Chardonnay of the month


The venture is a partnership between the Screaming Eagle/Jonata partners Raj Parr (Sommelier of the Michael Mina Group) and their winemaker Sashi Moorman.  Sandhi is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “alliance” and was chosen to reflect this partnership at the winery.  They all have one common goal – make amazing wine that is not overripe, does not have high alcohol but accentuate subtlety, minerality, structure and balance and does not break the bank!

Sandhi 2014 Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict” Santa Rita Hills
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 57.99
Use code SANDHI at checkout

The 2014 Sandhi S&B Chardonnay was sourced from the oldest wines in the Santa Rita appellation. The wine is aromatically complex with notes of ripe Meyer lemon, oyster shell, almond skin, dried ginger and apricot, and subtle hints of jasmine and fresh mint. The complexity of the old vines is most evident on the palate as its broad, exotic, and persistent texture carry through this full and restrained wine to its finish. This is one of the best wines of the vintage and fits in the same category of Paul Lato, DuMol, etc.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Spottswoode founder Mary Novak has passed away

I am sorry to let you know that Spottswoode founder Mary Novak has passed away. Mary was an icon of the Napa Valley who was admired and respected by all who knew her. She was one of the first women in California to run a large vineyard and winery when she took over the estate after her husband’s unexpected death in 1977. In the time since then Mary grew Spottswoode into one of the valley’s premier and top-caliber estates. Her presence will be sorely missed.


Mary’s touching obituary follows below:

Spottswoode Founder Mary Weber Novak Dies at 84
Submitted By: Miriam Pitt, September 26, 2016

St. Helena, Calif. – Mary Weber Novak, the founder of Napa Valley’s renowned Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, passed away after a brief fight with cancer on Sunday, September 25. To many, Mary was the kind, energetic woman who zipped around St. Helena in her little electric red car, smiling at passersby. For those more familiar with the modern history of the valley and its wine industry, Mary also represented the spirit, graciousness, and vision that helped to build Napa Valley. As the founder of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery and one of the first women to run a major Napa Valley winegrowing estate, Mary was a vital part of the fabric of the valley and its wine community since 1972. Her intelligence, sense of humor, humility and vivacious personality will be missed.

Through her hard work, insight and perseverance, Mary was quietly instrumental in establishing Spottswoode as one of the valley’s great family-owned wineries and a first growth-caliber property. While doing so, she also helped to pioneer organic viticulture when she began farming the vineyard organically in 1985 (an approach that current Vineyard Manager and Winemaker Aron Weinkauf passionately embraces). Mary also played an integral role in championing women in the wine industry, in the example she set as a successful winery owner, by encouraging two of her daughters to work with her, and through supporting the hiring of several women winemakers throughout Spottswoode’s storied four-decade history, including Mia Klein, Pam Starr, Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams.

Mary was born in Los Angeles to Karl and Mary Weber on September 17, 1932. The middle of five children, she attended Marymount High School in Westwood. After spending a year at Dominican College, Mary attended Stanford, where she met her future husband, Jack Richard Novak, before graduating with a degree in education in 1954. After graduation, Mary taught kindergarten at St. Martin of Tours in Brentwood, before marrying Jack on June 16, 1956. Mary and Jack soon moved to Del Mar, San Diego County, where they began a family while Jack established a medical practice.

On a trip to Napa Valley with their five children in 1970, Mary and Jack fell in love with the rural beauty and relaxed pace of the valley. There, they discovered Spottswoode, an idyllic 31-acre property in St. Helena with already long-established vineyards and exquisite gardens. “I’ve always been a person who loves the land,” said Mary. “Walking in the gardens and through the vineyards, I knew we could make our home here.”

In 1972, the Novaks sold Jack’s medical practice and moved to Napa Valley. They immediately acquired an adjacent 15-acre parcel of land and began to replant their vineyard, which had originally been established in 1882. Sadly, on November 14, 1977, Jack, then just 44, suffered a major heart attack and passed away. Young, widowed and with five children to support, Mary recognized that the best future for her family lay in following through on their shared vision for Spottswoode. Mary took over management of the estate and successfully completed her first harvest, selling grapes to various Napa Valley families, including the Shafers and Duckhorns.

In 1982, after earning Spottswoode’s reputation as a source for some of Napa Valley’s most sought-after grapes, Mary hired Winemaker Tony Soter, founded Spottswoode Winery, and made Spottswoode’s debut 1982 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Three years later, on Soter’s recommendation, Mary began farming the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard organically at a time when the notion of organic farming was just in its infancy. After numerous highly acclaimed vintages in the mid-to-late 1980s, including three consecutive years with wines on Wine Spectator’s coveted Top 100 list, Mary stopped selling grapes to other wineries in order to focus exclusively on Spottswoode’s own wines—a decision that helped to establish Spottswoode as a benchmark of quality for over three decades.

Along the way, Mary was joined at Spottswoode by her daughters, Beth, in 1987, and Lindy, in 1992. Working together, they realized Mary’s vision of establishing Spottswoode as one of Napa Valley’s most esteemed multigenerational family estates, with a reputation for making some of the finest Cabernets in the world—culminating in a recent, historic tasting of all of the Spottswoode Cabernets since 1982 by Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate, in which he named Spottswoode “one of Napa Valley’s First-Growth Wines and Vineyards.” This is an amazing testament to Mary’s deep love of Spottswoode. Over the years, she succeeded in passing this love and her indomitable spirit to her five children and to her grandchildren.

“I have had the honor of working alongside my Mom for 29 years in helping her build Spottswoode into the incredible estate vineyard and winery that it is today,” says Beth Novak Milliken. “She had immense inner strength, an amazing spirit and love of life, and a dream that Spottswoode would continue through generations. This has become a part of me, and of my family, and together we embrace carrying her legacy forward by continuing to nurture this wonderful estate property, which we are so fortunate to be a part of. We are honored to continue the work which she, and our Dad, started when we moved here in 1972.”

Mary and her daughters made a commitment to stewardship at Spottswoode, adopting solar energy, spearheading the restoration of Spring Creek and contributing 1% of the winery’s gross profits on an annual basis to environmental causes through the winery’s partnership with 1% for the Planet, with notable contributions to the Land Trust of Napa County, Garden Conservancy, Yosemite Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. In addition, in 2010, Mary and Beth served as Honorary Chairs of Auction Napa Valley, which supports numerous important Napa Valley non-profits, including many that focus on healthcare and education.

While Mary had stepped back from day-to-day operations in recent years, she continued to walk in the vineyard every day with her black lab, Riley, and tend to the estate’s historic gardens—as she had since 1972. Visitors to the legendary Spottswoode garden parties, held at Mary’s home, always received a warm welcome as she poured each a glass of her favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Active in the local community, she was a member of the St. Helena Catholic Church since 1972, the St. Helena Luncheon Group for more than 40 years, and The Garden Class, which was founded by Katie Trefethen, for over 35 years. Mary loved to play bridge, golf, and bocce ball. She also loved doing jigsaw puzzles with her grandchildren and friends and never missed daily Sudoku or the Friday Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle.

Above all else, family was most important in Mary’s life. She is survived by her five children, Lindy Novak (husband Jeff Lahr), Kelley Novak, Beth Novak Milliken (husband John Milliken), Mike Novak (wife Miel Novak), Matt Novak (wife Stephanie Novak), and nine grandchildren, John and Laura Streblow; Sean and Liam Milliken; Nicholas, Alexandra (Audie) and Lael (Poppy) Novak; and Casey and Claire Novak. Mary’s siblings include Nicholas Weber, of Santa Barbara, California, and Katrina Weber of Pune, India. She was preceded in death by her sister, Anne Porteous and her brother, Karl Weber. Mary had many friends and will be deeply missed by all, but special mention must be made of her friend, traveling companion and sister-in-law, Pat Novak, and of Sue Cross, who, with her family, has been an important part of the Novak family since 1961.

A celebration of Mary’s life will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in Mary’s name to The Land Trust of Napa County or The Trust for Public Land.

Blind Tasting “Zinner” Winner = FREE SHIPPING

In a recent 2013 Blind Tasting of California Zinfandels, our friends from Hendry came ahead of a pack of stunning wines.  So I am stoked to offer you this latest release.

My group of 12 “tasters” voted on the following wines:

  • Gamba “Starr Road” (96 Points)
  • Turley “Estate” (95 Parker)
  • Carlisle “Pagani” (95 Parker)
  • Legde “Dusi Ranch” (92 Parker)
  • Tofanelli “Estate” (92 Parker)
  • Dashe “Todd Brothers” (93 Parker)
  • Jeff Cohn “Hayne” (93 Parker)
  • Saxon Brown “Fighting Brothers” (93 Points)
  • Epoch “Estate” (95 Parker)
  • Hendry “Block 28”

The winner: HENDRY with 8 first place votes, ahead of Carlisle with 2, Turley and Gamba each 1 first place vote.

Hendry Block 28 is located on bench lands west of the town of Napa. This 4.17 acre block is 160 feet above sea level and has thin, stony soils. Morning fog and strong afternoon breezes from San Pablo Bay moderate the maritime climate. The vines were planted in 1998 using St. George roots and grafted with budwood selected from an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard

Hendry 2013 Zinfandel “Block 28” Estate Napa Valley
Retail 38.00 – GGWC 35.99
Use code BLOCK28 at checkout

Brooding, bittersweet chocolate flavors and structured fruit and body that is Block 28  the burlier counterpart to the softer Block 7&22.  Drought conditions in 2012 and 2013 resulted in less available moisture in the soil, and an early tasting confirms that this resulted in exceptionally concentrated, slightly higher tannin wine in the Zinfandel.  Initial aromas of dark berries and cocoa powder. This wine is thick and dark purple, with concentrated dark berry fruit, chocolate a dose of spice and light grainy tannins.  This wine will benefit from cellaring, at least 6 months, or thorough decanting.  Serve with hearty fare.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Tempranillo – The NEXT hot California Varietal!

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel are the top five most planted red grapes in California. Tempranillo, with about 1/3 of one percent, is not even close in numeric popularity but fine wine connoisseurs seem to be more and more curious about this Spanish grape.

Tempranillo vines in
Catalonia, Spain

There was mention of “Tempranilla” and “Tempraniellas” in ancient times so we know Tempranillo has been around since at least the 13th century. For many years, people thought it was related to Pinot Noir but that was debunked by researchers at The Institute of Sciences of the Vine and Wine in Rioja and the Madrid Institute for Research and Rural Development, Agriculture and Food. What they found is that Tempranillo’s parents are Albillo, a white grape that is grown today in Castilla Y León and Benedicto, a rare variety that is planted in Aragonia in eastern Spain.

Spanish conquistadors brought it to South America in the 1600’s but it did not arrive in California until the turn of the 20th century and Prohibition virtually ended its existence here before it started. There were a few scattered plantings in the 90’s but outside of a couple of producers in southern Oregon, no one took it seriously in the United States.

Ripening Tempranillo

In the meantime, Tempranillo surpassed Grenache as the most widely planted grape in Spain. Grown throughout the Iberian Peninsula, it goes by many names including Tinto Fino, Tinto del Pais in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in La Mancha, Ull de Llibre in Penedés, Tinto de Toro in Toro, and Tinta Roriz and Aragonez in Portugal. A thick-skinned grape, it thrives in climates with hot summer days and cooler nights. The calcareous limestone soils of Rioja and Ribera del Duero are where it has been made into the most complex wines.

Tempranillo marries well with oak, both French and the stronger American varieties, the latter which has been preferred among Rioja producers for decades. It often has a cola like note. It can be tannic when it is young but mellows after a few years in bottle and may also have a lot of acidity, which is a reason why it can age for many years.

Idle Hour

I think a lot of the recent curiosity among my customers has to do with travel, but also, several California winemakers have ratcheted up the ante and are making very high quality wines with this grape. We are currently carrying two at Golden Gate Wine Cellars:  Idle Hour Winery Winemaker’s Reserve and Aluvion’s 2013 bottling. Both are from vineyards in Clarksburg. Located near Sacramento, Clarksburg gets very hot during summer days but fog from the San Francisco Bay rolls in at night, cooling down the vineyards.

Both of these wines are very fine, authentic examples. Clayton Kirchhoff of Aluvion worked at Dominio de Pingus, under renowned Danish winemaker, Peter Sisseck. Along with Vega Sicilia, Pingus is considered one of the top wineries in Ribera del Duero and Kirchhoff’s excellent training is easy to recognize in Aluvion Tempranillo. Idle Hour has also received acclaim, having been awarded various gold medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the largest wine competition in the world!

If these wines are any indication, Tempranillo is just getting started in California. While it accounts for a tiny proportion of grape acreage, its reputation is outpacing its production. There is a way to go before it is as popular as the big five, but as more people taste wines such as Aluvion and Idle Hour, the demand will grow and California Tempranillo just might become the “next” new hot grape!

Be sure to check out the Aluvion Tempranillo made by the SF Chronicle’s “Winemaker to Watch!”


Clayton Kirchhoff is only 33, but has gained a wealth of experience while working at Dominio de Pingus in Spain’s Ribuero del Duero region.   He is the assistant winemaker at Napa Valley’s White Rock Winery and on the side he makes his family’s Kirchhoff wines sourced from their estate property.  The name “Aluvion”  was named after the sedimentary marine deposits comprising much of the soil at the Heringer vineyard.

Aluvion 2013 Tempranillo
Retail 48.00 – GGWC 45.99
Use code ALUVION at checkout

Sourced from older vines on the Heringer property, this wine offer true “Spanish” characters of the varietal.  Deep dark hues are a clue for the intense aromas of black stone fruit, a hint of smoke meats that jump out of the glass on impact.  The wine is medium to full in body with smooth-silky texture on the mid-palate.  Lush and gorgeous black currant and dark plums with a hint of toasty vanilla greet you on the palate.  Leading into a long, but smooth, silky tannin finish.  Only 122 cases were produced of this youngster.

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200 case Pinot Envy



Bill and Cindy Wenzlau purchased 100 acres, but only planted 12 ½ of them (8 ½ to Pinot 4 to Chardonnay). For 2 decades they fantasized about owning their own vineyard. But it was not until their sommelier son Tommy came back from a trip to France that he persuaded his family to look for land. They scoured California and came across this gorgeous property in the Santa Rita Hills and the rest as they say was history and Wenzlau Vineyard was born!  The first vintages were made by Paul Lato and as of 2012 Justin Willett (Tyler) has been at the helm of this great winery.

Wenzlau 2013 Pinot Noir “Estate” Santa Rita Hills
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 57.99
Use code WENZLAU

OK to mix & match with Chardonnay

Robert Parker:Wenzlau Vineyard burst onto the scene in 2011 and has produced outstanding wines in every vintage since. Made by Justin Willett of Tyler, these wines share a lot of similarities with the Tyler wines and have bright, crisp yet balanced and thoroughly enjoyable profiles. In general, that wines are mostly destemmed and aged in small amounts of new oak. Most of these 2013s will be better in a year or so and evolve gracefully.”

Anthony Galloni: “A rich, ample wine, the 2013 Pinot Noir Estate is very tightly wound today. The flavors are intense and dark, almost as if you could taste the intense mineral, ash, smoke, graphite and licorice that appear to emanate from these distinctive, black soils in the Sta. Rita Hills. The inclusion of 33% whole clusters adds a measure of aromatic nuance and exoticism, with hints of rose petal, star anise and blood orange that develop on the beguiling finish.”

Also check out their amazing

Click here or on the links above to order!

Paul Hobbs’ 4 Barrel Chardonnay STUNNER


Black Cordon was created in 1978 when Karen and David Dunphy fell in love with the Napa Valley and its striking black cordons (the branches of a vine are called cordons and they often appear black in the wet season). Despite fantastic scores on their wines, they remain under the radar and will likely be the ones pouring their earthy, velvety, rich, dark-purple (almost black) cab for you when you visit.   Black Cordon Vineyards approaches winemaking with the intention of making wine that is intense and complex with a distinct character that faithfully represents where the grapes have been grown. Attention to detail and hands-on attention to every barrel of wine is what it takes to pull this off. With Paul Hobbs as your winemaker, the wines show the pedigree, character, quality and complexity associated with all of Paul’s projects.

Black Cordon 2013 Reserve Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
Retail 68.00 – GGWC 64.99
Use code BC13CHDRSV at checkout

Light gold with a beautiful nose of just-picked limes and lemons. There is both a sappy lemon curd and an underlying bread dough aroma that is characteristic of Chardonnay-based Champagne. Wisps of citrus blossoms add complexity. This is the roundest and ripest nose of the three wines. The medium body, with a vibrant plushness and bright acidity that melds into round tartness, is supported by an almost invisible oak frame. Rings of complexity reminiscent of mineral-encased citrus fruit, and ripe apricot, meet up with a very long and persistent creamy, lemon custard finish.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Robert Foley’s Inaugural White Blend

Robert Foley has been around the block a few times, so to speak. With wines like Hourglass, Robert Foley, Paloma, Pride, Switchback Ridge, etc., one can only expect the best of the best from this winemaker and winery.  Known for making big, bold red wines, I was happily surprised when he introduced his FIRST WHITE RHONE BLEND!  Only 400 cases of this inaugural wine were produced, and I anticipate it to go very fast!

Robert Foley 2013 White Blend
Retail 32.00 – GGWC 29.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code FOLEY13W at checkout

This is a classic Rhone-variety blend combining 50% Grenache Blanc, 40% Roussanne, and 10% Marsanne, vinified without the use of oak. The aromas suggest a bouquet of honeysuckle, jasmine and citrus blossoms. The mid-palate feels like a flood of honeyed white fig carried by natural grape acidity. The purity of fruit carries long in the lingering finish. Best experienced slightly chilled. It is vinified in stainless steel, settled, clarified and bottled young and crisp. The wine is then bottled aged for 18 months before release. It never saw an oak barrel and its acidity has been preserved by preventing malolactic fermentation. The resulting wine is crisp and delicate and focused entirely on the character of the fruit. (400 cases produced.)

Also be sure to check out these other wines made by Robert Foley:

2013 Switchback Ridge Merlot
2013 Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon
2013 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah

Robert Foley 2014 “The Griffin” Proprietary Red

Click here or on the links above to order!

Petite Sirah deserves some love!

Can anyone tell me why California Petite Sirah doesn’t get more love from the cognoscenti? It certainly has some of the elements they love: It’s relatively obscure; it’s confusing; it pairs well with some hard-to-pair-with dishes. Is it the word “petite” that scares away macho wine dudes? Or is it the weird, Americanized spelling of Sirah, without the “y”?

Certainly the classic taste of tooth-staining, tannic Petite Sirah isn’t for everyone, but fans like me appreciate the deep, rich flavors and aromas of blueberry, spice, chocolate and sometimes even cedar or eucalyptus, markedly different from American Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mark Oldman, in his “Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine,” calls Petite Sirah “as dark and intense as a dominatrix’s boot.

What is Petite Sirah, anyway? Most of it is actually a grape called Durif, a cross between Syrah and Peloursin originating in late-19th-century France. Almost no Durif remains in France, but some it made its way to California, where it became a catch-all name for a number of grapes, some of which may have been Syrah. “They decided to give it a new name, including a French word for prestige, and something a bit easier to spell than Syrah,” wrote Roy Andries de Groot in his 1982 book “The Wines of California, The Pacific Northwest and New York.” These days, petite Syrah and Durif are synonymous, and California is its prime terroir.

Petite Sirah has always been used for blending. If a particular year’s zinfandel was a little flabby and in need of some tannic backbone or a darker purple hue, you can bet Petite Sirah was added.

I keep waiting for Petite Sirah to have its moment. In 2000, there were 60 producers of it. Today, there are more than 800. And more wineries are planting the grape: In 1992, 3,000 acres of Petite Sirah were grown in California; two decades later the total is nearly 8,500 acres. Many believe that the 2010, found on shelves now, might be the best petite vintage since it started being bottled as a single varietal in 1961. I figured it was a good time to do a tasting, so I gathered about 20 bottles, which wasn’t easy.

On a Personal Petite Sirah/Wine Note –  My wife and I met in July 1994, and the first bottle of wine we shared was a bottle of Vincent Arroyo “Estate” Petite Sirah. She told me that her girlfriends were drinking White Zinfandel! So I panicked – the “Wine Guy” could not be seen with a glass of “White Zinfandel” So after two meals in a restaurant, we had dinner at my place and the biggest red I had in my “cellar” was a Petite Sirah.  Now 22 years later (and still happily married) she does not care for whites, light reds or “whimpy” wines.  This girl wants the “full Monty” – BIG REDS!

A few Petite Sirah suggestions: