When you have two of the best people in industry at the helm, you can only expect the best of the best.  Philippe Melka (winemaker) and Jim Barbour (vineyard manager extraordinaire) have turned the old Long Vineyards (remember this great vineyard site from some years ago?) into a top notch Cabernet producer. Gandona (humble man in Portuguese) is rooted in tradition and a passion for transforming land into something extraordinary. It’s born from an estate that rests upon a sloping hillside high above the beauty of Napa Valley and Lake Hennessey – its vineyards, carved from the steep terrain and planted in four blocks, each possess their own distinct personality.The site of Gandona Estate had its beginnings (just) a few years earlier, when in 1862 Daniel K. Dille homesteaded the property, located just downhill from Pritchard’s future home. California had just experienced the silver rush and Napa County had recently been formed. Here, Dille worked as a laborer and maintained the land. The property sold several times throughout the years until the Bob Long family purchased it in 1966 and planted the site’s first vineyard. In 1977, they entered the wine business in earnest and founded a small winery called Long Vineyards.  Sandi Belcher (Arns) produced great Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a late harvest Johannesburg Riesling from the estate.

Gandona 2014 “Encosta” Cabernet, Estate Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley 
Retail 98.00 – GGWC 94.99
Use shipping code ENCOSTA @ checkout

The ENCOSTA Cabernet Sauvignon originates from the steeply terraced hillsides of the Gandona Estate and its terra cotta-colored, volcanic soil.  The 2014 vintage is a wine celebrating the very soul of hillside fruit capturing the essence of the vine’s interaction with earth and sun. It opens with aromas of bright red cherry and cranberry with underlying notes of cassis and tobacco.  On the palate, the wine shows a juicy, full mouth feel reminiscent of fresh black and ripe cherries. Rounding out the mid-palate are finely grained, sweet mountain tannins that reveal a beautiful marriage between them and well integrated oak.  The lingering finish is laced with nuances of rich cocoa powder and supported by a strong acid backbone demonstrating a wine worthy of aging.

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A 95 Point Napa Gem by “Petrus” Disciple


Chris Phelps was born and raised in California and mastered in two things wine and French!  That said, Chris mentored under the best-of-the best of the world after graduating from UC Davis he entered the Institue of Enology at the University of Bordeaux. It was here that he gained experience under the tutelage of Mr. Merlot (Christian Moueix) and Claude Berrouet who became is mentors!  It was here that Chris received an invitation to join Moueix at Dominus in the Napa Valley.  After a year of intense training he was given the title of winemaker where he worked from 1984 to 1995.  And the rest, as they say is history.

Ad Vivum 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Sleepy Lady” Yountville, Napa Valley 
Retail 140.00 – GGWC 134.99
Use code ADVIVUM during checkout

The 2013 Ad Vivum is a phenomenal Napa Cabernet Sauvignon! The wine explodes in the glass – with intense aromatics of black and purple fruit, a touch of dust and bitter chocolate fill the air!  On the palate, this wine offers us rich creamy body laced with lush black stone fruit, cassis and a touch of smoke all nicely layered.  The wine is dense, yet well-balanced and not over powering.  The silky tannic finish offers up sweet and creamy lasting flavors for a good 30 seconds.  This is a wine that will benefit from a good decanting and should cellar well for 15+ years!

Robert Parker 95 Points: “The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Sleeping Lady Vineyard comes from the southern-most end of the Yountville AVA and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 60% new French oak. The wine has a dense ruby/purple color, notes of wet gravel, blackcurrant, a touch of barbecue smoke and loamy soil undertones. It is medium to full.bodied and, like most 2013s, concentrated, dense, structured and powerful. The wine is showing well already, but will be even better with 5-6 years of bottle age and last for 25+ years.”

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Thomas Rivers Brown’s 96 Point Cabernet Gem

Proprietors Mark Pulido and Donna Walker have a long history in Napa Valley, building relationships and putting down roots in the community. In the early 1980s, Donna and Mark began making regular trips to the Valley, meeting vintners at iconic cellars where they often tasted from the barrel. They were drawn into tasting room discussions about harvest and the rhythms of crafting wine. Pulido~Walker is a natural outgrowth of the couple’s passion, as collectors, for the place and its promise. Their Mt. Veeder Estate is a testament to the family’s long-term commitment to Napa Valley and view toward the future. They hooked up with Thomas Rivers Brown to create their own brand, and the rest as they say… is history.

“What separates the best valley floor sites from good valley floor sites is their ability to drain,” explains winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown. Panek Vineyard blankets a rocky, gently sloping knoll in the shadow of the Mayacamas Mountains along the old Napa River bed wash. The loamy soil, with its highly compacted alluvial deposits of gravel, provides optimal drainage. The valley basin is also more temperate than the hillsides surrounding St. Helena, making it ideal for slower ripening and full development of flavors. These elements coalesce in low yields of reliably superb fruit. Vines at Panek are densely spaced and pruned using the “two straight cane” method, which requires a specific skill set and hands-on, time-intensive attention. The ultimate goal is to allow the “site to shine through” the wine.

PULIDO WALKER 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Panek Vineyard” Napa Valley 
Retail 200.00 – GGWC 194.99
Use code PANEK during checkout

Robert Parker: “The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Panek Vineyard (75% new French oak and 14.6% alcohol) has an inky purple color, loads of crème de cassis, blueberry and vanillin with graphite and licorice. It is full-bodied, exhibits terrific texture, low acidity and sweet, round tannin. This is a full-bodied classic that is delicious already, but promises to develop more nuances over the next decade and last for 20-25 years.”

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Bill and Cindy Wenzlau purchased 100 acres, but only planted 12 ½ of them (8½ 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 the 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 2012 Pinot Noir Estate Santa Rita Hills 
Retail Price 65.00

Use discount code WENZLAUPN during checkout

Parker Review 93 Points: “Also superb, the 2012 Wenzlau Pinot Noir Estate saw 20% whole clusters during fermentation and spent 16 months in 35% new French oak. It’s another classic red that has plenty of ripe berry fruits, underbrush, forest floor and crushed flowers to go with a medium-bodied, elegant and lively feel on the palate. It too should shine for 3-4 years, if not longer. These impressive efforts are made by Justin Willett (of Tyler). The focus here is on their estate vintage, which was planted in 2007.”

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In a recent blind tasting of 2014 Pinot Noirs, Attune beat out some big boys (and girls).  Our tasting group consisted out 15 wine professionals, and we meticulously (blind) tasted all wines twice.

The line-up included:

The Winner: ATTUNE

Attune 2014 Pinot Noir received 8 FIRST, 4 SECOND and 3 THIRD place votes, ahead of Paul Lato 4 FIRST, 5 SECOND and 5 THIRD place votes and ARGOT 2 FIRST, 4 SECOND and 4 THIRD place votes. Thus in nice company, and at a much lower price point!

Attune is a venture of two families who with a love for Pinot planted 8.5 acres  to two Burgundy clones from the Cotes d’Or, clones 667 and 115.  Their winemaker is Ken Juhasz, who also owns and makes Auteur.  Emphasis at Attune is not quantiy, but quality. The 2014 is one of their “largest” vintage to date at a whopping 300 cases!  Still, not a lot!

Attune 2014 Pinot Noir “Estate” Sonoma 
Retail 52.00 – GGWC 49.99
Use code ATTUNE upon checkout

This is only the fifth vintage from this estate, but you’d believe they have been at it for years.  Out of the glass jump lush aromas of bright red stone fruit.  The wine is amazingly elegant and round with a perfect “pitch” balance, you’d think you are listening to a great opera singer.  A beautiful representation of the Attune estate vineyard terroir, the 2014 vintage is defined by big, complex flavors of bramble and pomegranate which stay bright and balanced with integrated acidity and ripe tannin structure. Aromas of cherry blossom and raspberry lead to darker flavors of violet and baked blackberry on the palate, all of which are carried into a surprisingly lengthy finish. Best enjoyed from 2017 to 2025.! Only 300 cases produced.

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In Memoriam…

Dear Friends of Golden Gate Wine Cellars,

J.P. CullenI have known so many of you for many years to the point that we are almost family. In fact, some of you I met the year I graduated college almost 30 years ago. I have grown up with you, you have given me a chance and supported me when I started my own business in 2005. My business family has grown nicely and I am very proud to have all of you as friends in every corner of the US and many places around the globe.

So it is with sadness in my heart that I share the passing one of my longtime friends, Mr. JP Cullen, who passed away this Sunday. Mr. Cullen and his family (3 generations now) have been very supportive of my endeavors and I owe them a great deal of gratitude.

So please take a moment and help me remember JP and raise a glass to him and his family.

I am going to miss our monthly chats, JP, my regular updates on your Golden State Warriors (JP was a partner in the team some years ago), our chats about the Cullen and Melis Families. But you will not be forgotten. Thank you for your generosity and kindness.

Your friend,

French’s Laundry FAVORITE White-by-the-glass

Almost 15 years ago Scott Palazzo was asked by Thomas Keller, “Chef Extraordinaire” and owner of French Laundry and Per Se restaurants to craft a Cab Franc exclusively for him!  That resulted in amazing exposure for this small winery and the rest-as-they-say-is-history.

Palazzo 2013 Cuvee Blanc, Napa Valley 
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 69.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code PALAZZO during checkout

OK to assort with other Palazzo wines!

On the nose this youngster offers up a floral and seductive aromas of tropical fruit (guava, passion fruit, hints of pear Anjou, pink grapefruit and orange blossoms).  On the palate, this wine is round and silky with a very opulent and broad oil texture and weight.  Amazingly balanced with the right touch of zesty acidity and a touch of minerality rarely seen in domestic whites.  The delicious passion fruit with whiffs of nectarine and Meyer lemon tease the palate.  This is an amazingly complex and well-crafted wine with a stunning mouthfeel.  It finishes with excellent richness and weight and complex notes of slate.

I’d call this a White Wine for Cabernet lovers!  Pair this wine with oysters & shrimp salads . Halibut, salmon & chicken dishes to roast pork & suckling pig! A Very versatile Food Wine!

Robert Parker 94+ Points: “The 2013 Palazzo Cuvee Blanc, which got my highest score, is again nearly all Semillon with just a touch of Sauvignon Blanc. It offers notes of orange rind, lemon honey, caramelized grapefruit once again, and a touch of tropical fruit in a lovely, medium to full-bodied, beautifully layered and textured style. This is superb stuff to drink over the next decade or more.”

Scott Palazzo in his Semillon vineyard.  Scott is 6′ 3″ and makes these old-vine Semillon vines look more like an apple tree!  Yielding very little, but AMAZING FRUIT!

Make sure to check out Scott Palazzo’s HIGHLY rated 97+ Point CAB FRANC as well!


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Value Pinot Noir of the Month

A campfire, a marmot and a flask of whiskey…  These are the humble beginnings of Baker & Brain Wines. On a Yosemite backcountry camping trip in 2009, Josh Baker and Matt Brain discovered a common goal of creating a wine label that would showcase the hard work and responsible farming taking place at their favorite vineyards.

Baker & Brain 2014 Pinot Noir “Central Coast” 
Retail 37.00 – GGWC 34.99
use code BAKERBRAIN at checkout

Bright red fruit and spicy aromatic oak characters fill the glass upon pouring, directing the drinker to thoughts of fresh cherry, rose petal and harvest-time spices. Hints of rhubarb and cranberry accent a nose that is distinctly Pinot Noir. In the mouth, the wine throws out its attractive lure of bracing acidity and voluptuous texture, begging for another sip. The finish shows lingering notes of silky, savory French oak and fine grained tannins.

Winemaker notes: “Our 2014 Central Coast Pinot Noir is a blend of fruit from our favorite vineyard sites in Monterey, Cambria, and San Luis Obispo.  Small cluster fruit from Escolle Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands brings rich structure and intense cherry notes to the wine while representing the largest percentage of the blend.  The Edna Valley component promotes the fresh aromatic profile, balancing out the softer, richer Santa Lucia fruit.  Small amounts of Cambria’s Stolo Vineyard rounds out this blend with lifted floral and red berry notes, also bringing earthy perfume that our Central Coast Pinot Noir is known for.  All vineyards involved were harvested by hand in the early morning and delivered to the winery for de-stemming.  Fermentation took place, whole berry, in small ¾ ton bins.  After fermentation, the must was basket pressed to 30% new French Oak barrels to begin 11 months of aging.”

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Another Syrah Gem by Sanguis

Matthias Pippig is not your everyday mainstream winemaker. He’s an “artist” in the true sense of the worth.  A creator, a dreamer, a visionary, a poet, a chef, a scientist.  Mix this all together and you have Sanguis.  Matthias moved here from Germany some 30 years ago with plans to make it big in the Rock & Roll scene.  Life took a different turn, as he had to make a living and  he eventually stumbled onto the L.A. food scene.  He worked as a waiter, and in time met Manfred Krankl, of La Brea Bakery fame, which whom he’d partner and work for several years.  Krankl, created the infamous Sine Qua Non label and that inspired Matthias to go a similar route and the rest is history.  Sanguis is not a quaffing wine, but complex and sophisticated.

Those who purchased the 97 Point rated Bossman will not be disappointed with this latest Pilgrim botting!

Sanguis 2013 Syrah “Pilgrim” Santa Ynez 
Retail 85.00 – GGWC 79.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more bottles
Use Code PILGRIM at checkout

Robert Parker: “Spice, garrigue, peppery herbs and mulled red and black fruits all emerge from the 2013 Syrah Pilgrim, which is 93% Syrah, 5% Grenache and 2% Viognier that spent 28 months in 300- and 400-liter barrels. This full-bodied, open, supple and lively red has bright acidity, good (not great) concentration and a clean finish. The acidity will keep this drinking nicely through 2024.”

Anthony Galloni: “Dark red cherry, plum, pomegranate, blood orange and apricot jam meld together in the Syrah-based 2013 Pilgrim. Beams of underlying tannin give the wine its energy and overall persistence. This is another rich, unctuous wine from Matthias Pippig. I very much like this wine’s energy in this style. Dollops of Grenache and Viognier round out the blend.”

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Davis Estates

Mike Davis and his wife Sandy earned their stripes in the tech industry before setting up shop in the Napa Valley.  They purchased a 155-acre property in Calistoga in 2011, along with other vineyard holdings in the Napa Valley.  The “estate” stretches from the valley floor to about 1300 feet elevation and is planted to all five red Bordeaux varietals, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Viognier.  They have been big fans of Philippe Melka, and he jumped at the opportunity to work on this great project.

Philippe Melka does not need an intro, but I can tell you that this latest project Phase V will turn heads and could easily garner 100 Points!  This is the “Premier” release and I suggest to get on board early.  As soon as this train leaves the station it will be hard to jump on board.

Phase V 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Davis Estate Napa Valley 
Retail 215.00 – GGWC 204.99
Use code PHASEV at checkout

This might be one of most complex wines Philippe Melka has produced to date!   The color is amazingly saturated ruby/purple.  The nose is stunning, with aromas of black stone fruit, anise, spice, dark chocolate jumping out of the glass. The wine is lush and full in body with forward notes of bittersweet chocolate, espresso bean, black currants, a touch of leather a hint of spice cabinet.  The flavors roll over the the palate into along lasting finish.  This is one for the ages, a wine that will cellar well for a good 12-15 years! VERY LIMITED PRODUCTION!

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