Jeff Pisoni’s “FINEST” Lucia Garys Pinot EVER – 96 POINTS

The Pisoni family has been farming Monterey County soil since the turn of the 19th century, when their ancestors immigrated to California. In 1951, Eddie and Jane Pisoni founded Pisoni Farms, a commercial produce operation in the Salinas Valley. They purchased land in 1979 high above the valley floor to graze cattle. At the time, this seemed all it was suited for. But their son Gary had other ambitions for the highland property. He wanted to make wine.

His parents said he was nuts for wanting to plant grapes and that people go broke looking for water. This all may have been partly true. In 1982, with no water source, Gary planted his first five-acre vineyard block on an east-facing slope at 1,300 feet. After eight years of searching, he finally discovered groundwater beneath hundreds of feet of granite. He planted another seventeen acres to Pinot Noir, and it wasn’t long before California artisan winemakers started lining up to buy his grapes.

The first vintage of Lucia debuted in 2000 with the Lucia Pinot Noir from the Garys’ Vineyard. It was the beginning of a new chapter for the Pisoni family, with Mark and Jeff Pisoni joining their father Gary to pursue a shared dream of building the family wine business and adding winemaking to grape growing.

Today, with Mark as grower and Jeff as winemaker, Lucia wines are considered among the finest in California. In the Wine Advocate, Jeb Dunnuck wrote: “The Pisoni Family’s Lucia label continues to be a source of incredible wines that always over-deliver.”

Lucia 2018 Garys’ Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
GGWC 72.99
Use code LUCIA18 during checkout

Jeb Dunnuck 96 POINTS: The 2018 Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard is a little more dense, focused, and tight, with beautiful black cherry and currant fruits as well as notes of camphor, new leather, violets, and earthy notes. I love its balance. Medium to full-bodied, it has nicely integrated acidity, subtle oak, and a great finish. It’s going to keep for 7-8 years, easily. Along with the 2016, it’s the finest vintage of this release I’ve tasted!

Jeff Pisoni (winemaker) Notes: “True to form, the 2018 Lucia Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir yet again stands up to meet its lofty reputation as one of the most highly regarded sites for Pinot Noir in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Starting in the glass with an unyielding dark ruby hue from its rim to its core, this wine flaunts its youth with aromas of black cherry, ripe plum, and citrus blossom. Taking advantage of a near perfect growing season, the vines ripened their clusters slowly and consistently, setting the stage for a wine of notable purity, complexity, and structure. Dark berry and graphite notes weave together with bright, lively acidity and soft, supple tannin to form a final seamlessly integrated finish. A remarkable combination of meticulous winemaking in an ideal vintage, this Pinot Noir is wonderful at the moment, but will age gracefully for years.”

Also check out:

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Top Sommelier’s 5 BARREL, 94 POINTS SYRAH GEM


My great friend John Lancaster, sommelier and GM at the venerable Boulevard Restaurant and his buddy Rob Perkins have been making Skylark for some years now, and their latest Rodgers Creek Syrah is one of those below the radar gems – great quality, small quantity and most of all great price point 

Skylark 2016 Syrah “Rodgers Creek” Sonoma
GGWC 44.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code SKYLARK during checkout

Jeb Dunnuck 94 Points: From a great vineyard in Sonoma, the 2016 Syrah Rodgers Creek Vineyard was 75% destemmed and spent 20 months in barrels. Côte Rôtie-like notes of spiced black raspberries, cured meats, ground pepper, and flowers all emerge from the glass of this medium to full-bodied red, which has a core of sweet fruit and a great finish.
Winery Notes: “We picked Rodgers Creek on September 30, the first time pre-October in our history for this cool climate vineyard. After 24 months in the barrel, we bottled this beauty unfined and unfiltered. With its unique site and clonal material, Rodgers Creek once again makes a strong statement for terroir on the Sonoma Coast hillsides.

Tasting Notes: “Opaque. Layers of aromas starting with olive tapenade, raspberry, blackberry, white pepper and a suggestion of forest floor from the whole clusters. The palate is ripe and silky, with the blue fruits turning textural and creamy. A dash of white pepper and inner mouth perfume of violet bring a savory complexity to the long and satisfying finish.”

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96 Point, Seductive, 200 case Chardonnay = MUST HAVE!


This comes from more than 20-year-old vines that are farmed by the Ulises Valdez family and planted 75% to Old Wente and 25% to Robert Young clone. It was barrel fermented and aged for 18 months in 100% Burgundian oak, 50% new. It went through 100% malolactic. The Chardonnay UV Vineyard reveals lovely ripe pears, fresh nectarines and green guava notes with hints of orange blossoms, honeycomb and shaved almonds plus a touch of nutmeg. Medium to full-bodied, that palate has a beautiful satiny texture and loads of expressive stone fruit and tropical flavors, finishing long and spicy.

Carte Blanche 2018 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 74.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code CB18CHD during checkout

Winemaker Notes: This infamous vineyard, owned and farmed by the one and only, Ulises Valdez, is home to the longtime prized clones of Wente and Robert Young Chardonnay. The wine is comprised of both clones, 75% Wente and 25% Robert Young, providing everything we love about Chardonnay – depth, weight, finesse, brightness – all fittingly strung together in seamless harmony. The vineyard is six miles from the Pacific Ocean and contains a unique mix of sand and clay – the “Sebastopol Clays.” The 2018 UV Vineyard Chardonnay lures you in with a seductive nose of roasted hazelnut, brioche, lemon curd, Asian pear, white lily and baked pastry crust.  An ultra-silky entry, a beam of acidity carries through to the finish. Plush and broad, this wine shows layers of white flowers, lemon curd, pastry flour, toasted hazelnut, and honey in an everlasting finish.  200 cases produced.

Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: “These Carte Blanche releases are made by the incredibly talented Helen Keplinger. Her Chardonnay UV Vineyard offers a beautiful stone fruit and citrus quality as well as more Chablis-like minerality, oyster shell and fresh cream notes. Beautifully balanced, incredibly pure, and vibrant on the palate, it’s a no brainer purchase that’s up with the crème de la crème of Chardonnay from California. It will keep for over a decade.”

Also, check out these other gems:
Carte Blanche 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon – 97 Points
Keplinger 2018 Sumo Proprietary Red
Keplinger 2018 Lithic Proprietary Red

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3 x 98 Points = Pretty Perfect Cabernet I’d say… JUMP ON THIS NOW!


Brothers Georges and Daniel Daou embarked on a journey of conviction. It began with a belief that their DAOU Mountain estate would one day produce some of the most profound wines imaginable. With Patrimony, that promise has been fulfilled. It is the destiny of this land, and the masterwork of those who shepherd it.

Patrimony 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
GGWC 274.99 
FREE SHIPPING on 3 or more
Use code PATRIMONY during checkout

Jeb Dunnuck 98+ Points: “What can be considered the flagship of the estate, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is a sensational Cabernet Sauvignon that can stand up the best out there. Incredibly pure notes of cassis, spice box, graphite, lead pencil shavings, and a terrific sense of minerality all flow from this pure Paso Robles beauty that shows the quality that can be achieved from these magical limestone soils. Full-bodied and powerful, yet seamless and balanced, enjoy bottles over the coming 15-20 years or more.

Robert Parker 98 Points: “The 2016 Patrimony is made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged 30 months in 100% new French oak. It has a deep purple-black color and explosive, unbelievably layered nose of lilacs, violets, vanilla, espresso, rooibos tea leaves, underbrush and cinnamon stick aromas mingling over a core of blueberry compote, blackberry pie, black cherry preserves and pure blackcurrant fruit with an undercurrent of iron and graphite. The medium to full-bodied palate gives up stunningly explosive flavor layers. It has an unbelievably ripe, pixelated frame and fantastic juiciness, finishing very long, lifted and layered. This is stunning.”

Vinous 98 Points: “Bright purple. Sexy, expansive aromas of dark berry preserves, cherry-cola, cured tobacco, smoky oak and vanilla are complemented by exotic spice and floral top notes. Smooth, broad, alluringly sweet cassis, cherry and floral pastille flavors show outstanding depth and energy, with a suave spice cake note emerging with aeration. The cherry and floral notes resonate on a wonderfully long, seamless finish that features youthful tannins and lingering spiciness. (aged in new French oak barrels for 30 months)”

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Byron Kosuge has been making wine for over 3 decades now. He honed his skills at various great wineries in California and France.  While working in Carneros he befriended two guys who ran a vineyard management company.  When they planted a small vineyard next to their work shop, Byron came up with the name “The Shop” and the rest (almost 20 years later) is history. Byron has created a good following for his brand, and so have many of my customers.  The 2017 Pinot Noir is truly amazing and a great wine for your Buck!

B Kosuge 2017 Pinot Noir The Shop, Carneros
Retail 40.00 – GGWC 36.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use shipping code SHOP during check out

The wine emerges from the glass with dark red stone fruit a hint of spice, nuttiness and licorice. This is lush and fleshy, Pinot Noir that is loaded with class and pedigree. The wine is medium to full in body and flavor and finishes long and strong.

Winemaker Notes: The 2017 The Shop Carneros Pinot Noir is in some ways a throwback to the riper, juicier style of the early Shop wines, but that is a product of the hot 2017 vintage, rather than a change in style. I continue to pursue a fresher, more vibrant style for this wine in particular, and 2017 was no exception. Aged in a combination of concrete and neutral oak.

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GOING, GOING, ALMOST GONE… THIS UNDER $65 Thomas Rivers Brown Napa GEMSTONE is almost sold out!


The 16-acre Gemstone Estate vineyard is truly a study in terroir. Situated on a gradual, west-facing slope in the Yountville appellation of the Napa Valley, this complex and diverse site has gravelly alluvial soil layered over loamy sandstone bedrock, avoiding the vigor of deep, rich soil. The vineyard is divided into 20 micro-blocks; including eight clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, two clones each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and one clone of Chardonnay. All of the vines are densely planted to a variety of rootstocks carefully matched to the soil. Each clonal block is farmed and fermented individually, yielding a distinctive palette of flavors from which Gemstone wines are built. Winemaker = Thomas Rivers Brown

Gemstone 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
GGWC 64.99

Use code GEMSTONE during checkout

Winery Notes: 2018 was a near perfect vintage and began in late February, followed by a mild spring with extended flowering yielding plentiful and even fruit set. The relatively mild summer followed by extended fall sunshine and moderate heat created ideal conditions for well-developed fruit profiles and balanced wines with great tannic structure.”

Tasting Notes: The 2018 Gemstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is bold and luscious, with dark cherry, huckleberry and blackberry fruit across the palate. Notes of vanilla, spice and mocha add to the complexity. The finish is long and silky with elegant tannins. Only 500 cases were produced!

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Hand harvesting isn’t the half of it

Hand harvesting isn’t the half of it

by Hannah Fuellenkemper

I hate the hoorah implied by ‘hand-picked’. I hate it more round about the fourth-plus week of repetitive vineyard work. At the worst of times in the vines, ‘bored’ is an understatement. But ‘hand-picked’ is a misrepresentation. Not everything is blockbuster work but everything is done by hand — and once you’ve completed one task, in a couple weeks you’ll be back at the same vine again.

Importers and sales people talk about the love and attention paid around harvest because they can sell the immediate result: the wine. But when, like a tick, you’re stuck headfirst into the flesh of it, your focus is the balancing act of coaxing vs controlling the vine.

Harvest isn’t even the most gratifying work. With everything happening at once there’s no time for that. With all the people, the drinking, the cleaning. The no-sleeping. The sun, the stress. The late nights listening to the drip drip of the press. The logistics. More drinking. The lifting of zillions of caisse.

To heart-flutter at hand-picked is to ignore everything but an artist’s great works.

And yet harvest, shortened to sun hats and siestes, is the pipe we pass around: the hard slog everyone knows about. But I suspect if they knew the rest I would receive far fewer messages from people telling me I’m “living their dream life”.

Life is not all summer. To focus only on harvest is just to eat steak. To heart-flutter at hand-picked is to ignore everything but an artist’s great works. To forget the bread and butter and the sketchbooks that got them there. I tell myself that the weeks I spend working in the vines are much the same.

Along with pruning, two of the tasks below are already bien fait and there’s only four more weeks of the last. Then there’s just a whole lot more equally repetitive work before it’s harvest time again.

1. Tirer les bois
Number two on your annual to-do if you cane prune (la taille Guyot) and number one on my list of work I don’t like. When you ‘tires les bois’ you do what it says on the tin, this being a tin where the list of ingredients spells misery. To tire is to pull last year’s cut wood (les sarments) from the wires which might sound harmless to you – and it did to me too after two months of pruning, but I changed my mind about 10 minutes in.

Tirer les bois is French for ‘war’. Those cute tendrils that teased your hair when they were wasabi green are now iron wire. They no longer tease but cling: desperately and absolutely and back-wrenchingly as you pull down, pivot and twist. If they do release it is often with the force of a stinging whip into your, or your partner’s face which you are already fully occupied trying not to burn as you wheel a cut-open oil drum full of spitting fire and white-hot sticks.

Just as the vines’ sap foams and froths in the heat, your eyelashes, your fingers through leather gloves, your fleece and your feet despite your rubber soles will get singed. I still have burns across my wrists.

2.  Liege 
Liege is the gentle cracking and then attaching of the baguette (cane) to the wire. It’s scary, because when you break the wood not only will there be no fruit, but everyone will know about it thanks to your mistake being broadcast by a loud SNAP. It’s best done in the rain thus you are inevitably working in the rain. It presents yet another opportunity for the wood to whip you in the face.

Liege is, along with bottling, the most toothpaste top-twisting boring factory work I can think of in the vines, and that’s bearing in mind that when bottling you actually do feed a machine.

3.  Ébourgeonnage 
Vine work is circular: you need to have experienced the next process to appreciate how to do the task that comes before. The year starts with pruning, but perhaps it would be better for a trainee to start with ébourgeonnage. I didn’t, and in my second week of my second year I’m still cringing at the things I should have known last January.

To ébourgeonner is to remove all the growth you don’t want, leaving only the green infrastructure you pruned to grow. Intellectually, it’s as easy as your understanding of the system of pruning. Mentally it hurts to know that you were here, bent over at this exact same spot not even two months ago.

It’s not all same-same. Last year I cut my thumb so badly with the hooked blade I was locked out of my touch ID. The Merlot I’m working in now however, no knife, is a total push over. Poulsard is fine-china fragile and Grenache with its Goblet fists is punk-tough fibrous with leaves that almost cut. The lower back strain is always the same, as is the dilemma about whether to transfer this pain by getting down on your knees.

But I shouldn’t complain. Certainly not as this week it’s actually been raining and I’m looking forward to getting out again. Because that’s the thing: the vines give meaning to a life as simple as work hard, feel tired, eat, drink, sleep, repeat.

Maybe I am living the dream.

VOTE 4 the WINE PARTY 2020! Vote Frank Melis 4 President … of the Wine Party!


Dear Friends,
You know I would NEVER tell you how or who—but, I will throw in my advocacy to try (and by try, I mean VOTE 4 the Wine Party!).

In my book a bottle of wine has no political, religious or gender based affiliations – You love it no matter what! Do get your voice out there this year, and tell our country who you’d like to see in charge. Or, who you think should be in charge anyway.

Like I often say to my children – if you don’t vote you certainly cannot complain who is in charge. Because whichever direction your heart lies, there will likely be grief or gratification waiting for you. And, when we have those moments… We often need a full glass…or four!

*This message is endorsed by Frank Melis for President!


In the meantime, while we await the results, here is a wine suggestion for you… Bastard Tongue, an Hedonistic Pinot Noir & FREE Shipping

Inheriting an unbroken string of success — dating back to 2011 — the 2018 “Bastard Tongue” arrives fully-formed and ready to impress. Always a blend from multiple “Grand-Cru” Pinot Noir vineyards, this iteration of “BT” was selected from three distinct sites, each making their own unique contribution of Sonoma County terroir to the wine’s character. Exploding forth on a tidal wave of high-toned, intense red and black fruits, this is a Pinot Noir that no stemware can contain. The palate’s profound depth is balanced by an inherent freshness, allowing the wine to crackle with brambly energy, while sustained by bass notes of underbrush, black tea, pie spice and bakers chocolate. A formidable rendition of “Bastard Tongue”, and deserving successor to its 97-Point rated predecessor.

Argot 2018 “Bastard Tongue” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 84.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code ARGOT during checkout

The Bastard Tongue, a blend of Swan, Pommard and Dijon 115 clones, offers up dark raspberry, strawberry and cherry notes that give the wine a dark-red-fruit character, but there are also loamy soil undertones, underbrush, spice box and a rich, medium to full-bodied, fleshy mouthfeel. This is a complex Pinot Noir to drink now and over the next decade.

A selection of barrels displaying the magnificence of Sonoma County Pinot Noir — that specific balance of opulent fruit, inherent spice and earthen notes. 2018’s cuvee brings forth a significant emphasis on Sonoma’s oldest heritage selection, the Swan Clone. 

Sourced from multiple, cool-climate vineyards that Argot has worked hand-in-hand with for the past decade. Each site was chosen due to its distinct soils and expert expression of Sonoma County’s world-class terroir. Applying a thoughtful farming ethos, informed by quality-over-quantity, each vintage we harvest grapes of a singular quality. 

Winemaker Notes: “An all-time classic growing season! 2018 achieved rarely experienced heights due to a mild summer that gave way to extended Autumnal perfection, allowing vines the enviable opportunity to leisurely ripen a perfectly consistent and intensely-flavored crop. What arrives in the bottle is a knockout BT, delivering profoundly rich flavors, balanced by unparalleled elegance.“

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Solid, Dollar-Cost-Average GREAT Value Napa Cabernet


Turnbull has been rooted in the culture and history of the Napa Valley for more than 35 years. Operating out of a small building from the original estate winery in Oakville, they stand for exceptional quality and a true Napa Valley wine experience, as it should be.  This Cabernet is true Dollar-Cost-Value priced!

Turnbull 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Regular $59.99 – Now 49.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more!
Use code TURNBULL during checkout

Dusted blackberries, plums, and dark fruit tones coalesce into a wide expanse of engaging freshness and vibrancy. Creamy tannins tell a story of a layered and complex wine. Brilliant raspberry reduction, Rainier cherry, and cassis unfold in waves through the mid-palate to its impressive, well-tiered finish. This 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is truly symphonic in its progression of flavor, density, power, and lift.

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Carte Blanche Cabernet = The Haut Brion from Napa, 97 Points

After the great  success with her own Keplinger label, Helen Keplinger is out of control (in a very good way)! The latest release of the 2017 Carte Blanche Cabernet showcases Helen’s amazing talents.  Only a few hundred cases of this mind boggling wine were produced from this “next” Haut Brion of the Napa Valley!  This wine over-delivers and the 97 points is 3 points shy of what it deserves!

The Dillon family has been in the wine business for nearly a century, since Nick Allen’s 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 Nick’s inspiration to produce his own boutique label in Napa – Carte Blanche.

Carte Blanche 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon “Beckstoffer” Napa Valley
GGWC 154.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
Use code CARTEBLANCHE during checkout

Jeb Dunnuck 97 Points: “Even better, the 100% varietal 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon boasts a deep purple color as well as full-bodied aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, unsmoked tobacco, chocolate, and earth. This ripe, sexy, opulent beauty has sweet tannins, a great mid-palate, and a great, great finish. It competes with wines 2-3 times the price.

Helen Keplinger (winemaker) Notes: “The 2017 Carte Blanche Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal makeup. Sitting in the southwest corner of Oakville and at the base of the Mayacamas, Missouri Hopper Vineyard, owned by Andy Beckstoffer, is the home of our Cabernet Sauvignon. Stunning color in the glass, an electrifying nose showcases black currants, cassis, cigar box, and red fruit.  The palate is opulent, plush, and structured with integrated sweet tannins showcasing notes of dark blackberry, black cherry, and bittersweet chocolate dance through an everlasting and strong finish. Enjoyable now with air and built for cellar aging.”

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