became a regular part of their life. Over the next several years, they met with and were inspired by some of the greatest winemakers and viticulturists of the time. Robert Foley, Phil Togni, Greg La Follette, and others imparted bits of wisdom and wine lore that shaped their approach even before the first batch of wine was an idea. It was not long before they acquired eight acres of land in the Bennett Valley and with a ton of grapes from the best block in Kal Showket’s vineyard, Bevan Cellars was born.

The Bevan legacy continues to this day and every year continues to impress. Multiple 95-100 point ratings are a testament to the quality, dedication, and attention that they give to each one of their wines.

GGWC 41.99
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This wine has a spectacular bouquet of caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, orange blossom and brioche. It is amazingly rich and dense, with the texture of a great grand cru white Burgundy or top California Chardonnay. Probably one of the best California Sauv Blancs to date without exception!

Winemaker Notes: “Our 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is pure sunshine in a glass. Tropical notes of fresh pineapple, passionfruit and papaya are present on the palate. It is one of the most lively and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs we have made to date. But (and here is where things get exciting…) she also has significantly more extraction than any of our previous Sauvignons. The resulting wine is incredibly powerful, yet light on her feet at the same time.”

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Learn to Taste by Taking Better Wine Tasting Notes

Learn to Taste
by Taking Better Wine Tasting Notes

Improve your ability to write wine tasting notes with a simple process.

Did you know?  Taking better notes improves your ability to read wine ratings and reviews? Ultimately, you can use this knowledge to buy (and drink) better wine.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s learn how to do it right.

Why Taking Notes Makes You Smarter

On the surface, taking notes seems a bit banal. However, the practice builds powerful skills of observation and recollection. Plus, it might actually be good for your brain.

In a related study, Master Sommeliers demonstrated increased brain activity in memory and cognitive function. So, if you’re already sipping wine regularly, why not use it as an opportunity to exercise your brain?

1. Look: Observe wine in your glass.
2. Smell: Identify five unique aromas in your wine.
3. Taste: Quantify the traits of acidity, tannin, alcohol level, sweetness, and body.
4. Think: Put it all together and refine your opinion.


Red, white, pink, orange… It seems simple enough! In fact, the color of a wine can tell us a lot about what’s going on inside the glass.

HUE: Take a look at the hue. If it’s a red wine, is it more pinkish or reddish? This simple color observation is often a big clue as to the variety(ies) and climate where the wine was made.

The generally accepted hues for red wines are: Purple, Ruby, Garnet, and Tawny.
White wines use: Straw, Yellow, Gold, and Amber.
Rosé wines use: Pink, Salmon, and Copper.

Next, take a look at the color from the edge to the middle of the glass. How opaque is it? This is the color intensity.

Also, how much does the color change from the rim to the middle? This “rim variation” is often an indicator of age in a wine.

VISCOSITY: Swirl your glass and take a look at how it forms tears (aka “legs”) on the side of the glass. Are they thick, slow-moving tears or fast ones? This tells us the wine is either higher alcohol, higher sweetness, or both. It’s actually a phenomenon called The Gibbs-Marangoni Effect.

CLARITY: Is the wine clear, cloudy, or turbid (cloudy and thick with suspended particles)?

Clarity is a hint towards some winemaking techniques used on the wine, including fining and filtering.


This step might just be the most important. It allows our brains a chance to develop an aromatic profile of a wine before we taste it.
Wine contains hundreds of different aroma compounds. These compounds provide clues as to what the wine is, where it is from, and how it was made.

Sommeliers refer to some of these aromas as “impact compounds,” because they reveal secrets in the glass!

Here’s what you ca look for, specifically:

  • Fruit, flower, or herb smells that are indicative of the wine or grape variety.
  • Baking spices and vanilla or other aromas that are caused by aging and oak aging.
  • Organic or inorganic earthy smells caused by yeast that often indicate the wine’s regional style.

Do your best to create a profile of individual smells ordered from most obvious to least obvious.


Now it’s time to taste!

When we taste wine, it’s all about the texture. We sense body, sweetness, acidity, and tannin on our tongues as presence, oiliness, tartness, and astringency. When you taste a wine, focus more on these textures and how they evolve from start to finish. After this is done, you can think about flavors!

Many sommeliers rank a wine’s traits with a ranking of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

  • Body: Does it fill your palate or is it barely there?
  • Sweetness: Many dry wines have a small amount of residual sugar (RS),which we sense as oiliness.
  • Acidity: How tart and sour-tasting a wine is. (Technically, we are sensing the concentration of free hydrogen ions or pH level here).
  • Tannin: The texture of astringency that’s often accompanied by bitterness.
  • Alcohol: The feeling of heat in the back of your throat. (Anything over 15% ABV is high)


Writing your final conclusion in your wine tasting notes gives you a chance to tie it all together.

Here are some things to consider:

  • How did the initial taste compare with the finish?
  • How long did the flavor last on your palate?
  • Was the wine complex or simple?
  • Overall, was it a “yay!” “meh” or “bleh?”

In my experience, communicating with wine drinkers of all kinds, I’ve observed something like a bell curve when it comes to opinions. (I hope to research this with more data in the future!)

In the mean time, this is the general consensus that I’ve observed:

One side of the bell curve prefers fruity, sweet wines with noticeable acidity. (Generally white and sparkling wines).

The middle of the bell curve looks for dry wines with boldness, fruitiness, lush acidity, and a smooth finish. (These are usally red wines).

The other side of the bell curve looks for wines with minerality, tannin, earthiness, and subtlety. (These are all kinds of unique wines).

None of these choices are right or wrong, but they are often in conflict with one another. They also affect how some of us should use wine ratings.

In fact, some wine reviewers (such as Stephen Tanzer and Antonio Galloni) rate wines higher for their structure and minerality, where as others (like Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate) rate wines higher that demonstrate the more optimal fruit/ripeness profiles.

So, where does your palate fit into this picture? (Hint, hint: Take more wine tasting notes to find out!)

Want to flex your tasting muscles? Be sure to join us every Saturday from 1-5 PM! See the full tasting schedule below ore at


4 Barrel, Under $40 White by Ace Thomas Rivers Brown!

First grafted in 2015, Viticulturist Jim Barbour hand-selected budwood from Chappellet and developed a single block on the QTR Estate.  The block consists of disrupted claystone bedrock with cobbles and boulders of volcanic matter.  This rocky and dry soil provides the perfect foundation for a Chenin Blanc with round structure and incredible complexity.

QTR 2017 Chenin Blanc, Estate Howell Mountain
GGWC 37.99 net
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The QTR 2017 Chenin Blanc exhibits beautiful floral aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle, and lemon blossoms. The palate compliments the floral aromas with intricate layers of lime zest, lemon, tropical fruit, melon, hints of honeysuckle, and a minerality to round out the finish. While complex and refreshing, this Chenin Blanc’s vibrant acidity and creamy minerality makes for a perfect pairing with Oysters, Halibut or Salmon. ONLY 100 CASES (4 barrels) PRODUCED.

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A STRIKING HILLSIDE PROPERTY, Cornell is located on Spring Mountain, not too far from Togni, Pride and Fisher. In 2013, proprietors Henry and Vanessa Cornell hired winemaker Françoise Peschon to oversee a complete makeover, and create the first estate grown wine from their then 10 year-old vineyard.

Peschon brought in vineyard guru Phil Coturri (Kamen, etc.), who created the plan to redevelop the property and convert the estate to organic farming. The wines are made in the contemporary, classically leaning style that has brought Françoise Peschon so much acclaim at Araujo Estate and Vine Hill Ranch. Quite simply, these are gorgeous mountain Cabernets endowed with real class and pedigree.

Cornell 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, “Estate” – 96 Points
GGWC 154.99
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Anthony Galloni (Vinous) 96 Points: “The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is every bit as impressive as it was last June, when I tasted it just after bottling. Dark, sumptuous and alluring, the 2015 captures all the best qualities of the year. Super-ripe dark cherry, plum, licorice, dried flowers and mint are some of the many nuances that flesh out in this decidedly flamboyant Sonoma Cabernet. Even with all of its richness, the 2015 *retains the very classic sense of structure that is such a signature of Françoise Peschon’s wines.”

Winery Notes: “2015 was the last in a series of drought years in California, which may have set the stage for a low yielding vintage. An unusually cool spring, particularly in the mountains, made for uneven berry set, leading to very loose clusters and the smallest harvest since the inception of the vineyard. Fortunately, optimal harvest weather meant that what little crop we had to work with made it to the winery in perfect condition. The mountain immediately begins to reveal its many layers through the rich aromas of red fruit, a mix of dried and fresh herbs and graphite. The barrel influence is a subtle backdrop to the layers of fresh forest floor, wet stone and black currant. Red plum and fresh blackberry fill the mouth leading to the rich and classical structure.The wine’s refined texture and elegant tannins belie its youth. Approachable now, the 2015 Cornell Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon will age with grace and will continue to reveal its layers for many years to come. The wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc.”

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Napa’s BEST Zin (Post-Prohibition)… Totally legal

Going back to the early 1900’s … Hey Aldo, when you come by on Friday, bring me a couple pounds of walnuts, some fruit and vegetables, two dozen eggs and a “black chicken”. And thus went one of the hundreds of inquiries during prohibition when selling wine was not legal. Aldo Biale called his jugs of Zin a “Black Chicken” to avoid any unwanted attention from regulators. Today Black Chicken is 100% Legal, so you can get this legendary creation by name.

FYI – Aldo died in 2009, but in his memory the Black Chicken lives on!  If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History you can even see a image of Aldo with his old punch down stick and a picker’s box!

Biale 2017 Zinfandel, Black Chicken Napa Valley
GGWC 49.99
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Full of Blackberries, vibrant black cherry, dried berries, maple, brown and black spices, cinnamon and ginger bread. The entry is soft and gives way to supple round tannins with a delectable center and persistence of fruit. The lovely finish is the signature of this elegant, surprisingly feminine, and remarkably balanced Zinfandel that is immediately drinkable and worthy of 5 to 7 more years of cellar time.

Winemaker Notes: “The 2017 growing season started out with ideal weather conditions. After a very wet winter, there was plenty of moisture available to the vines which made for vigorous canopy growth and a healthy crop load. Summer temperatures were well above average and then a series of heat spikes at the end of the growing season quickly pushed the Zinfandel to perfect ripeness.”

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