Monte Bello Cabernet at a Fraction the cost


Napa Valley has become synonymous with great California Cabernet Sauvignon. But I’d argue that the state’s greatest and most distinctive cab is not all from Napa, but from a special ridge high in the Santa Cruz Mountains from a vineyard called Monte Bello.  As you know Ridge Winery has been working with this vineyard for almost 50 years.  I. Brand got their hands on a small parcel (211 cases produced), and it is a real jewel!

I-Brand 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Monte Bello Road” Santa Cruz Mountains
Retail 70.00 – GGWC 67.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code IBRAND during checkout

OK to mix & match OK with I-Brand Cab Franc

This small production Cabernet from one of the best appellations in California boasts a very intriguing color and aroma.  Loads of sweet black fruit, a touch a licorice and lead pencil jump out of the glass.  This full-bodied youngster is loaded with similar flavors on the lush, elegant and well-structured palate.  Amazingly well-priced for a wine of this caliber.  A good decanting will make for an enjoyable experience.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Morlet’s 87 case Cabernet Surprise



Luc Morlet has yet another accolade to his name, the new Linked 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Only 87 cases of this great wine were produced. Just around the bend from Peter Michael’s stomping grounds, this new wine is poised to become a reference point for Knights Valley. Dense, mouth‐coating flavors of dark fruits, chocolate and cassis with a decadent wood flourish to the finish. If someone could have told you about something like Peter Michael Les Pavots while you could still get it, youʹd thank them, right?  Luc uses the fruit from this vineyard for his (98 point Parker rated) “Moret Mon Chevalier.”  For those not familiar with Luc Morlet, he also makes the wines for Peter Michael, Vineyard 7 & 8, Cabaud, and of course his own Morlet label.

It turns out that 13 is a pretty lucky number after all. It produced an amazing Cabernet for Linked!

Linked 2013 “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Knight’s Valley 
Retail 130.00 – GGWC 124.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
Use code LINKED during checkout

The 2013 Linked has all the hallmarks of a classic Cabernet!  This vintage is deep, dark, rich and powerful.  The color is dense. The opulent aromas jump out of the glass on impact.  The nose is filled with essences of black currant, cassis and a whiff of clove.  Each sip brings interwoven flavors of dark and bright fruits, with bursts of ripe, blackberry, Santa Rosa plum, blueberry and currant.  These are layered with dusky spice notes of nutmeg and pink peppercorns, with an undertone of slight minerality.  The finish is sexy, long… soft…slow! It’s a wine to fall in love with!

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Dalla Valle, Screaming Eagle winemaker Andy Erickson’s Inaugural Release


Long before the arrival of many wineries, in the early days of Napa Valley viticulture, three brothers settled in what is now known as Coombsville; Antonio, Lorenzo, and Nicola Carbone were the first Italian immigrants to inhabit this quiet, rolling area east of the city of Napa, cultivating their first crops in 1872.  They planted grapes on the hillsides, and on the farm around their homestead planted fruits and vegetables in abundance.  By 1886 they had constructed at least one residence, as well as a stone cellar that still remains.  The property became known as Antonio Carbone Winery and Italian Gardens.

Andy Erickson and his wife Annie Favia told me that they were incredibly lucky to have painstakingly restored the old residences, winery, orchards and gardens, and now call this home to their family and to Favia Wines.  Drawing from the same vineyard blocks they have worked with for nearly fifteen years, they are honing their craft with each season, and could not be closer to the wines than they are now, living above the barrel cellar.

Carbone by Favia 2015 Proprietary Red, Napa Valley 
Retail 80.00 – GGWC 76.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code CARBONE during checkout

With a nod to the past, and with an eye toward continuing their story, they released the inaugural vintage of “Carbone” a wine that celebrates the history and promise of this property.  A blend of 47% Cabernet Franc, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot, the 2015 vintage is generous and layered, with notes of red raspberry, baked bread, coffee bean and freshly dug earth.  The wine is immediately accessible, but also has the structure and depth to improve over many years.

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Pinot Noir of Month / 95 Points


Two brothers (John & Steve Dragonette) teamed up with their good buddy Brandon Sparks-Gillis to pursue their live-long dream to make wine. They gained valuable experiences at wineries like Sine Qua Non, Torbreck, Fiddlehead Cellars before they started this awesome venture. Over the past couple of years the press has been (rightfully so) generous to these three great guys. They source from some of the most sought after vineyards in Santa Barbara, Santa Rita Hills & Santa Ynez.

Dragonette 2015 Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard 
Retail 78.00 – GGWC 75.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code RADIAN during checkout

Explosive from the get-go.  On the nose you’ll encounter loads of of blackberry, cherry compote and a touch of spice.  The wine is medium tofull in body, lush, deep and seamless, offering bright red stone fruit and cherry-cola essences complemented by a touch of barnyard spice, giving it a Burgundian quality.  VERY LIMITED

95 Points Jeb Dunnuck (Formerly with Robert Parker): “Coming from a frigidly cold site in the Sta. Rita Hills and gravelly, loamy soils, the Dragonette Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard is gorgeous. Black raspberries, dried herbs, peppery herbs and hints of leather give way to a ripe, medium-bodied, beautifully textured and seamless wine that has good acidity and light, yet present tannin. Count me as a fan and it will drink well for a decade as well.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

10 Grape Myths and Legends

10 Grape Myths and Legends

A good story is a great aid for a winery or a region. It adds romance, it makes the place memorable and people like to remember little stories and facts to tell their friends. The wine trade has an absolutely vast repository of stories to draw on. Wine seeps through the pages of human history at every corner. Sometimes it’s integral to the moment in question, at other times it’s a bit player but it’s certainly there.

The problem is, not every story being told today about wine is true. Facts get half-forgotten and they’re confused with something else in the re-telling. It’s the same with famous movie lines.

In The Empire Strikes Back for example, Darth Vader’s immortal line to Luke Skywalker is not delivered in the way you are almost certainly imagining it. You’ve added a word that isn’t there. It’s not much but it’s an example of how something incredibly well-known and famous can be changed over time to make it not quite right. It’s the same in Casablanca where Rick never actually tells Sam to “play it again”, not like that anyway. Go and look it up if you don’t believe me.

There are all kinds of little facts and myths in the wine trade and while plenty are thoroughly charming, it doesn’t hurt to give them a debunking every once in a while.

Armed, therefore, with a copy of Wine Grapes, here are nine myths concerning famous grape varieties that aren’t true – and one that (probably) is.

1. Syrah

The myth: ‘It’s originally from Shiraz in Iran’

There are several origin myths for Syrah which suggest its home region was everywhere from Iran to Syria to Albania, Greece and even Egypt.

Possibly the most famous and enduring of all grape myths is that Syrah or Shiraz is a grape variety that originated near the ancient city of Shiraz in Iran.

This myth took off in part, no doubt, because the city of Shiraz has a well-documented and important role in the very earliest days of viticulture and produced ‘Shirazi’ wine. Not only is there evidence of winemaking in Shiraz in the early Bronze Age when it may have been a supplier to the early civilisations of Mesopotamia, as late as the 18th  century, French and English travellers to the area were singing the wine’s praises.

How it made its way to the Rhône is generally attributed to Roman soldiers who perhaps picked it up during a campaign against the Persians and then took cuttings when redeployed to Gaul. Another story has it that it was the emperor Probus (more on him later) whose troops brought it into the area around 280 AD from Syracuse (see?) on their march to Lugdunum (Lyon).

Yet another theory holds that the Phoceans, the Greeks who founded Marseilles, were the ones that brought the grape with them and that it then spread due to their contact with the local Celts.

Finally, there is the tale of the variety being brought back to the Rhône by a crusader knight returning from any of the crusades that occurred between 1095 and 1291. This also ties in neatly with the legend of the chapel on top of the hill of Hermitage which was supposedly founded by a crusader called Gaspare de Sterimberg (readers will note that invading armies taking grapes back home with them is a common theme in these tales).

The truth: Exotic as these stories are there’s absolutely no concrete truth to any of them. The link with Shiraz was likely concocted by French travellers to Iran in the 17th and 18th century who were enthused by the wines of Shiraz and made up a link between those wines and the grape. The link was given greater credence when it was noted down by James Busby while he was in France finding grapes to bring back to Australia. Not that he necessarily believed it but he wrote down it was what some said and over time this has come to be seen as a stamp of authenticity.

Busby certainly referred to it as ‘Scyras’, which was used in conjunction with ‘Hermitage’ in Australia as the name for the grape before ‘Shiraz’ (which is likely a ‘strinization‘ of ‘Scyras’) came to be the accepted term.

DNA research in 1998 revealed Syrah’s parents to be Mondeuse Blanche (its mother) and Dureza (the father), both old varieties native to the modern departments of the Ain, Isère, Drôme and Haute-Savoie.

It is more likely that Syrah emerged in the Rhône at some point (and saying when is again impossible) and its ancestors, the proto-Mondeuse family, were possibly cultivated by the Celtic tribe in this area, the Allobroges and subsequently the Romans.

2. Chardonnay

The myth: ‘It was brought back from the Lebanon by crusaders’

One of the most well-known grape varieties in the world and one both lauded and vilified in equal measure.

The now oft-retold story of drinkers saying they don’t like Chardonnay but love Chablis and Champagne is perhaps the better known now but there is a hypothesis that Chardonnay originated in the Lebanon.

Obaideh is a native grape to the Middle Eastern country and there are many who say it is Chardonnay.

As with Syrah, it is sometimes argued that crusading Franks picked up a taste for the local wine on their campaigns and made sure to take some seeds or cuttings back home with them.

The truth: They didn’t. There is an, as yet, unproven link that Obaideh is related to Chardonnay but if it is then it will have been a European bringing it to the Levant and not the other way round.

Chardonnay itself has been shown to be an offspring of that famous viticultural partnership, Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.

The first recorded mention of it is in the late 1680s in the village of Saint-Sorlin (now La Roche-Vineuse) in southern Burgundy, where it is mentioned in various sources that the best white wine in the area is made from ‘chardonnet’.

Its final name was taken from another nearby village, Chardonnay, but the spelling did not become standard until the 20th century.

3. Pedro Ximénez

The myth: ‘It was brought back from Germany by a Spanish soldier’

The grape that makes the darkest and stickiest and sweetest of all Sherries, was originally from the Rhineland.

At least, that’s the story. In 1661 the German ampelographer Dr Sachs suggested, in a highly improbably chain of events, that the grape was originally from either the Canary Islands or Madeira, was later brought to the German Rhineland (through various unexplained reasons and adventures) and from there was picked up by a Spanish soldier or Cardinal (called ‘Ximénez’) and taken to southern Spain.

The truth: It’s an odd story and while there were a lot of Spanish in the Rhineland in the late 16th and early to mid 17th centuries where they were fighting the Dutch and Ximénez is a common name in southern Spain, none of it stacks up.

Most importantly of all, the DNA evidence places it firmly in Andalucía where one parent was very likely the table grape ‘Gibi’ – an Arabic variety probably introduced by the Moors during their long rule in Spain.

The ‘German’ story was backed up and spread by some German writers in the 19th century and they even suggested it was linked to Elbling and Riesling.

This is pure Germanic mythmaking in the very finest 19th century style. The grape may have been named after a man called Pedro Ximénez and maybe he did serve as a soldier before turning his hand to winemaking but the grape is very definitely Spanish.

For one thing, PX would never ripen in Germany particularly during the mini ice age that was experienced in the 17th century so why would any right-minded winzer be growing it there?

4. Tokay d’Alsace

The myth: ‘Pinot Gris is originally from Hungary’

This is a multi-layered myth but which essentially boils down to the argument that an Austrian general brought Pinot Gris cuttings back from Hungary to Alsace (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) and that’s how it got the name ‘Tokay d’Alsace’.

The truth: Pinot Gris has been pretty well documented from the Middle Ages. A colour mutation of Pinot Noir, it was probably referred to as ‘Fromentau’ and its home was Burgundy, although it may have spread to Switzerland and western Germany too. In fact the first reliable mention of it is 1711 when it was found in the garden of one Johann Seger Ruland in Speyer; which is why it’s still sometimes referred to as ‘Rülander’ in Germanic countries.

The legend though is that it became a favourite of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV who sent some back to Hungary in about 1375 where it was grown by Cistercians near Lake Balaton. Its Hungarian name of ‘Szürkebarát’ meaning ‘grey monk’ is used to back this hypothesis up.

A little later, in 1568, the story goes on, an Austrian noble and soldier, Lazarus von Schwendi, had the variety reintroduced to Alsace.

Appointed as the governor or constable of Tokay by the emperor Charles V, Schwendi also owned lands around Kientzheim in Alsace. This explains why Pinot Gris was given the synonym Tokay d’Alsace.

Except it almost certainly isn’t. It is far more likely that Pinot Gris was already being used to make sweet wines in Alsace by this date (as they still are today) and as Tokaji was then as it is now one of the most famous and sought after wines in the world, local vintners probably decided to cash in on the name to make their wines easier to sell (and for higher prices).

When Hungary began negotiations to join the European Union it was realised the name would have to go from Alsace due to the protected designation of origin laws the EU had introduced in 1980 and while a deadline of 2007 was set, most producers changed over to just ‘Pinot Gris’ several years before that date.

5. Gamay

The myth: ‘It was banished to Beaujolais from the Côte d’Or’

Poor Gamay, like Chardonnay another offspring of Pinot Noir and Gouais, as soon as it appeared it was damned and cursed as “disloyal” by the big bad Duke of Burgundy who banished it from the Côte d’Or, deeming it worthy only to grow in Beaujolais to the south.

The truth: Gamay did indeed appear in the Côte d’Or, probably in the 13th century though possibly as late as 1360.

Easy to grow and with a bigger crop than the finicky Pinot Noir, it quickly found a following among vine growers keen for a cash crop after years of their land being ravaged by war and plague.

The new variety was considered inferior to Pinot and the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Bold, made great pains to see it did not supplant his preferred grape.

In order to keep the quality of Burgundian wine high he ordered Gamay to be grubbed up and called it “disloyal” (possibly meaning it was disloyal of his subjects to grow it).

So far, so close to the legend. There are important differences though and the reasons behind the duke’s actions are all laid out here.

The biggest myth is that he banished it to Beaujolais which he most explicitly did not do.

In 1395 when he issued his ban, Beaujolais was ruled by the Dukes of Bourbon, not Burgundy so it wouldn’t have crossed his mind to send it there.

As it happened his call for the extirpation of Gamay was not widely heeded. Philip sacked one mayor of Dijon for failing to enforce his wishes and the grape kept coming back as his grandson (Philip the Good) in the 15th century also ordered the “good people” of Dijon and Beaune not to plant it anymore, as did future dukes well into the 18th century.

Gamay probably didn’t become the main grape of Beaujolais until the 17th century.

6. Viognier

The myth: ‘It was introduced to the Rhône by the Romans’

Another Roman myth and, like Syrah, one with a link to that most vine-friendly of emperors, Probus.

Hailing from the province of Illyria Probus is (or rather his soldiers are) reputed to have taken the grape from the Dalmatian coast to the Rhône in the third century AD; sometimes it’s on the same trip as Syrah, which in that particular alternate universe is coming up from Syracuse.

Another entertaining tale says it was being taken up-river to Beaujolais when the boat the cuttings were on was captured by pirates who were based in Condrieu. Neat!

The truth: And all untrue. Once again there is absolutely no genetic link to any plant material currently grown in Croatia and every other link possible to grapes that have likely been growing in the Rhône for many hundreds if not thousands of years.

A link has been established with Mondeuse Blanche but whether it’s a parent or an offspring of that variety is unclear. As such it is either a grandparent or half sibling to Syrah.

7. Falanghina Flegrea

The myth: ‘It was the grape “Falernian” wine was made from’

Falernian wine was the most famous in all of ancient Rome. Made from vines grown on Mount Falernus on the border of Latium and Camapania, Falernian is mentioned by Roman writers and poets from Horace to Varro, Galen and Pliny the Elder, the latter also mentioning that the 121 BC vintage was served to Julius Caesar in 60 BC and the grape behind it all was Falanghina.

The truth: Falanghina is certainly a very old variety and possibly was brought to Italy by Greek colonists in the seventh century BC.

Again, there is no current link known between it and any modern Greek varieties and the Greeks did call Italy, ‘Enotria’ because of the abundance of vines they found there so perhaps it’s always been Italian.

Falernian wine was certainly among the most highly regarded wines available to the Romans and is mentioned by the great writers and was drunk by Caesar and co.

As to the claim it was Falanghina that was used to make Falernian, this likely stems from one of its synonyms, ‘Uva Falerna’.

However, there were three vineyards used by the Romans to make Falernian and there’s no record as to what grapes they used, it was probably a mix of varieties of which Falanghina may have been one.

8. Altesse

The myth: ‘It’s from Byzantium and is identical to Furmint’

A supposed eastern origin and a case of mistaken identity, it’s the stuff of penny dreadfuls and rip-roaring yarns. The signature white grape of Savoie (Savoy) so the story goes, was originally grown around Byzantium or Cyprus.

Altesse’s roots in the eastern Mediterranean normally revolve around one of two counts/dukes of Savoy.

The first is that Count Amadeus VI (pictured), who supposedly brought the variety back to his mountain domains after a campaign against the Ottomans alongside his cousin, the Byzantine emperor John V Palaiologos, in 1366-67.

Another Greek origin is suggested through Louis of Savoy, second son of Duke Louis, who married Charlotte of Cyprus in 1459.

King of Cyprus and titular King of Jerusalem and Armenian Cilicia, Louis and Charlotte were deposed in 1464, whereupon they returned to his family’s lands in Europe bringing the grape with them, presumably because it had been the source of their favourite wine.

Its connection, through either figure, with the ruling house of Savoy and the fact it had ducal favour and graced their tables, thus gave rise to its name ‘Altesse’, which means ‘highness’.

Another theory is that it is identical to Furmint and has been masquerading under another name for centuries. The popularity of Furmint and Tokaji in royal courts across Europe caused it to be given the synonym ‘Altesse’ as a result.

The truth: Although for many years ampelographers were fairly open to the idea that Altesse may have an eastern origin, there have always been doubts as well.

The Marquis Costa de Beauregard, writing in 1774, puts the case for Altesse being brought back from Cyprus by Louis and Charlotte but he horribly mangles the family genealogy.

To begin with, he states that, “it is known that Louis II, Duke of Savoy, succeeded Amadeus IV.”

He didn’t, however. There has only been one Duke Louis of Savoy and he ruled from 1434-65 and his father was Amadeus VIII.

Amadeus IV ruled from 1233-53, before the rule of Amadeus VI in 1343-83 even, so for him to have been Louis’s father would be a miraculous turn of events. Perhaps the Marquis confused his Amadeii?

The Greek link was dealt a fatal blow in more recent years by genetic studies which showed it is very close to Chasselas which is known to have originated around Lake Geneva.

Modern DNA techniques have thoroughly disproved Altesse is related to Furmint in any way and even the etymology of the name has changed through further study. The accepted root now is that Altesse probably originates from the name local name for terraces where the grape has long been grown.

Altesse is a native Savoyard.

9. Furmint

The myth: ‘Furmint is from Italy’

Furmint’s confusion with Altesse was covered in the previous slide but there have also been persistent legends about it having an Italian origin.

Like all good legends there is never one concrete story but the two most plausible centre around the Middle Ages.

In the first instance it is suggested that Italian monks invited in by Stephen II in the 12th century brought the grape with them, likely for use in the Eucharist and/or to provide wine for their new monastic community.

Another story from around 1250 says that, following the devastation of Hungary by the Mongols, King Béla IV called for foreign workers, particularly those with viticultural knowledge, and many people from the town of Formia in Lazio answered the call, bringing their local grapes with them.

The rather taller tale concerns an Italian soldier during the Seven Years War (1756-63) called Forment. Apparently so-called after the Italian for wheat (‘fromento’) because of his reddish-blond beard, Forment distinguished himself during the war and was made Count Formentin and given land in Tokay by a grateful Empress Maria Theresa. Whereupon, of course, he swiftly introduced Furmint from his homeland of Friuli.

The Italian connection is sometimes supported by the idea that its name derives from ‘fiore dei monti’ (flower of the mountains).

The truth: Although one of Furmint’s parents is Gouais Blanc (making it a half-sibling of Chardonnay, Gamay and Riesling among others), Furmint is very solidly Hungarian.

Appealing as the picaresque tale of the Count of Formentin is, we have documentary evidence of Furmint being grown in Hungary a good 200 years before the outbreak of the Seven Years War.

The earlier Italian connections are also, at most, highly improbable. To begin with Furmint has never been observed or documented in Italy.

Secondly, Furmint has no genetic link to any other grape variety being grown in the Italian peninsula today.

One might argue that the missing link was lost to us forever due to phylloxera and it’s ‘possible’ but given the huge number of grape varieties that still exist in Italy, the fact Furmint can’t be linked to any of them makes the hypothesis highly suspect.

10. And the one that is likely to be true? – Merlot

The myth: ‘Merlot means “blackbird” in French’

People have always thought up stories for how plants and animals got their names, how the leopard got is spots and so on. The folklore in southwestern France is that Merlot got its name from the blackbird.

Not only is it the bird called ‘merle‘ in French, the black grapes of the vine match the blackbird’s plumage and the animal has a particular fondness for the fruit.

The truth: Although blackbirds may not be the greatest scourge known to Merlot-growers, the etymology of its name is, in all likelihood, true.

The earliest mention of Merlot in Libourne is dated to 1783-4 where it is described as making, “a black and excellent wine”. A further treatise on the grape in 1824 introduces the modern spelling and explains: “The name merlot was given to this variety because the blackbird likes this grape very much.”

The link is made all the stronger because although the French for blackbird is already a very close fit, in the local Occitan dialect its name is ‘merlau‘, which is even closer as you’ll no doubt agree.

Stories like these have always been an important part of the human experience and have shaped the world we live in. Next time you are in San Francisco, be sure to drop by our showroom at 2337 Ocean Avenue and let’s swap tales of Napa Wine! Or, if you can’t make it in, give me a call or shoot me an email!



Dino Amantite and his mother Norma Pagani Amantite are the devoted caretakers of this iconic and hallowed ground in Sonoma at Dunbar Road and Highway 12 that has been in their family for over a century.

The Pagani Ranch (Sooma) was planted originally in the 1880’s then added to in the 1920’s by Felice Pagani, most of the original vines still produce beautiful fruit. Much of it is field-blended: Zinfandel, Alicante, Lenoir, Petite Sirah, Grand Noir and numerous others -like a big old salad of many heritage varieties, if you will.

Biale 2015 Zinfandel Pagani Ranch, Sonoma 
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 57.99
Use code BIALE during checkout

OK to mix & match with other Biale wines

Winemaker notes: “Blackberry, blueberry, ripe plum, apricot, fig, baking spices, cola, graham cracker and toasted vanilla oak. An integrated package of fat tannins and pleasing taut acidity.”

Vintage Notes: Early harvest yields high quality wine grape crop. In spite of dry conditions, vintners are using words like “quality,” “complexity”, “ageability”, and “excellent” to describe their expectations for the 2015 vintage in Napa Valley. Harvest started and ended with record early dates.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Under $50.00 Cab Franc that will WOW YOU both on the palate as well as your wallet!


After graduating from college in Vermont, winemaker, owner and native New Englander Ian Brand found a job on the Alaskan Peninsula leading groups of tourists to see grizzly bears in the wild. He continued his adventures for five years, ski-bumming, surf-bumming, doing wildlife surveys in the canyons of Utah, and joining the Peace Corps in Ecuador, eventually ending up broke and homeless in Santa Cruz. He felt lucky to find a job at the Bonny Doon Vineyard, where his first harvest hooked him on winemaking. He joined Big Basin Vineyards, an acclaimed Santa Cruz Mountains producer, as vineyard manager and assistant winemaker for four years. In 2008, he and his wife Heather decided to move to Monterey County and strike out on their own – And the rest…. is history!

Bates Ranch is located in the extreme southeastern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.  I-Brand receives the fruit from half of a small block of Cabernet Franc planted in 1978. Soils in this section of vineyard are the red Franciscan series of volcanic influenced sedimentary rocks that runs along the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  So almost 40 year old vines!

I-Brand 2015 Cabernet Franc “Bates Ranch”  Santa Cruz Mountains
Retail 50.00 – GGWC 47.99
Use code IBRAND during checkout

A lot of people don’t know Cab Franc, and take it for granted.  For most it is just another blending grape, but once you get hooked – you’ll see the real inside!  The 2015 I-Brand Cabernet Franc shows a gorgeous aroma that jump out of the glass on impact.  The wine is medium to full in body with a silky smoothness as well as luscious feel.  The wine is elegant with ripe forward fruit flavors, a slight undertone of sage, balanced with good acid (not overwhelming at all) and beautiful red-and black stone fruits.  I highly recommend decanting this youngster for 60-90 minutes before serving.   Only 4 barrels (94 cases) produced!

Also check out their “Monte Bello” I-Brand 2014 Cabernet “Monte Bello” Santa Cruz Mountains

Napa Valley has become synonymous with great California Cabernet Sauvignon. But I’d argue that the state’s greatest and most distinctive cab is not all from Napa, but from a special ridge high in the Santa Cruz Mountains from a vineyard called Monte Bello.  As you know Ridge Winery has been working with this vineyard for almost 50 years.  I-Brand got their hands on a small parcel (211 cases produced), and it is a real jewel!

Click here or on the links above to order!

Premiere Release 85 case Jeff Pisoni Pinot sensation


This 85 case production, 4 barrels is a new road the Luli folks (Sara & Gary Pisoni) have taken.  Working with a single vineyard (Highlands Ranch), instead of a blend of various SLH vineyards.  This Innaugural release will wow you, both on the palate as well as the wallet!

Luli is a partnership formed by Sara Floyd and the Pisoni Family. Sara Floyd is a Master Sommelier with many years of food and wine experience. The Pisoni Family is known for their eponymous vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands and for Pisoni Estate and Lucia wines.

Nestled against the foothills in the heart of the Santa Lucia Highlands, Highlands Ranch is in the direct path of heavy summer fog and wind, which funnels in from nearby Monterey Bay. This allows for a cool, slow-ripening season. Sandy-loam soils provide excellent drainage.

Luli 2015 Pinot Noir “Highlands Ranch” Santa Lucia Highlands 
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 41.99
Use code HIGHLANDS during checkout

Jeff Pisoni winemaker says: “Soft aromatics of bing cherry and rose petals lead off this supple, alluring wine. Floral notes continue to evolve on the mouthfeel, with raspberries and hints of baking spices. A graceful texture showcases the cool, fog-blanketed growing conditions. Lingering tannins are layered and create a soft, satisfying finish. This is a truly romantic wine.”

Click here or on the links above to order!



The latest release of Fisticuffs will really knock your socks off!   Fisticuffs’ vision is to produce the highest quality wine while keeping price well managed  –  in essence, to over deliver, Knock you out. Rob Lawson has been making stunning wines under various “cult” Cabernet labels such as Ghostblock, Mirror, Pahlmeyer and Kapcsandy for many years and did not skip a beat with the stunning 2015 vintage. For those who dream of big and expensive Cabernets and don’t want to pay the big bucks… I have got news for you! This is a wine that tastes a lot more expensive than its price point! This wine is “the” real deal! A knockout value.

Fisticuffs 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 
Retail 38.00 – GGWC 35.99
Use the discount code FIST during checkout

The 2015 Fisticuffs is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet . This “value” Cab offers up aromas of dark chocolate, black cherry, cedar, and rose complement a mouth coating palate of vine ripened blackberry and baked raspberry. The tannins are modestly firm yet subtle and expansive, and slowly yield to mocha and candied pecans on the silky finish.  This wine over delivers for its price point!  This is low $30’s wine that tastes like $60!

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Seismic shifts: Wines on fault lines

Seismic shifts: Wines on fault lines

By Elin McCoy

Can the complex topography created by faults in the earth’s crust really make a difference to a vineyard’s terroir – and its wines? Elin McCoy speaks to geologists and winemakers to find out…

Rhys Vineyards has plots either side of the San Andreas Fault, some just 300m apart, which have different soils and taste profiles

As I take in the sweeping vista of Santa Cruz’s mountain ridges from Rhys Vineyards’ Alpine Vineyard, owner Kevin Harvey explains the complex geology beneath our feet. Below us, California’s infamous San Andreas Fault is slowly, inexorably, grinding away.

I can’t help picturing a massive earthquake creating a vast chasm that will swallow up the vines – and maybe us too. Which gets me to wondering why so many vineyards around the world, from California to New Zealand, have been planted in geological fault zones.

Harvey, a venture capitalist who fell in love with Pinot Noir, spent more than a decade hunting for unique rocky sites where he thought the variety would shine. He wasn’t looking for land near a fault line, but says, ‘Soils near fault zones are often more diverse. They allow drastic differences in rocks and dirt to be located close to each other.’

Two of Rhys’s seven vineyards are only 300m apart, one on either side of the fault, but they have completely different soils. The wines from them taste completely different, too.

The San Andreas Fault bisects the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation, but also runs north to the West Sonoma Coast, where its actions created an equally tormented geologic jumble and shaped the ridge on which David Hirsch began planting his Hirsch Vineyards in 1980. He bought the land because he thought its proximity to the Pacific Ocean was key. But now he likes to say, ‘the San Andreas Fault defines our wines’.

Understanding fault lines

Think of a fault as a fracture in the earth along which rocks have been moved to one side or the other. According to the theory of plate tectonics, a jigsaw puzzle of huge plates of the earth’s crust float on top of a molten rock core. When the Pacific and North American plates crush against each other as they slide sideways, the movement creates zones of broken rock. The 1,000km-long San Andreas Fault is the boundary between the plates – and it’s where earthquakes occur that change the surface of the land.

Not all faults are alike. They can be short or long, wide or narrow, active or inactive. ‘One thing faults do is create complex topography,’ says retired Stanford University geologist David Howell, who is working to unravel the geological mysteries of Bill Harlan’s new Napa Valley Promontory Estate project. ‘Without earthquakes there would be no Napa Valley. Without faults, the Santa Cruz Mountains might look like the flat prairies of Nebraska.’

Professor Alex Maltman of Aberystwyth University, who is writing a book on vineyards and geology, points out that faults not only juxtapose different kinds of bedrock, they affect ground water flow, form valleys, cause erosion and escarpments and more. Indirectly all this may help form sites with exposures and microclimates ideal for grape growing and influences the way vineyards are planted.

An aerial view that clearly shows the San Andreas Fault. It bisects the Santa Cruz Mountain AVA, home to producers such as Rhys Vineyards and Hirsch Vineyards

But the patchwork of soils and crushed rocks from different eras that faults create may be the most important. Long ago, a New Zealand winemaker told me that he thought all the world’s great vineyards lay next to fault lines. And when you start checking the geology of various regions, it’s easy to be persuaded that he’s right.

Faults underlie Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough in New Zealand; Alsace, Burgundy, Gigondas and Jura in France; Heathcote and McLaren Vale in Australia, parts of Italy, southern Oregon, and many more global wine spots. Plenty of winemakers are convinced their effect on terroir has an effect on the wines.

In Alsace, for example, two main northsouth fault lines criss-crossed by smaller ones created bedrock that’s a mosaic of cracks and disruptions. The resulting patches of highly distinctive soils packed into a small area may be the reason for differences in taste and character among the 51 grands crus. The volcanic soil in the famous Rangen vineyard, right next to one main fault line, is rich in minerals found in very few of France’s vineyards. Not surprisingly, all of the old vineyard roads follow the fault lines.

An eruption on the Nîmes fault in Gigondas pushed up limestone slabs (very rare in the Rhône Valley) to high elevations, and those terraces are where the best Grenache wines, with richness and freshness, come from.

In southern Oregon, terrain variation in the Fault Line Vineyard at Abacela winery in the Umpqua Valley, named for the fault that runs diagonally through the property, allows owner Earl Jones to grow a number of different grapes. On one side of the fault are 20 millionyear- old cobblestones, and on the other rocks that are 10 times older; harvest dates between the two differ by two weeks.

Nowhere have faults created more named bits of earth than in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. James Wilson, author of Terroir, points out that all the grand cru vineyards are on the upslope of the fault line, where activity aeons ago threw up the limestone that’s made the vineyards famous.

Risk and reward

Workers move fallen wine barrels at Saintsbury Winery in Carneros following the 2014 earthquake that shook southern Napa

Planting on an active fault line has risks, and consequences can be dire. South of San Francisco, the San Andreas Fault runs directly under Cienega Valley Vineyards’ winery. As the plates move 1.3cm a year, the fault is slowly tearing the building apart.

Napa’s 2014 earthquake destroyed old vintages in Saintsbury’s winery in Carneros and left a scar slicing through the vineyard. Three years ago, a New Zealand quake caused crashing tanks in wineries in Marlborough’s Awatare Valley, and in the huge Chilean earthquake of 2010 some small wineries in Maule lost half of their stock.

But can vines planted on fault lines or in fault zones really convey some kind of special earthy, mineral character to the resulting wines? While some winemakers say yes, geologists scoff at the idea.

Jean Trimbach, whose family owns Maison Trimbach in Alsace, assured me at a tasting in New York of his greatest Rieslings that the fault line in Ribeauvillé, around which his vineyards are clustered, contributes energy, complexity and minerality to his wines. ‘The terroir there is very different from other soils in Alsace,’ he says. ‘The limestone gives the acidity that accounts for our steely style.’ His newest bottling is from the Geisberg grand cru, which lies on the fault line.

Ribeauvillé in Alsace where Trimbach Rieslings, including its wine from the Geisberg grand cru, are made around the fault line

Hirsch believes the soil complexity and diversity in his vineyard, caused by the San Andreas Fault, imparts a broader palette of flavours to his wines. He’s sub-divided the site into 60 blocks and admits that when he’s in a mystical mood, he speculates about the wines having an energetic aspect that he connects to the fault. ‘I fantasise about the heat and pressure in the earth,’ he says. ‘I imagine a lot of energy and dynamism coming through.’

The idea of emanations from deep inside the earth showing up in the glass is a seductive vision, even if geologists roll their eyes and call it a geological fantasy. ‘There’s nothing mystical about a fault,’ Maltman writes tersely in an email to me. ‘No vortexes or mysterious energies.’

No science correlates complexity of a vineyard with complexity in its wines. The relationship between geology and the taste of wine is still poorly understood.

Structural geologist Kevin Pogue at Whitman College did suggest a possible reason for wine taste differences. ‘If a large fault pulverised rocks, it would be easier for water to penetrate and leach out various chemical nutrients, which vine roots could absorb.’

There’s no scientific evidence, really, that fault-line vineyards directly affect the aroma and taste of their wines. But, glass in hand, I keep thinking of the wonderfully earthy character of Rhys Vineyards’ Pinots and all those wine regions formed by faults.

Awarded journalist and author Elin McCoy writes for a variety of publications, including Bloomberg News. For  more tips and information on wine grown in and around California’s fault zones, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 415-337-4083 or email!