The Good News from California’s 2020 Vintage No One Is Talking About

The Good News from California’s 2020 Vintage
No One Is Talking About

Contributed by Laura Burgess
from SevenFiftyDaily

Despite fire and smoke damage, excellent wines were produced from Anderson Valley to Santa Barbara

Photo credit: Pexels / Tim Mossholder.

News from California throughout the 2020 harvest season was overwhelmingly focused on devastation: record heat waves, uncontrollable wildfires, burned vineyards, smoke tainted wines, and shuttered tasting rooms. 

The worst fire season on record will cause most people to remember 2020 as the Golden State’s worst harvest on record.

But in reality, the percentage of grapes impacted by smoke taint across the states was lower than many vintners expected, with entire swaths of California wine country unaffected, according to early lab tests conducted by wineries. Early data released by the USDA reveals the state’s grape harvest was down by 13.9 percent in 2020, but most of that loss was due to naturally occurring lower yields, not smoke damage. 

In fact, according to many producers, 2020 was an exceptional vintage. 

From Santa Barbara to Anderson Valley, good news is rising from the ashes in areas that avoided smoke damage and in sites where harvests were completed before the blazes. Most of California’s premier growing regions, including Napa Valley, Sonoma, Mendocino County, and the Central Coast, experienced low rainfall in early 2020, setting the regions up for a low-yielding season. Not only did this translate to concentrated, high-quality fruit, but it led many vintners to harvest early, escaping the devastation of the fires.

“We saw yields down about 20 to 30 percent overall,” says Turley Wine Cellars winemaker Tegan Passalacqua, who farms Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon across the state. “But when people ask me about the vintage I always say, it could have been way worse. Our quality overall was really good, and because yields were down we picked earlier than normal. Higher yields would have meant a later harvest and likely more smoke taint for us.” 

It seems 2020 wasn’t the complete disaster many first believed. Here are the reasons. 

“People Often Forget How Big California Is”

“The good news is that the percentage of grapes affected by smoke taint across California is very low,” says Scott Kozel, the vice president of coastal winemaking for E. & J. Gallo Winery, who oversees winemaking across California’s Central and North Coasts. Overall, he is very impressed with the vintage quality.

While it may have seemed like the entire state was smoky or ablaze in the late summer and fall, some of California’s top wine regions were spared from the effects of wildfires. “I think people often forget how big California is,” says Ryan Hodgins, the winemaker at FEL Wines, whose vineyards are spread across Anderson Valley. “Our winery is in Sonoma, over 100 miles from our vineyards in Anderson Valley, which is one of the coolest and northernmost winegrowing regions in California.” 

Arnaud Weyrich, winemaker Roederer Estate.
Photo courtesy of Roederer Estate.

In this subzone of Mendocino County—one well-versed with the devastation of fire in previous vintages—the wooded, hilltop vineyards remained unscathed. “Wind patterns matter,” says Roederer Estate winemaker Arnaud Weyrich. “Because the wind here is normally coming from the west, it pulls clean air in and pushes the smoke away.”

Safe from smoky air, the combination of hydric stress and heat spikes in Anderson Valley led to grapes with both high acidity and high sugar—ideal for vintage-dated and long-aging sparkling wines. “Anderson Valley is in a good spot,” says Weyrich. “The only thing you can explain to people is that smoke doesn’t damage all grapes in the same way.”

Further south, in California’s vast Central Coast appellation—which contains Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, the Sta. Rita Hills, among other regions—arid conditions are more normal, and coastal breezes left most grapes unharmed by fire. 

Passalacqua, who works with old vine Zinfandel vineyards predominantly in the Paso Robles appellation, was pleased with the results of the 2020 harvest. “We were concerned because there was smoke in Paso Robles for a few days,” he says. “We came out all clear. The hardest thing for me this harvest was having conversations with 40 growers about the possibility of smoke taint ruining their entire crops, and how we would move forward if that happened.” 

The biggest challenge wineries in these regions will likely face is getting their wines out to consumers with tasting rooms shuttered and distribution networks upended due to ongoing pandemic-related restrictions. “The wines are tasting wonderful,” says Hodgins. “The biggest challenges for us will be Covid-related, not vintage-related. The news cycle is so fast, and there aren’t many people who really pay attention to vintages. The challenges of getting wine into the mouths of consumers will dwarf perceptions of this vintage.” 

Unexpected Benefits of Dynamic Weather

Photo courtesy of Spottswoode.

Long before wildfires broke out in Napa Valley and Sonoma, vintage conditions had been difficult; drought in the early months of the year indicated that yields would be lower in 2020 than the bumper crops of 2018 and 2019. 

“A number of our blocks had lower vegetative growth and vigor than in previous years,” says Aron Weinkauf, the winemaker for Napa Valley’s Spottswoode Estate. In Sonoma, one of the regions most heavily impacted by the 2020 wildfires, early data compiled by wine and grape brokerage firm Ciatti indicates that the region’s Pinot Noir crop was the hardest hit by wildfires, with harvests down an estimated 36 percent.

“Spectacular wines will come from 2020. From the start, it was a winemaker’s vintage; these are some of the darkest, richest, densest wines of my career.”
– Jesse Katz, Aperture Cellars

But low yields don’t equate to low quality: “From the start, it was a winemaker’s vintage,” says Jesse Katz, the founder and winemaker at Sonoma’s Aperture Cellars. Echoes Weinkauf, “Many people were happy to have a vintage that was expected to be a low-yield, high-concentration year.”

Aron Weinkauf, winemaker of Spottswoode.
Photo courtesy of Spottswoode.

James Hall of Patz & Hall, which specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, believes 2020’s weather presented vintners with a unique opportunity.  “One thing I’ve noticed over the 40 years I have been in winemaking, is that vintages that have very moderate, even weather often produce relatively boring wines,” he posits. “Vintages that experience more dynamic weather—such as 1998, 2001, 2010, 2011—often produce wines of more depth, complexity and aromatic interest.”

While drought conditions caused many vineyards in Hall’s area to yield 20 to 30 percent fewer grapes, those vines yielded exceptionally dark berries. “The drought did positively shape the character and concentration of the 2020s,” says Hall. “I hope that years from now, when tasting the 2020 wines, people will realize that beautiful and wonderful things can happen in the hardest of times.” 

Aperture Cellars fared equally well, capitalizing on the dry, low-yielding season and well-timed harvest to craft powerful, Bordeaux-inspired reds this season. “Spectacular wines will come from 2020,” says Katz, noting Aperture was fortunate its vineyards were not directly impacted by fire, unlike many estates. “These are some of the darkest, richest, densest wines of my career.”

For some, the vintage’s low yields and high temperatures were a catalyst for an early harvest,  allowing wineries to avoid fruit damage amidst the fires. While some wineries and sections of Napa Valley were ravaged by the Glass and LNU Lightning Complex fires—particularly the eastern mountain appellations like Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain, and Atlas Peak—many grapes in sub-zones across the valley floor were harvested before the fires and thrived thanks to below-average vine vigor and fair weather. 

“I hope that years from now, when tasting the 2020 wines, people will realize that beautiful and wonderful things can happen in the hardest of times.”
– James Hall, Patz & Hall

At Rutherford’s Quintessa, harvest was nearly complete before the nearby Glass Fire broke out on September 27. “I think the biggest challenge is going to be communicating to consumers that every year is different, every variety is different, every property is different,” says winemaker Rebekah Wineburg. “I know everyone sees these pictures of burning vineyards and really dramatic videos. Those are real, but they’re not the entire story. Natural disasters are not what’s in the bottle.”

The Surprisingly Low Impact of “Old Smoke”

Photo courtesy of Quintessa.

“We still have a lot to learn,” says viticulturist Ann Kraemer, who farms the 46-acre Shake Ridge Ranch vineyard in Amador County. The site saw nearly three full weeks of hazy conditions, yet most of Kraemer’s grapes—and the early wines they have yielded—are taint free, according to early test results. 

According to Kraemer, that is possible because hazy air—caused by old smoke blown into the area from faraway wildfires—doesn’t impact grapes in the same manner as heavily smoky air, which contains the volatile phenolic compounds that cause smoke taint in fine wines. The Amador foothills region, overall, had very few days of that damaging, heavily smoky air.

“I think Amador got really lucky,” says Passalacqua, who sources grapes from Shake Ridge Ranch and nearly a dozen other vineyards in the Sierra Foothills. “Everything in Amador and down through Lodi has come back clean. We’ve spent a lot of money on testing, but it’s been worth it.”

“I know everyone sees these pictures of burning vineyards and really dramatic videos… They’re not the entire story. Natural disasters are not what’s in the bottle.”
– Rebekah Wineburg, Quintessa

A similar occurrence transpired in some of Napa Valley’s vineyards. Despite nearly 30 days of unhealthy air quality in Napa, Weinkauf points out that most of the smoke reaching Spottswoode sites was old, degraded smoke that had blown in from other areas. “The gradation of smoke taint can be so radical that there are going to be many different perceptions and opinions,” he explains. “You can have two vineyards side by side and two very different levels of smoke taint and damage in the wines.”

Similarly, Wineburg completely picked Quintessa’s entire 160-acre estate vineyard in 2020, and the team is continuing to test and evaluate wines. “We don’t know for sure what the effect of smoke is,” she says. “We haven’t investigated enough or learned enough, but what I’m seeing so far is that there are very good wines coming out.”

Optimism in Overcoming Consumer Perceptions

Photo courtesy of Aperture Cellars.

The biggest challenge for California vintners, particularly for those that were directly impacted by wildfires and smoke, will likely be overcoming consumer perceptions. However, winery principles remain undaunted.

“The [Sierra] Foothills, as well as other viticultural regions that only had exposure to ‘old smoke,’ should produce beautiful wines,” says Kraemer, “and needs … to get the word out that not all is lost!”

“I always view [a challenging vintage] as an opportunity to say ‘look, here’s what we can do,’” says Beth Miliken, the president and CEO of Spottswoode Estate. “We want people to come and taste these wines because that’s what will ease consumers’ minds and remove the [negative] perception.”

In the experience of Nate Weis, the vice president of winemaking for Silver Oak, Twomey, and Timeless, fire may dominate the news cycle but it rarely overshadows the wines upon release. “All anyone wants to talk about is the fires, and there’s a stigma to it,” he says. “But at Silver Oak, our release cycle is so long we’ve found that the perception of the market has changed. Our 2020s won’t be out until 2024 or 2025. We just finished putting together our blends, and I’m actually very pleased.” 

While the experiences of Golden State vintners’ whirlwind 2020 harvest varied wildly from vineyard to vineyard, opinions on the wines and how to appreciate them were resoundingly similar: stick to producers with trusted reputations for excellence.

Wineburg, for example, notes that because Quintessa only works with estate-grown fruit, they feel less pressure to bottle everything they harvest if it is not up to the winery’s quality standards. “Because we are an estate at Quintessa, we have a year-round commitment to this property,” she says. “Our relationship is not transactional; it’s more like a marriage—we can go through a difficult time and use it to try and understand the vines and our terroir better.”

“It’s a decision about being fair and honest, and being willing to discard some lots of wine,” says Weyrich. “Rely on brands that you know will make the right decision to avoid marketing-driven wines that aren’t up to their standards.”


2 x 96 Point Impressive & Multifaceted Pinot Noir


Justin Willett started out as an assistant winemaker and worked his way up owning his own label, which he created in 2005 producing a whopping 190 cases. His meticulous attention to detail has elevated him to “Must Have” status among many Chardonnay and Pinot Noir lovers. Working with some of the best vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Barbara county, Justin has wowed many  with his great craft. His latest releases all garnered big press (95 – 96 point ratings).  So after a decade of slinging grapes, you’d say that he got the hang of it!  GO JUSTIN!

Tyler 2018 Pinot Noir “La Rinconda” Santa Barbara
GGWC 84.99 Net Item
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code TYLER during checkout

OK to mix & match with other Tyler wines

Vinous 96 Points: “The 2018 Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard offers laser like focus behind a core of red fruit. The Rinconada is one of the most reticent wines in the range today. I would be prepared to cellar it for at least a few years. Blood orange, mint and crushed rocks all flesh out in a vivid, mineral-driven wine loaded with class. With a bit of air, the layers really start to flesh out.”

Decanter 96 Points:La Rinconada vineyard is adjacent to the famed Sanford & Benedict site and consistently yields a radically different wine. As with the Chardonnay from this vineyard, the Pinot Noir is more brawny, bursting and masculine answer to the elegant and effortless Sanford & Benedict.  A black-fruited, polished, focused nose leads to an explosive palate loaded with high-toned red fruits, aged leather and dried roses. An impressive & multifaceted showing.”

Also check out: Tyler 2018 Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict 100 Points (VERY LIMITED)

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation

Two Stunning, but VERY VERY limited Cattleya releases

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 2019 Chardonnay “Beyond the Threshold” Sonoma Coast
GGWC 59.99
6 bottle limit!

Another addition, another gem to Bibiana’s amazing portfolio.  The meaning/story behind “Beyond The Threshold” – The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know.  And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero.  This Chardonnay single bottling represents Bibiana’s commitment to the craft of exceptional white wines from California, after years of education in France and laser focused training making Chardonnay around the world.

“Delicate notes of white peach, key lime, and acacia transport the sense to the south facing slopes of this high elevation Sonoma Coast side.  Each swirl in the glass allows this wine to gain weight and concentration, as more femine floral notes transform into subtle flavors of ripe pear and honeysuckle.”

Tiny production – 125 cases!

Cattleya 2019 Pinot Noir Cuvee # 1 Russian River Valley
GGWC 64.99
6 bottle limit!

A basket of red berries draped in a blanket of soft, velvety tannin, this cool climate Pinot Noir is the epitome of Russian River Valley purity and elegance. The 2019 is not just a follow-up to the great 2018, I’d say it surpasses the great 2018 vintage. Sadly, the production is down, so this wine will sell out very quickly!

Wine Notes by Bibiana: “Exuding only the finest qualities the Russian River Valley has to offer, this beautifully pure Pinot Noir bursts floral hints of violets followed by  notes of raspberry, red cherry, and sandalwood spice.  Mid palate weight, and concentration envelop the palate, all while red fruits and bright acid keep this wine light on its feet.”

Only 350 cases were produced.

Also check out these other great wines made by Bibiana:
Alma de Cattleya 2020 Sauvignon Blanc
Cattleya 2018 Chardonnay Call to Adventure 95 Points
Cattleya 2018 Chardonnay Cuvee # 5 95 Points
Cattleya 2018 Syrah “Initiation” 97 Points
Cattleya 2018 Cabernet Meeting with the Mentor 98 Points

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation

HOT FROM THE PRESS: A Casual (Wine) Encounter…

Herman Syrah is the “story” of tall tales, Wrangler Jeans, and bold wines crafted by Russell P. From. This winery has become a real head-turner since it was created a little over a decade ago. Russell is a real “Rhone Ranger” and that has not escaped the notice of numerous publications garnering many 94-97 point ratings and creating a real “cult-like” following.

Casual Encounters takes its name from the orgiastic nature of its origins as a blend of small co- fermented lots. By giving up control and embracing game-day decisions during harvest, Casual Encounters best captures the lengths Russell will go in setting orthodoxy aside and letting flavor take full stage.

Herman Story 2018 GSM “Casual Encounters” Paso Robles
GGWC 54.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code Herman Story during checkout

Winemaker Notes: “After years of scouring grainy photos and peering through binoculars, you’ve found it: Bigfoot’s cave, deep in the Oregon woods. In you go, brandishing a Maglite and Glock 45. And there’s Sasquatch himself, seated in a Tuscan leather wingback chair, clawed feet on a matching ottoman, reading Wordsworth. He fetches a fresh blackberry pie, drizzles raw honey over the top, and offers a slice. You spend the night gnawing thyme-laden venison jerky over granite countertops and swapping hunting stories. Before you go, be sure to snap a selfie. Maybe no one will notice the zipper on his chest. 

Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: More inky colored, the Casual Encounters checks in as 40% Syrah, 35% Mourvèdre, 19% Grenache, and tiny amounts of Carignan and Tannat. Lots of mulled black fruits, smoked meat, barbecue, and peppery notes emerge from the glass. It’s full-bodied, super-rich, and concentrated, yet still stays light on its feet and beautifully balanced. It’s a classic, sweetly fruited, sexy wine to enjoy over the coming 5-7 years or so.


Herman Story Virtual Wine Tasting April 23, 4 PM PST 
with Winemaker & CEO (Chief Entertainment Officer) Russell From

Also check out these other great Herman Story Wines:
Herman Story 2018 Petite Sirah “First Time Caller” Paso Robles Highlands – 94 Points
Herman Story 2018 Viognier “Tomboy” Santa Barbara – 94 Points
Herman Story 2017 Grenache “On the Road” – 96 Points!
Herman Story 2018 Syrah “Nuts and Bolts” Santa Barbara – 96 Points

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation

Addicting, layered & stunning under $50, 96 Point rated beauty

Walter Hansel has been synonymous with great quality at a great price!  Year after year these wines impress me and my clientele alike.  The first vines were planted in 1978 just up the block from Kistler!  The first vintage they produced 3 barrels of Pinot Noir and 10 barrels of Chardonnay, and the rest as they say, is history!  Stephen Hansel (Walter’s son) had one of the best winemakers as his tutor (Tom Rochiolli) so it is no surprise that they are still putting out great wines decades later.  Year after year this winery produces amazing “Dollar Cost Average” under-priced & over-delivered in quality wines!

Walter Hansel 2018 Cuvee Alyce Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
GGWC 49.99
Sorry, 6 bottle limit per person!

The 2018 Pinot Noir Cuvée Alyce is bright, floral and super-finessed. This mid-weight, focused Pinot has so much to offer. Red/purplish fruit, blood orange, lavender and spice are all finely-knit Pinot from Hansel. Time in the glass brings out the wine’s textural depth and resonance. I would give the 2018 vintage at least a year or two in the bottle before consuming.

Robert Parker 96 Points: “Medium ruby-purple in color, the 2018 Pinot Noir Cuvée Alyce opens slowly to alluring aromas of smoked cranberries, red cherries and black raspberries laced with licorice, bergamot and dried lavender. The palate is medium-bodied and super silky with addicting freshness, absolutely packed with layered, detailed flavors, and it finishes very long and elegant. Wow!“

Also check out these other great Walter Hansel wines:
Walter Hansel 2018 Chardonnay Cahill Lane Russian River Valley 94 Points
Walter Hansel 2018 Chardonnay Cuvee Alyce Russian River Valley – 95 Point
Walter Hansel 2018 “Estate” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley – 94 Points
Walter Hansel 2018 North Slope Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley – 95 Points

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation

A book review of “Wine for Normal People”

A book review of “Wine for Normal People”

Contributed by Miquel Hudin

Writing an introductory text on wine is no small feat. A book that takes someone from, “Sure, I like wine, top me off!” to “Lemme break down the Médoc for you.” is a journey spanning two pretty distant points from one another and is why so few people to take on this Herculean task.

But I would say the hardest aspect in all of this is actually getting people to pick up and read such a book. I refer to my baseline in all such things, my mom. She was happy to churn through the pages of “Buddhism for Dummies” but when I suggested she look into “Wine for Dummies” to get a better handle on things, she passed on the opportunity.

People just want to drink wine and not think about it, which I really can’t blame them for. It seems to be the case that those who write a successful introductory wine text (whether that means financially, creating something of merit, or hopefully both) have established a following of people who enjoy their approach to taking on such an onerous, yet delicious topic as wine. History has shown that learning about wine proves to revolve more around a cult of personality than anything else whether that’s a classic example such as Jancis Robinson, newer media like Gary V, or then whatever “influencer” may be the flash in the pan at the moment.

And so we come to Elizabeth Schneider, who, along with her husband “MC Ice” have been doing the Wine for Normal People Podcast for exactly 10 years now although the accompanying blog started in 2009. That means Elizabeth has been doing a podcast loooong before all these others decided that people wanted to hear what they have to say in a rambling, unedited fashion due to confinement during the pandemic.

In having been such a stalwart, she’s amassed a loyal following. Why? If you listen to any of her podcasts, you can immediately see why as she talks about wine in a friendly, conversational manner that people can relate to. Sounds easy and there have been others who started off this way, but then fell head deep into the cesspool of wine twattery quite quickly. Elizabeth has not succumbed to this (probably as she finds release in her aptly-labeled “geek” podcasts) and, as often happens with such ventures she created a book, unsurprisingly titled, “Wine for Normal People” that was released in 2019.

Obviously shifting from the 45-50 minute podcast format that people can listen to in the background to a text wherein people have to actively read to gain information is a big shift up in terms of format. I have to tell you that I’ve read a lot of texts that purport to do what Elizabeth has taken on here and many of them fail. Elizabeth’s simply does not.

She’s managed to keep a conversational tone throughout the text, embodying her podcasts remarkably well. For example in a brief mention about biodynamic farming she says, “I know biodynamic farming sounds kind of out there.” to show she knows what people are thinking when they hear about burying cow horns packed with manure in the field.

She also has great little pullout quotes and sidebars to keep people interested. For example she says that in general, the lighter the color of wines in both red and white, the lighter in alcohol they’ll be. To be honest, I’d never really thought about this, but she’s very much right and it’s one of these great nuggets that gives people something to grab on to whilst traversing the vast chasm of wine knowledge intake.

But I think more than anything else, it’s the fact that the book looks sharp. It’s well designed to be clean without being cutesy. It rivals another text that intends to simplify wine learning and which people always applaud for the design. In the case of Wine for Normal People, it not only looks good but actually has accurate information which is something that the other text is vastly deficient in.

Is it a quick read? No, because it can’t be. But it does overall excel in brevity as much as possible and I like the fact that in the Germany section Elizabeth flat-out says that German wines are difficult. She tries to cover it in as much detail as makes sense just so that people are aware of them and have some text as reference, but by acknowledging they’re not easy has probably helped many readers to breathe easier.

I’d say that if Elizabeth were to publish a newer edition at some point, she could perhaps work to slow down how fast the knowledge ramps up. This is difficult as it is too slow and people get bored but too fast and people get overwhelmed. As it sits, it flirts with being a bit much on the latter but just a little and I say this with full admonition this is an extremely hard thing to pull off. About the only text I’ve ever seen do this perfectly was “The 24-hour Wine Expert” by Jancis Robinson and that’s only due to massive amounts of information being left out in order to give a very slim, quick overview of things.

The only final item I would put up for critique are the pronunciations. Being American myself, I know that we have a massive phobia of saying words incorrectly. But the word pronunciations used in the book aren’t based upon the International Phonetic Alphabet (which is what Wikipedia uses, for instance), and a number of them are actually approximations and thus in strict terms incorrect such as sommelier which has been written as “sum-uhl-yay” after dismissing the actual French pronunciation which is one of my pet peeves – it drives me as crazy much like when Spaniards call Facebook, “Fah-the-book”.

Of course, you can just skip these bits and in fact, this is designed to be a reference book so you can easily take away from it whatever parts you want, whenever you want and for that, it’s easily one of the best introductory wine texts available today.

Tofanelli Winery, burned in 2020 fire NEEDS (Y)OUR SUPPORT

Dear Friends,
You might know that many wineries and vineyards were lost in the 2020 fire, but one winery is very dear to my heart. It has been family owned for almost 100 years, and the vineyard is still tended to by the same family members (i.e. Vince Tofanelli) Sadly, the property burned down in 2020 – see video/link — (

Vince Tofanelli grew up in an Italian family – LOTS of food and WINE!  His grandfather introduced him at a very young age to wine (he would pour a little vino in his water), and that led to an early introduction, and later education as winemaker crafting great wines and tending to this amazing vineyard.  The historical vineyard stands as one of the last examples of pre-World War II grape growing. The methods Vince still uses were once prevalent throughout the valley; no irrigation (not even a drip line to be seen, with an organic philosophy – he never jumped on the ‘bandwagon’ of post-war pesticides).

Tofanelli 2017 Zinfandel “Estate” Calistoga, Napa
GGWC 49.99
Use code TOFANELLI during checkout

Partial good news… 2017, 2018 and 2019 were stored off-site so we have some to sell, so let’s help Vince and his family!! Beautiful blue fruits, white flowers, and graphite notes all flow to a medium to full-bodied red that has fabulous elegance and class. With fine tannins and terrific balance, it’s a great wine, and I suspect it will keep for over a decade.

Jeb Dunnuck 93 Points: “Coming from vines in Calistoga and a blend of 90% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, and 4% Grenache, the 2017 Zinfandel Tofanelli Family Vineyard boasts a big, boisterous bouquet of wild strawberries, dried flowers, cedarwood, and spice. These carry to a medium-bodied, elegant Zinfandel that has terrific balance, light tannins, and a silky texture. Made in a more elegant, lightly textured yet beautifully balanced style, drink bottles over the coming 7-8 years or so.”

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation

Vibrant, Complex 96 Point Pinot Gem


Gary and Rosella Franscioni started ROAR Wines with the knowledge that Pinot Noir had a shining future in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and a dream that their farming know-how would translate amazing grapes into amazing wines. Rosella’s Vineyard was planted on their home ranch in 1996, followed by Garys’ Vineyard in 1997 in partnership with the Pisoni family. The first vintage of ROAR was released in 2001, made from these two vineyards. From the beginning, Gary and Rosella’s mission was to make wines that they themselves would love to drink. Their approach was met with critical recognition almost immediately. Two more beautiful vineyards were planted about a decade later: Sierra Mar and Soberanes. Today, Gary and his sons continue to improve and innovate in the vineyards and winery to produce the best quality their land can create.

Roar 2018 Pinot Noir “Rosella’s” Santa Lucia Highlands
GGWC 67.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more!
Use code ROAR during checkout

Deep, glistening red. Expressive, spice-accented red and blue fruit, cola and floral qualities on the highly perfumed nose. Sweet and seamless in texture, offering energetic raspberry, cherry cola and rose pastille flavors plus an alluring spicy flourish. Shows an impressive blend of depth and vivacity and finishes with solid thrust and silky, slow-building tannins that fold seamlessly into the intensely persistent fruit.

Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: “From one of the cooler sites they work with, the 2018 Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard shines for its vibrant, pure yet complex style. Giving up lots of mulberry and black cherry fruit as well as ample sappy flower and spice notes, this beauty is medium to full-bodied, has a juicy, elegant texture, perfectly integrated acidity, and a great finish. Drink it over the coming decade as well.”
Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation!

GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE … Stunningly great value 94 Point Rated Napa Cabernet


Tether is a collaboration between two great friends ~ Wine Guru Kimberly Jones and winemaker Anna Monticelli. Tether is an enticing wine that represents a blend of Kimberly and Anna’s talents. Their goal is to craft a delicious and affordable Napa Valley Cabernet.  This is REAL Napa Valley VALUE in a bottle.

When I tasted the wine I figured it would be another $100 wine, but I was wrong , it was ½ that price!  That said, this wine will sell out fast, so you’ll have to act quick!

Tether 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
GGWC 54.99
Use code TETHER during checkout

The 2018 Tether Cabernet Sauvignon bursts from the glass with luscious aromas of black currants, blackberries, black cherries and blueberry compote. The gorgeous dark fruit core is complemented by layers of volcanic rock, spring flowers, graphite, mocha and well-integrated French oak. The wine possesses a rich texture that coats the palate in velvety tannins, sweet ripe fruit and elegant toasty oak. This wine showcases dazzling finesse and leaves you with an enduring finish.

Robert Parker 94 Points: “A blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Malbec, the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep garnet-purple in color. It leaps from the glass with warm cassis, baked plums and wild blueberries scents,plus hints of clove oil and dark chocolate. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is chock-full of crunchy fruit, framed by plush tannins and tons of freshness, finishing with a spicy kick.“

Also check out:
Tether 2017 Chardonnay, Napa Valley (94 Points)

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Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation!

2 x 95 Point Superb Chardonnay by Ehren Jordan

Failla 2018 Chardonnay “Platt” Sonoma Coast
GGWC  59.99
Use code FAILLA during checkout

Vinous 95 Points: “ The 2018 Chardonnay Platt Vineyard shows just how magical this site is. Bright, lifted and wonderfully deep, the Platt has so much to offer. Green pear, mint, white flowers and sage open up in the glass, but it is the wine’s balance and exquisite harmony that elevate it into the realm of the truly sublime. A wine of crystalline tension and beauty, the Platt is impeccably refined from start to finish. Superb.”

Jeb Dunnuck 95 Points: “Just as good, the 2018 Chardonnay Platt Vineyard, from a site in the Sonoma Coast, saw a similar élevage, spending 11 months in 15% new French oak. Rocking white peach, white currants, citrus, and floral notes all emerge from the glass, and while the Estate Vineyard is more mineral and savory, this leans more on its fruit and is medium to full-bodied, with wonderful purity, bright acidity, and a great finish. It’s another beautiful Chardonnay from this team.”

Winery Notes: “The Platt Vineyard is located in the western hills near Sebastopol, covering 31 acres ranging from 425-800 feet of elevation, and only five miles from the Pacific coastline. The climate is relatively mild, with cool marine weather passing through the region on its way to the Sacramento Delta. Fine, Goldridge sandy loams dominate the soil structure of the site’s southwestern-facing slope for Chardonnay vines to grow upon. The wine undergoes native yeast fermentation before full malolactic fermentation. The wine is left “sur-lie” for eleven months and aged in a combination of roughly 15% new French oak and 20% concrete egg. The wine was bottled without fining or filtering. Aromatically the wine has notes of barely bruised yellow apples, and a kiss of salinity. On the palate, there are flavors of fresh white peaches, candied lemon zest, as well as a full body that is balanced by a finishing note of bright acidity.“

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email for availability and priority allocation!