100 Point Napa Cabernet


After the success with her own label, Helen Keplinger is out of control (in a very good way)! The latest releases of Carte Blanche Cabernet and Proprietary Red showcase Helen’s amazing talents.  Only a few hundred cases of this mindboggling wine was produced from this “next” Haut Brion of the Napa Valley!  After many high 90s, the wines received a 100 Point rating this time!

This family has been in the wine business for nearly a century, since his great grandfather, Clarence Dillon, acquired Chateau Haut-Brion in 1935 and the family company, Domaine. Clarence Dillon, subsequently purchased Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion in 1983. This was the inspiration to produce his own boutique label in Napa Valley.

Carte Blanche 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
GGWC 154.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code SHIPFREE6 during checkout

OK to mix & match with Carte Blanche Prop Red

Jeb Dunnuck 100 Points: “Lastly, and pure perfection in the glass, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal from two great sites: Missouri Hopper in Oakville and Las Posadas in Howell Mountain. Aged in 100% new French oak, it offers an incredible bouquet of crème de cassis, liquid rock, graphite, lead pencil shavings, and unsmoked tobacco, with searing minerality in the aromatics as well as on the palate. Offering full-bodied richness, terrific concentration, and building tannin, this backward, dense, yet perfectly balanced 2015 needs 4-5 years of cellaring and will impress for 2-3 decades. Bravo!”

Robert Parker 97 Points: “The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is made predominately from Cabernet Sauvignon from Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper vineyard. It gives a very deep purple-black color and is redolent of crème de cassis, blueberry compote, Indian spices and crushed rocks with touches of black soil, cigar boxes and Provence herbs. The palate is built like a brick house with a solid frame of firm, fine-grained tannins and plenty of freshness supporting the generous black and blue fruits and beautiful spice layers, finishing on a lingering mineral note.”

Winemaker Helen Keplinger Notes: “The 2015 Carte Blanche Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal makeup. Cabernet Sauvignon was farmed mainly at Oakville’s Missouri Hopper Vineyard owned by Andy Beckstoffer. A small amount of Cabernet from Las Posadas Vineyard on Howell Mountain was used in the final blend. A super complex nose leaps from the glass, showing dark and red fruits, cassis, graphite, and lead pencil. A broad palate opens to reveal black fruits, hint of red currant, and fresh tobacco leaf, all leading to a mile long silky finish. Enjoyable now with air and built for cellar aging.”

Carte Blanche 2015 Proprietary Red, Napa Valley
GGWC 149.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code SHIPFREE6 during checkout

OK to mix & match with Carte Blanche Cabernet

Jeb Dunnuck 98 Points: “Leading off the 2015s from this estate, the 2015 Proprietary Red is a much more Cabernet-dominated blend than the 2014 and is 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and the rest Malbec. Brought up all in new French oak, this monster effort boasts a deep purple color as well as sensational notes of currants, blackberry liqueur, graphite, espresso roast and leafy herbs. Full-bodied, ripe, opulent and incredibly concentrated, this killer effort needs 2-3 years to shed some baby fat, but it’s going to keep for 2-3 decades.”

Winemaker Helen Keplinger Notes: “The 2015 Carte Blanche Proprietary Red Wine is a Right-Bank inspired blend of 59.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petite Verdot and .5% Malbec. Select vineyards and blocks were chosen and farmed specifically to attain a dense, rich wine framed by delicate fine-grained tannins. Beckstoffer’s Orchard Vineyard Merlot offers a plump & full mid-palate while providing ample nuance. Beckstoffer’s Missouri Hopper Cabernet Sauvignon in Oakville provides a full spectrum of rich and dark fruit, while the Sage Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Franc from Sage Ridge Canyon offers nuances of tobacco, plum, and roasted poblano. The 2015 Proprietary Red shows blackberry, black cherry and espresso on the nose. The palate entry is silky and focused, showcasing currant, crushed blackberries, graphite, and roasted poblano pepper through an enduring finish. 150 cases produced.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Heidi Barrett’s First Ever Chardonnay – STUNNING

Heidi Barrett, the original Screaming Eagle winemaker just announced a brand new wine from La Sirena! Although she made Chardonnay a number of times for her clients over the years, she was not compelled to make her own until a special vineyard site became available in 2016. Well-known vineyard manager Ulysses Valdez told her he had a few tons available from the Rued family original vineyard planted in 1969. She was enticed to have a look, and from there this beautiful Chardonnay was born. Only 173 cases were produced – so hurry!

La Sirena 2016 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
GGWC 69.99
Use code SHIPFREE6 during checkout

Heidi Barrett says: “The first release of a very special Chardonnay from the original planting of the Rued clone. These vines were planted in 1969 and are magnificent, with large gnarly trunks and arms. The wine they produce is quite refined, golden light straw in color with aromas of apples, pears, lemon, and floral honeysuckle notes. The clone is known for its somewhat tropical aromatics – some even refer to it as the Muscat clone of Chardonnay. This one just hints at pineapple with a kiss of delicate French oak. Flavors are bright and clean across the palate with green apple, lemon and pomelo-like fruit character. Lower alcohol (13.2) and crisp acidity make for a delightful fresh old-vine Chardonnay of pure character.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Three closure tales

Three closure tales

BY Bob Campbell MW in Three of a Kind

An aspect of wine bottle closures that is seldom discussed is there ability to protect the wine in less than ideal storage conditions.

I had a chance to compare the effectiveness of three different wine closures after a container of German riesling was affected by heat in transit to New Zealand.

The importer air-freighted control samples for comparison with wines in the container which were sealed with cork, Vinolock and screwcap. To see how each closure performed, read on.

Corks have a remarkable ability to form a tight seal in bottlenecks with variable internal diameters. (Photo: First for women website)


Bottles are made by putting a blob of glass in a mould then blowing air into it so the molten glass splatters to the outside of the mould and forms a bottle which is perfect on the outside but can be misshapen on the inside. Corks have a remarkable ability to form a tight seal in bottlenecks with variable internal diameters. Squeeze a cork and it doesn’t ooze out the other way, it tries to spring back to its original shape.

On the downside, when wine heats up and expands it puts pressure on the cork and will eventually start to force its way out of the bottle. When the wine cools down it can draw air into the bottle. Too much air and the wine may become oxidised and unsaleable.

The German riesling under cork showed clear signs of leakage and oxidation. It was unsaleable.

Vinoloks are easy to remove and reseal with a satisfying click. (Photo: DuPont website)


Vinolok (also sold as Vino-Seal) is a sexy little glass stopper with an inert O-ring. It claims to create a hermetic seal that prevents oxidation. My experience with Vinolok has been very positive. They are easy to remove and reseal with a satisfying click. They are relatively expensive to buy and to package, although in my view they enhance the overall bottle presentation and look smarter than a screwcap.

When compared with control samples, the heat-affected Vinolok-sealed wines from the container did show some deterioration, although they were better than the wines under cork.

Screwcaps are the obvious choice if the wine is likely to be exposed to poor storage conditions. (Photo: Drinks Business Website)


We could find no difference between the heat-affected and control samples. It is possible that the heat-affected wines may not cellar as well as the control samples, but that is sheer speculation and there was no evidence of any deterioration.

If that experience is a reliable indicator of closure resistance to heat, then screwcaps are the obvious choice if the wine is likely to be exposed to poor storage conditions. It is ironic that Asian countries around the equator, where heat damage can be a real issue, tend to have a conservative attitude toward closures, with many wine retailers preferring corks.

To keep your wine safe in transit regardless of closure type, remember that Golden Gate Wine Cellars offers Temperature Controlled shipping to select destinations during the hot summer months. With winter fast approaching though, cold can be just as damaging. Hot or cold. we can store your wine for you free of charge and ship it out when conditions are safe. Call for details! 415-337-4083

100 Pointer by Screaming Eagle owned next Cult Winery!

Stan Kroenke owner of Screaming Eagle is putting the next CULT winery on the map just a few hours south of the bay area! Stan is the mastermind behind many other great ventures.

Stan Kroenke is the owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which is the largest shareholder of English Premier League football club Arsenal and is also the holding company of the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, Denver Nuggets of the NBA, Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League and the newly formed Los Angeles Gladiators of the Overwatch League, just to name a few.

FYI The Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche franchises are currently owned by his wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, to satisfy NFL ownership restrictions that forbid a team owner from owning teams in other markets… Ann is the daughter of Walmart co-founder James Walton.
So purchasing the land that is now Jonata winery is just peanuts…

All joking aside it still takes a good mind, lots of money and a great team to make great wine and I believe they have achieved this at Jonata!


Jeb Dunnuck 98+ Points: “Showing awesome aromatics, as well as an incredible depth on the palate, the 2015 El Alma de Jonata (74% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Petit Verdot and Merlot) reveals an inky purple color as well as killer notes of blackcurrant, spring flowers, dark chocolate, bay leaf and licorice. Possessing full-bodied richness, gorgeous purity of fruit, lots of chalky tannin, and a great finish, this is easily a candidate for the finest Cabernet Franc made in America. It needs 4-5 years of cellaring and will keep for two decades.”

Winemaker Notes: “Impenetrable black color. Swirls out of the glass with deep, dark fruit and green cooling herbs. Classic cassis and black olive. Fleeting notes of lavender. Remains tight today, but can be coaxed out of its shell with air. Sweet bramble and ripe black plum. Opens to a monstrous and mouthwatering texture with tremendous concentration and freshness. Firm high quality tannins frame the fruit. A texturally thrilling and structurally intimidating Alma. One to lay down for a few years as it evolves into a classic”


Jeb Dunnuck 98 Points: “Another killer wine, the 2015 El Desafio de Jonata checks in as 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance equal parts Merlot and Petit Verdot. It offers sensational density and depth, as well as terrific purity and elegance. Black fruits, tar, smoked earth, violets and graphite notes all emerge from this full-bodied, concentrated, tannin beauty. Forget bottles for a decade.”

Winemaker Notes: “An unforgettable wine from two fermentation lots consisting of minuscule berries. Long and slow fermentations that allowed for maximum extraction under ideal conditions. Green mint, black cassis, pencil shavings. Black and red fruit with a creamy, expansive and sweet texture. Cedar and cigar notes. Voluptuous and packed with power. Tannins start early and build to an impressive intensity.”


Jeb Dunnuck 100 Points: “Even better than the crazy-good 2007, the 2015 La Sangre de Jonata is sheer perfection in a glass and up with the finest Syrahs ever made in California! Checking in as a blend of 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier, aged in barrel, its saturated purple color is followed by out of this world aromatics black raspberries, smoked earth, graphite, game, violets and freshly crushed rock-like minerality. Possessing huge concentration, building tannin, and yet a seamless, ethereally pure texture, it needs 2-4 years of bottle age to become approachable. It is unquestionably the finest vintage for this cuvée today and hats off to the team at Jonata for this beauty!”

Winemaker Notes: “We’ve never seen a Sangre like the ’15. Tough to put in to words. Unmatched complexity with ripe blackberry, charred tri-tip and green peppercorn. Luxurious texture. Perfumed, exotic and supple. Creosote, tar, violets and truffle. Such is the power and density of this wine that the formidable tannins on the finish appear merely as soft, dusty and balanced. Everything on a higher level and nothing out of place. Similar only to the 2007 Sangre in which both wines were seamless and gorgeous from the moment the grapes were harvested to the moment we put them in bottle. Very special and rarified air.”

FYI: Jeb was a long time Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate reviewer!

Click here or on the links above to order!


Lieu-dit is a French term for a small geographical area bearing a traditional name. The name usually refers to some characteristic of the place, its former use, a past event, etc. In winemaking circles, a lieu-dit has come to mean the smallest piece of land which has a traditional vineyard name assigned to it and in typical usage translates as “vineyard name”.

In this case, Lieu Dit is a partnership of longtime friends Eric Railsback and Justin Willett. The two met in Santa Barbara while Eric was finishing college and Justin was just beginning his career in winemaking. The two were among a small group of young winemakers and restaurateurs in Santa Barbara unified by a common interest in wine and all its mysteries. Both are sommeliers, one of them a star of the new documentary Somm, teach the basics of Santa Barbara’s wine by focusing on three components: grape variety, alcohol level and age.

Lieu Dit 2017 Cabernet Franc “Sans Soufre” Santa Ynez
Retail 34.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more!
Use code SHIPFREE12 during checkout

The new Cabernet Franc Sans Soufre is one of the most impressive wines I have ever tasted from Lieu Dit. An infusion of dark fruit, lavender, mocha and spice makes a strong first impression. Deep, powerful and voluptuous, with tons of pure Cabernet Franc character, the wine is a pleasure bomb. The 50% whole clusters add nuance, but without being dominant.

Click here or on the links above to order!

Laser Focused, low alchohol Pinot Noir

Waits Mast is a husband and wife Pinot Noir venture that started in 2000 when two Pinotphiles decided to start their own venture. Under the guidance of their consulting winemaker Shalini Shehkar (Roar, William Selyem)  and the staff at Roar they started production of their own label, and the rest as they say…. is history.

The Oppenlander Vineyard is well off the beaten path in Mendocino County outside of the town of Comptche. It’s about eight miles from the Pacific Ocean as the crow flies at an elevation of 250 feet. Oppenlander is owned by the Shandel family, 5th generation owners of the property, and was originally homesteaded in the 1860s by their ancestors from Denmark (via the Gold Rush in Australia). 

Waits Mast 2014 “Oppenlander” Pinot Noir, Mendocino
GGWC 49.99
Use code SHIPFREE6 during checkout

The beautiful ruby color of the 2014 Oppenlander is a prelude to the fresh black fruits at the forefront of the nose. The nose is densely packed with aromas of plum and black cherry, cedar, brioche, sagebrush, and a hint of gardenia. The laser focus of the palate exhibits the same red fruits and balances weight with bright acidity. The finish is lengthy and the fruit flavors are complimented by a light toastiness in the finish and a touch of florality. Drink now and over the next 5-7 years.  Only 165 cases were produced. Alc.13.5%

94 Point Rating: “Coming from a single vineyard along the Mendocino coast, this wine has smoky savory flavors that complement the just-ripe fruit flavors and give a truly maverick but easy-to-enjoy personality. It is medium bodied, velvet textured, and has good structure, fine-grained tannins and enough concentration for a lingering finish.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Terroir: Real or imagined?

Terroir: Real or imagined?

By Allen Balik

In a recent column, “Chardonnay—the chameleon of wine?” (July 13, 2018), I referred to the two radically different faces of this noble grape. One is its very malleable nature that can pose a “blank canvas” open to seemingly endless manipulation by willing winemakers and marketing directors to echo their stylistic direction. On the other side is Chardonnay’s inherent quality and ability to reflect the terroir of the specific growing region. Definitely two sides of a very complex personality that extends far beyond Chardonnay when terroir becomes the subject.

While terroir is one of the most discussed topics in the world of wine, it is also one of the least understood and lately has become one of the most controversial. The wine community, in general, agrees that terroir is a real — yet subjective — expression of the vine’s total environment and most pronounced when appreciated in quality wine production. Yet a growing group of staunch scientific researchers dismiss it as a myth and something that cannot be scientifically measured or proven. So let’s take a look at some history, opposing opinions and a recent personal experience surrounding this most elusive concept.

“Terroir” stems from the French “terre” meaning land, although there is no precise translation of the term to English. And it most certainly goes far beyond the soil in which the vine is growing.

In addition to soil composition, the wine grapegrowing and winemaking community also considers climatic conditions of the area, elevation and grade, exposure, day-to-night (diurnal) temperature variation, rainfall, drainage, wind patterns, relative humidity, daylight hours and other factors that don’t often lend themselves to precise measurement.

Terroir has always received far more recognition in the Old World growing areas. But over the last few decades, we see the term rapidly gaining respect in the New World as well. Within the terroir advocacy group, the argument seems to have shifted somewhat from soil dominating the conversation to the effect of weather and climatic conditions also assuming a lead role.  Climate change is occupying a principal position in this conversation as evidenced by the exploration of alternative varietals (growing in the same soils) to compensate for rising temperatures with varying storm patterns and rainfall amounts. Also, we’ve witnessed the development of new, previously inhospitable, growing areas such as world-class sparklers from England.

The recognition of terroir dates to the ancient Greeks as they noticed wines made from the same grape variety exhibited different characteristics when grown in different regions. Over time, the more celebrated regions were held in higher acclaim based on the superiority of their wines.

Centuries later, the concept was eventually adopted in Burgundy by the religious orders that farmed the vineyards. It later became the basis of France’s Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) and subsequently all other appellation laws throughout the world including our own AVA designations in the U.S.

On the scientific side, Mark Matthews, a professor of viticulture at UC Davis, takes an opposite opinion in his book, “Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing” as well as in additional papers he’s published. To paraphrase, it is Dr. Matthews’ opinion (like many others in the scientific community) that if something can’t be measured and proven, it doesn’t exist. In a Wine Spectator online post of April 19 Contributing Editor Matt Kramer went to great lengths in repudiation of Matthews’ position. He stated, “When scientists assert there’s no evidence of terroir, the proof is on the palate.” Kramer also pointed out that Matthews, while sharply critical of terroir’s existence, does not refer to a tasting experience in his writings.

Summing up the wine community’s view, I looked to Michel Chapoutier, (world renowned and highly respected head of M. Chapoutier in France’s Rhone Valley) who has said in support of terroir, “Varietal wines can be the ‘rock music’ that gets people into the subject [but] ‘classical music’ can be provided by wines of terroir.”

Last week, along with friends visiting from the Los Angeles area, we paid a visit to Dutton-Goldfield in Green Valley of the Russian River Valley AVA. Co-proprietor/winemaker Dan Goldfield is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the winery. Dan, has been a true proponent of terroir since its founding and many years before by popularizing single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs for other praiseworthy producers.

Dan now makes 12 different Pinot Noirs in addition to a number of Chardonnays, a very Alsatian-styled pair of Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer, along with a Zinfandel and a Syrah. The array of vineyards in Dutton-Goldfield’s enviable portfolio stretch from northern Marin (with two vineyards in the Gap’s Crown AVA) in the south to northern Mendocino county in the north.

Each vineyard, hand-selected by Dan, must demonstrate not only the health of the vines and soils but also a cool climate to preserve the grape’s true character and the continuing commitment of the grower. While all the vineyards exhibit these qualities individually, harvest from one to the other can vary in some years by four or five weeks and is greatly influenced by the specific terroir of each site.

During our most informative tasting, hosted by General Manager Valerie Wathen and tasting room host extraordinaire Blake Everett, we sampled four different Pinots from the 2014 vintage, each distinct for its individual personality that demonstrated the character of the vineyard. There were no test tubes or scientific monitors at the table but the reflection of terroir expressing the fingerprint of each wine came through loud and clear. The tasting clearly illustrated how climate, soil, exposure and altitude among other factors combined (in a totally subjective manner) to create individual aromatic, flavor and textural expressions.

Australian wine icon Brian Croser stated in his recent review of “Wine and Place—The Terroir Reader” on the Jancis Robinson website, “Without unique and special environmental triggers there are no ingredients of greatness in the grape and there can be no great wine, despite the employment of the most sophisticated of viticultural and winemaking practice.” It is a long held mantra that a “great” wine can only be made from superb fruit. And that’s where the concept of terroir, combined with the skill of devoted growers and winemakers, rises to its highest level.

What do you think? Can you tell the differences in terroir when tasting different wines? Join us at one of our weekly wine tastings when we sample some of Californias best boutique wines and see for your self! Or if you can’t make it to San Francisco, give me a call at 415-337-4083 and I’ll be happy to help you put together a tasting of your own!

Yet another high-scoring “TRB” Napa Cab Release

Robert Parker 97+ Points:
“Produced from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 20 months in French oak, 90% new, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Melanson Vineyard Pritchard Hill has a deep purple-black color and a rock star nose of black currant cordial, dark chocolate, black forest cake and licorice with touches of charcoal, Chinese five spice, potpourri and black soil. Full-boded, concentrated and completely seducing in the mouth, the palate offers bold, beautiful black fruit and exotic spice layers, framed by velvety tannins, finishing very long and perfumed. 210 cases were made.”

Pulido Walker 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Melanson Vineyard” 97+ Points
GGWC 229.99
FREE SHIPPING on 3 or more
Use code SHIPFREE3 during checkout

Thomas Rivers Brown Tasting Notes: “The 2015 Pulido~Walker Cabernet Sauvignon from Melanson Vineyard will be drinkable early on, as the naturally more concentrated fruit from a smaller harvest makes the wine more accessible. Still, there is no lack of backbone beneath the surface. Like previous vintages, the 2015 Melanson will not fade over time, but will continue to be a long ager, revealing more of its character as the years progress. We’ve come to believe ten years is the minimum this wine will benefit from resting in bottle, to evolve an ever more savory, black walnut quality, express its tannins, and develop an intellectually interesting complexity.”

PS: The Pulido-Walker family lost their home and estate vineyard in the 2017 Napa fire.  They can use our support!

Also check out:

Click here or on the links above to order!

A Saintly Priced Syrah!

Chris Kiranbay (Saint K) was involved in the Washington DC restaurant industry. When he took a trip to Napa in 2006 he decided that he had to move to California. Eventually winding up in Paso Robles in 2010. He worked in fine dining, and started a wine brokerage, and as Chris said: “he had found my people”.  After settling in at Herman Story Wines in 2013, he started making a little of his own wine.

Saint K “Days Gone By” 2016 Syrah, Santa Barbara
GGWC 39.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more!
Use code SHIPFREE6 during checkout

Thick and dark in the glass, this is a very roasty wine on the nose, with aromas of toasted chocolate, smoked beef, hearty blackberry and a bit of purple-flower freshness. Charred meat flavors make for a savory palate, which is balanced by tart black plum and blueberry flavors and cut by a hint of lavender. Only 90 cases produced!

Winemaker Notes: “Gun smoke, cloved tobacco, blueberry compote and black olive tapenade segue into a full, focused core. Grippy tannin provides depth while traces of campfire, flint and granite are unveiled. Finishes with bramble berry, brushed sage, cherry cola and pink peppercorn.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Robert Parker’s Top 3 in VALUE


Stack House Cabernet is the husband and wife effort of Anna & Mario Monticelli. Anna’s was the assistant winemaker at Bryant Family and is the current winemaker at Piña. Her husband Mario has worked with legendary winemaker Philippe Melka at Melka, Hundred Acre, Vineyard 29, Quintessa, and Lail.

Stack House 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
GGWC 37.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code SHIPFREE12 during checkout

Robert Parker: “Composed of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 6% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc, aged in French oak (40% new) for 23 months, the 2015 Stack House Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley sports a medium to deep garnet-purple color and nose of ripe blackberries, blackcurrant cordial plus loads of black pepper, baking spice and dried herbs in the background. Medium-bodied, softly textured and refreshing in the mouth, it gives oodles of juicy fruit and good persistence. This is a great value, and a classic taste of Napa Valley.”

Click here or on the links above to order!