A 95 Point Under $60 Napa Powerhouse

I can’t believe it but White Rock has been around for over 30 years! I fondly recall their 1987 Claret, which was their second release. That was the first vintage I was introduced to in 1990, the beginning of my “wine career”. The Vandendriessches have an amazing property that is nestled on and between a few mountain slopes in Stag’s Leap. This estate has been able to produce old-world-style wines from its property for over three decades now.

White Rock 2016 Claret (Cabernet Blend) “Estate” Napa Valley
GGWC 59.99
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The 2016 vintage of Claret (a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot) is a perfect blend of dense fruit, spice and refined tannins, reflective of the vintage’s long growing season and the estate’s mineral intensive terroir. On the nose, we find cherry, blueberry and raspberry; and notes of brambly fruit, Moroccan spice, and graphite that yield to a lush, velvety mouthfeel and a long finish. Drinking beautifully now and will only improve with age.

Vinous 95 Points:White Rock’s 2016 is a powerful, structured wine that is going to need at least a few years to soften and start coming together. Today, the tannins remain imposing, but behind all of that heft lies a core of super-expressive fruit that is just waiting to emerge. Iron, smoke, chocolate, grilled herbs and crushed rocks add myriad shades of nuance to this beautifully chiseled, brooding Cabernet from White Rock.”

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10 Tips for Champagne Service

10 Tips for Champagne Service

by Tim Gaiser MS
Napa Valley Wine Academy

Recently, I was sharing dinner with a good friend and fellow Master Sommelier at a bistro in the nation’s heartland. We ordered a bottle of Blanc de Blancs Champagne from an excellent grower-producer. What followed, in terms of our server opening the bottle, was somewhere between comedy and tragedy. While telling us about the evening’s specials, our server blissfully destroyed the capsule on the bottle, took the cage off, and waved the bottle around as if it were a half-gallon of milk. In short, everything that could have been done wrong to open the bottle—was done wrong.

There’s really only one way to do Champagne service correctly, and safety is the most important aspect. Every year people are injured by opening a bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne improperly. Having said that, here are important tips for servers and sommeliers on how to open a bottle of Champagne correctly—and safely.

Safety First! In proper Champagne service, safety is priority one. The average bottle of sparkling wine has over 120 pounds per square inch—more than the average auto tire. That means the following:

  1. Make sure the bottle you’re opening is thoroughly—and evenly—chilled. When you go to retrieve the bottle feel the neck and the bottom of the bottle. If the neck is warmer than the bottom of the bottle be forewarned lest you momentarily reenact the end of a Formula One race.
  2. Never point the bottle at someone at the table—or anyone else, for that matter. Always be aware of the direction the bottle is pointed when opening it.
  3. Never take the cage off the bottle when opening. Along with not pointing the bottle at anyone this is the other epic fail in Champagne service. Taking the cage off a bottle when opening is beyond dangerous. Safe standards mean placing a serviette over the top of the bottle, loosening the cage, and then removing the cage and cork at the SAME time. No exceptions.
  4. Never take your hand off the top of the bottle when opening. This should be self-explanatory. If the cage is loosened and you take your hand off the top of the bottle even for a moment, the cork/cage could easily come blasting out much to the surprise, consternation, and embarrassment of all concerned. The same goes for switching hands when opening the bottle. Don’t do it—it’s dangerous.
  5. Cut the capsule under the cage with the blade of your corkscrew. While most bottles of sparkling wine and Champagne have pull-tabs, they rarely work. The more expensive the wine the more useless they are; Dom Perignon is a case in point.
  6. Use a serviette over the top of the bottle when opening. The serviette will add an extra surface to grip the top of the bottle when opening; it will also catch any wine that may somehow leave the bottle just after the cork is removed.
  7. Pouring: serve one glass at a time with a maximum of two pours. Going around the table pouring half glasses then making another lap to fill them up is ludicrous—that’s Holiday Inn banquet service.
  8. Use a still wine grip when pouring. When serving the bottle, hold it as you would a bottle of still wine. You may be tempted to use the “thumb in the punt” grip, but it’s not safe. However, holding the entire bottom of the bottle is acceptable and at times necessary (refilling glasses at a reception).
  9. No drips! Make sure your serviette is always at the ready to catch any drips.
  10. Pouring order: the host—the person who ordered the wine—is poured a 1.5-ounce taste of wine for approval. After the host approves, the wine is served in the following order: guest of honor first (they will be seated to the right of the host), followed by lady guests, then gentlemen, with the host being served last regardless of gender. In formal service, one usually has to make two trips around the table to serve the bottle. The exception to that rule is if there are eight or more at the table. In this case, simply make one trip around the table moving clockwise always with the host served last.

Cheers!

On that note, check out Frank’s Bubbly Suggestions:

CLOTILDE BRUT “GRAND-CRU” CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE
FRANCOISE BEDEL NV BRUT CHAMPAGNE “ORIGNI-ELLE”
HENRI DOSNON BRUT ROSE CHAMPAGNE
MONTHUYS CHAMPAGNE NV BRUT, 750ML
EN TIRAGE 2010 BLANC DE BLANCS, BECKSTOFFER CARNEROS
ALLIMANT LAUGNER CREMANT ROSE D’ALSACE
CAZLAS, 2009 LA CHAPELLE DU CLOS, GRAND CRU BLANC DE BLANCS CHAMPAGNE
STEPHANE COQUILLETTE CARTE D’OR BRUT CHAMPAGNE
ANDRE ROBERT CHAMPAGNE BRUT “RESERVE” GRAND CRU, BLANC de BLANCS, LE MESNIL
LOUIS DE GRENELLE PLATINE CREMANT DE LOIREf

97 Point Napa Cab Gem under $80

Always fun to find a hidden gem – Leto is one of them!  The wine is made by Brad Warner, a longtime Napa veteran (50 years).  The name Leto has Greek origins meaning, “the hidden one,” which speaks to Brad’s decades of experience behind-the-scenes for other producers.

The 2015 Leto Cabernet, is sourced from a Saint Helena vineyard. Only 143 of this gem were produced, so jump on it as it will sell out fast!

Leto 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Retail 85.00 – GGWC 79.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
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97 Points by a Master Sommelier: “The 2015 Leto is a classically styled Napa Valley Cabernet with aromas of ripe black currant, red plum, graphite and wild rose.  These aromatics beautifully complement a mouth coating palate of black raspberry, Bing cherry and crushed granite, dark chocolate and liquid floral. The tannins are finely grained and well integrated with beautifully expansive, opulent flavors. A nice lingering acidity keep the palate lively all the way through the exceptionally long, plush finish.  A truly exceptional effort and a stunning example of Napa Cabernet!”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Sauvignon of the year by Scarecrow winemaker… A must have!

Celia has earned many great accolades as the winemaker of Scarecrow, Corra, Rewa, Castiel, Keever and many other wineries.  This latest Sauvignon Blanc, the Keever 2018 vintage is probably the best to come from this estate ever.  Unfortunately a very small production!

The fruit for this Sauvignon Blanc was grown both on the Keever Estate Vineyard in Yountville’s western hills and on the Jonquil Ranch, located in the dry eastern soils of Napa Valley. The fruit was hand-harvested and gently pressed, then fermented in a combination of French oak and stainless steel barrels. The wine was left on the lees for approximately six months with biweekly battonage before bottling in March 2019

Keever 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
GGWC 37.99
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Winemaker Notes: “Fresh, bright lemon zest, fresh pineapple and white floral notes lift from the glass of this bright, clean Sauvignon Blanc, which a very subtle hint of vanilla and caramel add balance and complexity. On the palate, the texture is both crisp and juicy, again showing ripe fruit character in this multi-faceted expression of Sauvignon Blanc. True to the Keever style, the wine displays a balanced acidity paired with a crisp, dry finish, and stands alone as gracefully as it pairs with lighter-style meals.

Also, check out the Keever 2015 “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

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A 96 Point Rated Napa Oldie, but Goodie Cabernet

Ric Forman does not need an introduction.  Forman goes back to 1978 when Ric purchased the current winery/vineyard on a ridge at the base of Howell Mountain overlooking the town of St. Helena. A remarkable site, it has produced some unusually elegant wines.  The first vintage was 1983… and still counting.

Forman 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Napa Valley
GGWC 119.99
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Vinous 96 Points: The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is dense, pliant and wonderfully expressive. Ric Forman’s wines are always on the restrained side, but the 2015 packs a good bit of punch. Sweet red cherry, raspberry, sage, mint, and rose petal overtones all add to the wine’s precision and nuance. In 2015, Forman took in fruit from Thorevilos, which he co-manages with David Abreu, but ultimately decided to add that juice to the Cabernet Sauvignon rather than bottle it separately. Dollops of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec round out the blend. This is one of the classiest wines of the vintage.

Winemaker Notes: “This is an extremely pretty wine from a classic vintage. I love the very warm earthy Cabernet tones – is this from Bordeaux?  Layer upon layer open as the wine aerates. Tobacco and ripe berry jam aromas blend so beautifully with a subtle vanilla-smoky oak background. One could go on and on as there are so many agreeable facets to ponder and enjoy. Wow! The flavors to do not disappoint either. The multi-faceted aromas are echoed in the flavor and are surrounded with a mouth-filling richness of ultra-fine and ripe phenolics with a delicious bold finish. It’s hard not love this one!”

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The Other Cabernet You Really Should Care About!!!

The Other Cabernet You Really Should Care About!!!

In 1997, plant geneticists proved definitively that the grape variety Cabernet Franc is one of the direct parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, conceived centuries ago during a fertile fling with Sauvignon Blanc in a French, or possibly Spanish, vineyard.  When researchers at the University of California, Davis, announced that genetic testing had confirmed the parentage it was an exciting, but not exactly bolt-out-of-the-blue moment. That’s because of the overlapping, and sometimes confusing, names.


Vineyards in Pomerol/Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux / Getty

For centuries, the Bordeaux tradition has been to mix Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc together with Merlot, and, to a lesser extent, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère. This “Bordeaux-style blend” is now copied around the world, from Tuscany to Chile and California.

Wine lovers understand Merlot as a softer, more approachable wine than Cabernet Sauvignon, which brings a gentle touch to a blend. However, Cabernet Franc is not always so tame. It can add a twist of green or black peppercorn, a pinch of grilled sage or a whiff of tobacco.

One of the most celebrated producers in Bordeaux to use Cabernet Franc as its lead grape is Château Cheval Blanc in Saint-Émilion. Planted to 52% Franc, 43% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Premier Grand Cru estate proves that Cabernet Franc does not always make lean wines.

When truly ripe and grown in ideal locations, the dark blue-to-black Cabernet Franc grapes can yield generous, mouth-filling blueberry flavors, full body and grippy tannins. Its wines can age and improve for decades.

Most vineyards in the Right Bank appellations, which include Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, grow both Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Merlot dominates at famed Château Petrus and many other properties, but chateaus like Angélus, Lafleur and Le Dôme emphasize Cabernet Franc.

Appellation laws for Bordeaux wines don’t allow varietal names on the labels. Buyers of French wines instead focus on geographic identity and brand. Whether labeled with the broad, regional appellations like Bordeaux Appellation d’origine contrôlée(AOC) or even the more defined like St.-Émilion AOC, it hasn’t been vital to know the varietal content to gauge a wine’s quality and taste.

The geographic naming convention gives Bordeaux winemakers flexibility when weather affects one grape variety, but not others. Cabernet Franc vines begin to grow earlier in the spring than Cabernet Sauvignon, and they usually ripen a week or two earlier.

During vintages where the weather turns cold and rainy in the late summer or early fall, it can bring dilution and spoilage in Cabernet Sauvignon still on the vines. However, Cabernet Franc may have already been harvested in great condition under sunny skies.

For the same reason, Cabernet Franc is more popular in several of the world’s more northerly and cool wine regions, where Cabernet Sauvignon, a notorious late-ripener, may not become ripe enough to make consistent high-quality wine. Examples include the Loire Valley of France, the northern Italian regions of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and the Finger Lakes region of New York, where Franc is the third most popular Vitis vinifera variety.

CHECK OUT THESE GREAT CABERNET FRANCS  (& Cab Franc based wines)
BEHRENS FAMILY 2015 LABOR OF LOVE PROPRIETARY RED, NAPA VALLEY
CROCKER STARR 2016 “ESTATE” CABERNET FRANC, NAPA  96 Points (Best in the world)
CROCKER STARR “BRIDESMAID”  PROPRIETARY RED NAPA VALLEY
TRESPASS 2015 “RENDEZ-VOUS” BORDEAUX BLEND ESTATE ST. HELENA NAPA VALLEY
TRESPASS 2016 CABERNET FRANC “ESTATE” NAPA VALLEY
ZIATA 2012 CABERNET FRANC, OAKVILLE NAPA VALLEY (SIGNED MAGNUM)
KEENAN  CABERNET FRANC, NAPA VALLEY
I-BRAND 2015 CABERNET FRANC “BATES RANCH” SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS
MELIS FAMILY 2015 PROPRIETARY RED, NAPA VALLEY

 

This 125 case Hidden Napa Cab Gem will not break the bank!

This ONE acre vineyard located next to Grace Family in St. Helena has been putting out some amazing wine over the past couple of years.  All courtesy of a 100 Point winemaker who turned this little piece of dirt in a pile of gold flakes!  The winery is owned by four friends, neighbors, the Martin and Croshaw families, thus MC4! The 2016 vintage marks the eight release from this great venture and I am proud to serve it up!

MC4 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate  St. Helena
GGWC 79.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
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I was happily surprised how well this youngster showed from the get-go.  Bold and bright flavors on the nose of palate – black stone fruit, chocolate and espresso beans jump out of the glass and tease the palate.  Great density, yet well-balanced and elegant showcasing the intensity of a linebacker and the elegance of a ballerina – translated bold flavors, great body and a elegant long-fine-grained finished that finishes with silky tannins.  Another great achievement from one of Napa’s smallest vineyards.

94 Points Parker:  The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon sports a medium to deep garnet-purple color and nose of crushed wild blueberries, black cherries and mulberries with touches of cigar box, baking spices and dark chocolate plus a waft of sage. Medium to full-bodied, the palate features appealing restraint, with taut, muscular fruit and fantastic tension, finishing long and softly textured.”

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A Classic MUST HAVE Chardonnay!

Bibiana González Rave is the founder and winemaker of Cattleya Wines. She is also the wife of star winemaker Jeff Pisoni.  Born and raised in Colombia and trained as a winemaker in France, she moved to California in 2007 to settle into making extraordinary wines.  In her words: “Since my early teenage years, my dream has been to make wine. At a very young age I was fortunate enough to begin learning how to make wine in France. I trained myself while working with some amazing winemakers who showed me the importance of loving the land, how to respect the farming itself, and to focus on the many details that go into making each drop of wine in each and every bottle.”  She  also made the wines at Pahlmeyer,  and produces “Shared Notes” wines with husband Jeff Pisoni.  All those ingredients together and you have one of the best winemakers in the country!

Cattleya 2017 Chardonnay Cuvee Number Five, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 52.99
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The Cuvee 5 is a classically made Chardonnay with a lively mineral profile and alluring frehsness derived from the maritime influence of the Sonoma Coast.  Upfront, sexy and round in texture.  Enjoy the floral character and the zesty hints of lime, which are rounded out by a creamy texture in the mid-palate where you are greeted by tropical fruits and white flowers and a touch vanilla. This is a flashy Chardonnay that you will be able to enjoy for years to come!

Also check out these other great wines made by Bibiana:
CATTLEYA 2016 SYRAH “SOBERANES” SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS – 98 POINTS!
CATTLEYA 2017 PINOT NOIR CUVEE NUMBER ONE – RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY 95 PoInts
CATTLEYA 2018 ALMA DE CATTLEYA SAUVIGNON BLANC, SONOMA
CATTLEYA 2017 PINOT NOIR CUVEE NUMBER ONE – RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY

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MY FAVORITE NEIGHBOR CAB IS BACK … 97 POINTS!!

I am thrilled to pass on outstanding news! Once again, Robert Parker has reviewed My Favorite Neighbor 2017 as the highest scoring wines in the world in its price-point!

In fact, it outscores 99% of the wines in the world across all price-points!

A very exciting time to be part of MFN’s growth as it continues to garner great accolades from Robert Parker, Anthony Galloni, and Jeb Dunnuck. And it tastes great too!

What started as an homage to Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure Winery and his Bordeaux roots quickly became an obsession. Stretching wide across the Westside Hills of Paso Robles is clay soil amazingly similar to those found in Napa and Bordeaux. Today, these special sites are farmed meticulously by the farmers who have become My Favorite Neighbors. With their dedication to the land, we are able to craft a world-class wine without any shortcuts or compromises. Welcome to the Neighborhood.

Booker “My Favorite Neighbor” Cab Blend, Paso Robles
Retail 85.00 – GGWC 82.99
FREE SHIPPING on SIX or more!
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Jeb Dunnuck 97 Points: “The 2017 My Favorite Neighbor is in the same ballpark and offers terrific notes of crème de cassis, tobacco leaf, lead pencil shavings, and cedary herbs. It’s a full-bodied, silky, impeccably balanced beauty that has just subtle background oak, a stacked mid-palate, and terrific purity of fruit.”

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Wine of the Year Source at a fraction the cost!

Kanzler is still a winery floating below the radar, but that will chance soon!.  As you might know Kosta Browne received Top Honors a few yeas ago WINE OF THE YEAR in the Top 100 of Wine Spectator with their Pinot Noir, and the fruit was sourced from…. You guessed it KANLZER!  That said, the Kanzler folks are not walking in the clouds after that review but have been acknowledged as one of the best growers of Pinot Noir in California.  Their latest bottling is truly amazing and a fraction the cost of Kosta Browne!

Kanzler 2017 Pinot Noir “Estate” Russian River Valley
GGWC 64.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
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The 2017 Kanzler Pinot is complex, multilayered and sure to be a crowd pleaser. It showcases classic Russian River Valley depth, texture, and lushness, while also being taunt, elegant and almost weightless on the mid-palate. The wine glides across the palate leaving bursts of fruit, spice, earth, and oak that echo into a sustained finish. Most tasting notes were taken after the bottle had been open for about 16 hours and the wine is still developing. Give the 2017s a hearty decant or open the night before enjoying. This wine is a wonderful sipper but during tasting my mind immediately goes to grilled meats cooked on an open fire, ideally on the gamey side like a leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic; or pork belly with black soy.

The wine is a blend of 70% Kanzler Estate, 22% Walker Station, 6% Mes Filles, 2% Wind Horse

Winemaker Notes: “A virtual potpourri of aromatics including strawberry and tart cranberry fruit, Darjeeling tea, red licorice, and earthy clay and mushroom notes make for a delightful nose. The wine hits the palate with classic Pinot Noir velvety texture. A burst of crisp acidity, framing plum, strawberry and rhubarb fruit sets up camp in the mid-palate and persists into a long distinctive finish with echoes of bacon, rosemary, anise, and toasty French oak. A complex and compelling wine.”

CALL 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com to order!