Mar
24
2020

Frank’s NEW Rose has arrived and its Yummy!

When I first got into the wine industry a few decades ago, rosé was anything but cool. White Zinfandel from California made the public think that all rosé was sweet, and unfortunately, imports such as Royal Lancers from Portugal and wines such as Sutter Home White Zin confirmed this notion.

Today, however, rosé is the second fastest growing segment of the wine market – the United States is the second largest rosé consuming country in the world, following France of course! It accounts for nearly 10% of all wine made worldwide. You’ll find rosé at high-end restaurants and stores like mine!  On that note, since Paul Lato makes some Syrah and Pinot Noir for me every year, I asked him a few years ago to start making some Rose of Pinot Noir for me, and looking at the response from my clients… a no brainer.  So I am very excited to introduce our NEW Melis Family 2019 Rosé from the Santa Rita Hills to you.

I would not be able to bring this Rosé to the market without the help of my winemaker and  good friend Paul Lato!  Paul helps me source the fruit and the Melis Family helps with the actual blend!

Melis Family 2019 Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills
GGWC 31.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code MELISROSE during checkout

This wine is not an afterthought, but a serious contender. The 2019 Melis Family Rose of Pinot Noir (blend of 2 great Santa Rita Hills vineyards) offers up ample and layered fruit on both nose and palate. On the nose you’ll encounter crushed flowers, cranberry and bright red cherry notes which continue on the pleasant palate laced with a touch of bright acidity. The wine is nicely polished (Paul Lato would not have it any other way) finishing gorgeously. A crowd-pleasing rose!

Also check out this other great Melis Family wine:
MELIS FAMILY 2016 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, BECKSTOFFER G3 VINEYARD NAPA VALLEY

Click here or on the links above to order!

Mar
19
2020

Curbside Pickup!

Curbside Pickup!

Dear Friends of Golden Gate Wine Cellars,

We would like to update you as to the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. All of us here at GOLDEN GATE WINE CELLARS want you to know that the health and safety of our employees and customers have always been our highest priority. We are now offering curbside pickup for our customers.  As you know you are allowed to go shopping for food (and I guess wine is part of that too…)

TO ARRANGE CURBSIDE PICKUP:

1) Place your online order, you can also call or email us. We will process the transaction and let you know when your order is ready for pick up. You can also have us ship it directly to your house if you would prefer!

2) Call us (415)337-4083 when you are outside. Please let us know the make, model and color of your vehicle. We will come to your car and put it in the trunk for you.  You can tip us later…. LOL! 😊

Thank you for your continued support, it is very much appreciated

A Humbled

Patron Saint of Tannins
St. Frank
 


Remember… It’s not hoarding if it’s wine!
 

Mar
17
2020

Last chance for a big discount on the best wines!

LAST CHANCE, WINE SALE EXTENDED!

Today is the LAST day of the 13% OFF SALE, but not the last day of Golden Gate Wine Cellars!

We are all hunkering down, limiting our movement, and staying healthy. I sincerely hope that you and yours are too! But I have several lonely cases of wine that are in need of someone to keep them company during the coming weeks. 

So please take advantage of our sale – ALL wines are 13% OFF – adopt a case of your favorites or try something new, but don’t miss out on selecting some great wines at one of our biggest DISCOUNTS ever!!
 

Go to my site and use code FRIDAY13 during checkout,
all me at 415.337.4083 or email frank@ggwc.com with your order.

We offer nationwide shipping (*where allowed by law) so we can get your wine right to your door. Or if you are nearby we offer free curbside pickup at 2337 Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. Just call ahead so we know you are coming.
 

Using the FRIDAY13 code will give you 13% OFF ALL of our wines
EXTENDED THROUGH WEDNESDAY!

Remember… It’s not hoarding if it’s wine!
 

Mar
15
2020

On the Semantics of Minerality

On the Semantics of Minerality

By Dwight Furrow

If you have been wondering about the state of research into minerality in wine, Alex Maltman in Decanter has you covered. He summarizes all the latest theories about minerality and supporting scientific evidence for them and ends up concluding—well, we still don’t know what it is or where it comes from

But as I read through the article it became clear to me that one reason the science is inconclusive is because there is no agreement on what we mean by “minerality” and the disagreement seems to largely stem from cultural differences.

Another illustration of the communication problem is the different word associations reported by research groups at Lincoln University in New Zealand and at California’s UC Davis. While both teams noted positive correlations between minerality and words like citrus, fresh, zingy, flinty, and smoky, the Lincoln researchers differed from those at Davis in finding no correspondence with acidity or reductive notes.

One study showed that minerality represented different things to Swiss and French wine consumers, and that the Swiss group used a markedly broader vocabulary.

When Professor Maltman turns to the question of where minerality comes from, it seems the science is hampered by that lack of agreement on what the term “minerality” refers to:

A later investigation, from UC Davis, reported that professional tasters found minerality in wines with greater malic and tartaric acidity and, to a lesser extent, free and total sulphur dioxide. However, a New Zealand study, while supporting a role for sulphur dioxide, found no correlation between acidity and perceived minerality, nor with reductive notes.

Here is what stood out to me. The New Zealand study found no correlation between acidity or reductive notes as the cause of minerality. But notice in the first quote, the New Zealand team found no correlation between minerality and word associations indicating acidity and reductive notes. In other words, for New Zealanders, high acid or sulfur compounds were not viewed as the cause of minerality because they don’t refer to high acid or sulfurous wines as “minerally”.

The basic problem is that there are cultural differences in the words used to describe wines. Thus, cross-cultural analyses of causal connections between compounds in the wine and our perceptions will be influenced by how we talk about those perceptions.

This is not unusual. Obviously in our language use we are deeply influenced by the people we interact with and there are often significant cultural differences between language groups even if they nominally speak the same language. There is little reason to think New Zealanders and Americans or the French and the Swiss would share all linguistic references despite the overlap in their official languages.

People have different names for things. That doesn’t necessarily mean we disagree about the underlying non-linguistic phenomenon.

What there does seem to be agreement on is that “minerality” doesn’t come directly from soil or rocks. Despite the tendency to talk as if there are such connections the science seems conclusive.

Mar
14
2020

“Trifecta” for Gallica Cabernet with 3 x 96 Point ratings

Rosemary Cakebread is among the seasoned winemakers who have been instrumental in bringing Napa Valley Cabernet to prominence. After earning a degree in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California, Davis in 1979, she was introduced to Cabernet Sauvignon at the historic Inglenook Winery, where she took her first winery job right after college. She has enjoyed varied experiences during her many years of experience in the production of wines, which include harvests in Bordeaux and with some Champagne producers.  A love for Cabernet Sauvignon was nurtured as winemaker for Spottswoode from 1997 through the 2005 vintage, where she divided her time between winemaking and overseeing the organically farmed estate vineyard. Rosemary celebrated her thirtieth vintage in 2009, which coincided with the bottling of her first release under her own label: the 2007 Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon. The latest release, her 10th of Gallica might be here best offer yet to date.  STUNNING I’d say!  Especially when the Three Big Critics give it the same 96 Point Rating!!  

Gallica 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Napa Valley
GGWC 184.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
Use code GALLICA during checkout

96+ Points Robert Parker: “Very deep garnet-purple colored, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville is blended of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Cabernet Franc. It sings of blackcurrant cordial, blueberry pie and warm plums with touches of licorice, violets, cigar box and allspice. Medium to full-bodied, it fills the mouth with energetic fruit plus a firm, velvety frame and oodles of freshness, finishing on a lingering mineral note.”

96 Points Anthony Galloni:  “The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Ranch Vineyard is dense, powerful and voluptuous in the glass. Even with all of its abundant richness, the 2016 is rather shy at this stage, perhaps because of its relatively recent bottling. Inky blue and purplish berry fruit, licorice, menthol, plum and lavender open up nicely over time, as the 2016 starts to show some of its more gracious, understated style. There is so much to admire in the 2016, but it will be a few years before all of the elements are fully melded together. The 2016 is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Cabernet Franc.”

96 Points Jeb Dunnuck: “The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (there’s 17% Cabernet Franc in the blend) was brought up in 42% new French oak. It offers a sensational bouquet of blackberries, black raspberries, cassis, graphite, and toasted spice, with some savory tobacco and herbal notes with time in the glass. It’s deep, full-bodied and layered, with sweet yet present tannins. Drink this concentrated, sexy Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon any time over the coming 15-20 years.”

Winemaker Notes: “Gallica is located on our family property in St. Helena. The deep and low fertility Cortina soils are renowned for exceptional quality red wines. Planted in 1990, these fully mature Cabernet Sauvignon vines produce wines which are elegant and harken back to the structure of Napa Valley red wines notable decades ago. The 2016 vintage is not to be missed . The entry is long and graceful nuanced by rose petal, cardamom , dried mandarin peel, the tannins are silky and inviting. Cabernet from this site is always energetic and mouthwatering.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Mar
13
2020

Corona Virus Note to our clients – WINE SALE

Dear Friends,
 
We are all confused and concerned about what is yet to come with the Corona Virus outbreak.

My wife is teaching her University students online from our home, both of my daughters are getting their High School curriculum online as well. The restaurants are empty, the stores are too. No traffic on the streets of San Francisco, as all the schools, universities are closed.

We need to continue to support the local economy, as everyone depends on it, and so do I.
If you don’t want to come to my store, we can always ship it to you –  as you know!

Health experts recommend staying home while the current public health crisis is resolved. At Golden Gate Wine Cellars we believe in following those guidelines plus adding a great bottle of WINE!!

The best time to replenish your cellar is NOW! And, We’ll have it delivered right to your door!

Quarantining with loved ones and a great bottle of wine might prove to be the best way and remedy to remain strong and in good health! 

Friday the 13th is NOT a bad day as they say, as a matter a fact I got married on a Friday the 13th, and here I am 20 years later, still very happily married, and still sleeping in the same bed even!  So please take advantage of our sale – ALL wines are 13% OFF – don’t miss out on selecting some great wines at a DISCOUNT!!  Go to my site and use code FRIDAY13 during checkout or call/email me at 415.337.4083 – frank@ggwc.com with your order.

Finally, my thoughts are with all of you, my fellow Americans, wine lovers, and the world at large, as we stave off and overcome this pandemic. So, please, stay safe, be patient and enjoy some outstanding wines.
 

Using the FRIDAY13 code will give you 13% OFF ALL of our wines today only!

Remember… It’s not hoarding if it’s wine!
 

Mar
12
2020

The Queen of Pinot offers FREE SHIPPING


Entering the wine industry 20 years ago as a harvest intern, Shane Finley has literally started at the bottom and worked his way to the top. After spending several seasons as an intern in California, Australia, and the Northern Rhône, Shane became Cellar Master at Copain Custom Crush. While there he had the opportunity to work closely with many notable winemakers including  Dumol, Carlisle, Pisoni Estate and Copain. He later took positions as Assistant Winemaker for Paul Hobbs Winery and then Associate and Assistant Winemaker at Kosta Browne Wines.  Today Shane continues to work with Dan Kosta and Emeril Lagasse (head winemaker at their Alden Alli winery) as well as being owner and winemaker of his own Shane Wine Cellars.

FYI – La Reine = The Queen

Shane 2017 “La Reine” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 45.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code SHANE during checkout

Jeb Dunnuck 94 Points: “Even better, the 2017 Pinot Noir La Reine comes from the Sonoma Coast, and despite seeing less stems (only 25%), it shows more whole cluster nuances as well as ripe strawberries, flowers, and spice nuances. Pure, crystalline, and vibrant on the palate, with ultra-fine tannins, it’s another beautiful wine from winemaker Shane Finley. Brought up all in used oak, it too should have at least 7-8 years of prime drinking.”

Robert Parker 94 Points: The 2017 Pinot Noir The La Reine comes from two parcels located in the Petaluma Gap subregion of the Sonoma Coast. It was produced from equal parts Pommard and 777 clones with 25% whole cluster stem inclusion, then fermented in small open-top fermenters with native yeasts with minimal extraction techniques. It spent 14 months in used oak barrels. Pale to medium ruby-purple in color, it leaps from the glass with notes of Morello cherries, redcurrant jelly, Black Forest cake and underbrush with wafts of red roses and tilled soil. Full-bodied and packed with black and red berry preserves flavors, it has a taut backbone of ripe grainy tannins and bold freshness, finishing lively with well-played herbal sparks.

Click on the links above or CALL me at 415-337-4083 to order!

Mar
10
2020

A Burgundy at a fraction the cost!

Winemaker Notes: “This 100% Pinot Noir presents a rich red in the glass. The nose is Burgundian in style, with notes of smoke and leather integrating gracefully with cranberry, dried cherry and plum skin. This Russian River based Pinot Noir greets your palate with pomegranate, tart red fruits, Herbes de Provence and hints of cassis, black cardamom and black tea. This wine has a spreading, full body with a long, lingering finish.”

Le Duc Noir 2017 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 34.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code LEDUC during checkout

Robert Parker 94 Points: “This comes from the Boriolo, BCD, Charles Heintz and Murray vineyards and was aged 12 months in 20% new French oak. Medium to deep ruby-purple colored, the 2017 Le Duc Noir Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir sings of baked cherries, black raspberries, mulberries and fragrant earth with wafts of violets and melted chocolate. Medium-bodied, delicately played and with impressive density, it has a sultry, plush texture and long, perfumed finish.”

Wine Spectator 94 Points: “Ripe and fresh, with a racy edge to the mix of red currant, raspberry and damson plum coulis flavors, all supported by bright acidity and supple, fine-grained tannins, backed by floral mineral and rooibos tea notes on the mouthwatering finish”

Click on the links above or CALL me at 415-337-4083 to order!

Mar
9
2020

CULT TASTING UPDATE

CULT TASTING UPDATE!

Saturday, February 29th a group of wine aficionados gathered to taste through some of Napa Valley’s most sought after “cult” Cabernets in our tasting room.

The lineup included:

VINE HILL RANCH “VHR” – 100 Points (almost sold out)
KAPCSANDY 2016 CABERNET “GRAND VIN” – 100 Points  (almost sold out)
PROMONTORY 2014 PROPRIETARY RED*, NAPA VALLEY -100 Points (almost sold out)
COLGIN 2016 IX ESTATE – 100 Points (almost sold out)
SCREAMING EAGLE 2016 “THE FLIGHT” – 98 Points (almost sold out)
And we had a SURPRISE “BROWN BAG” wine…. BEVAN 2017 ONTOGENY PROPRIETARY RED – 99 POINTS

One of our guest guessed the wine, but what was more surprising is that everyone agreed that “DOLLAR-COST-AVERAGE”  the BEVAN 2017 ONTOGENY was the BEST wine in the lineup….   On that note, we still have a few cases available if you like to order some.

Jeb Dunnuck 99 Points: “While the BEVAN 2017 ONTOGENY Red Wine is the least expensive wine in the lineup, it comes from all the single vineyards and in 2017, it doesn’t give an inch with regard to quality. In fact, it might be my favorite in the lineup. Awesome notes of blueberries, cranberries, blood orange, white flowers, and liquid violets all flow to a full-bodied 2017 that has purity, richness, balance, and length in spades. It’s another sexy, straight-up heavenly wine from Russell Bevan that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.”
 
Winemaker Notes:Ontogeny is pure bloody hell, showcasing the best each of the vineyards has to offer. A fruit profile that everyone can appreciate, with massive density and supple tannins. It is a blend from my big boy vineyards.  The wine is absolutely dynamic, with linear intensity, great balance and good acidity making it very food-friendly offering great power and concentration – a classic Ontogeny.”
 
Also, check out these other great Bevan wines:
BEVAN 2018 PINOT NOIR “PETALUMA GAP”
BEVAN 2018 PINOT NOIR “RITA’S CROWN”
BEVAN 2018 CHARDONNAY RITCHIE VINEYARD
BEVAN 2018 PINOT NOIR PETALUMA GAP
BEVAN 2017 TENCH EE RED (CABERNET BLEND) NAPA VALLEY – 99 POINTS
BEVAN 2017 CABERNET SAUVIGNON TENCH VINEYARD OAKVILLE, NAPA VALLEY 97 POINTS
BEVAN 2018 SAUVIGNON BLANC “DRY STACK” BENNETT VALLEY, SONOMA

Click on the links above or CALL me at 415-337-4083 to order as quantities are extremely limited!

Mar
8
2020

IN FOCUS: CALIFORNIA CABERNET

IN FOCUS: CALIFORNIA CABERNET

By Lucy Shaw
in The Drinks Business

 

 

Bill Harlan has created a California first growth in cult Napa Cabernet Harlan. Photo credit: Olaf Beckman

When property developer Bill Harlan founded Harlan Estate in 1984 in the western hills of Oakville, clearing 16 hectares of forest on his prized plot of land to plant vines, he had an audacious ambition – to create a California first growth. Many may have laughed in his face at the time, but 35 years on, his wine now sells for US$900 (£695) a bottle on release, and significantly more on the secondary market.

“It felt cheeky saying we wanted to create a California first growth back then, but people have been saying it back to us, so on some level it must have worked,” says estate director Don Weaver. “We’re not trying to be the Latour of the Golden State, but we do make very serious wine. The inspiration came more from wanting to mirror the first growth’s model of success and longevity.”

Having proved themselves over time, California’s equivalent of the five first growths are blossoming at the top of the fine wine tree, and stand apart in terms of their investment value. So much so that last year fine wine trading platform Liv-ex, the global marketplace for the wine trade, created the California 50 Index to follow the price performance of the past 10 physical vintages of Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Dominus, Opus One and Ridge Monte Bello – the Golden State’s most traded wines on the secondary market.

In the past year alone, the prices of the last five vintages of these wines have risen by an average of 25%, and over the past five years the California 50 Index has outperformed industry benchmark the Liv-ex 100 and the Liv-ex 1,000, rising by a staggering 76%, with Screaming Eagle alone posting gains of 89%. Justin Gibbs, director and co-founder of Liv-ex, puts this stellar performance down to a number of factors. “Bordeaux sales have been running flat for two years, and many collectors have cellars full of claret but very little from California.

With small production, high scores and the ‘shock of the new’ factor, prices of California’s big five have been pushed up with each release,” he says. Scarcity is key Scarcity is a key driver in pushing the price of these five wines to unprecedented levels – their volumes being more akin to top Burgundy than prized claret.

“A Bordeaux first growth produces around 20,000 cases a year, while Harlan makes 2,000 and Screaming Eagle only produced four barrels in 2017, so there is a massive level of rarity, which, when combined with their quality, results in high prices that are only going to go up,” says California specialist James Hocking, who imports the likes of Corra and Scarecrow into the UK through his eponymous agency, James Hocking Wine, and has found a niche among wealthy London-based Americans in their 30s and 40s who are thirsty for a taste of home.

While the big five continue to enjoy the lion’s share of secondary market sales, the audience for these wines has broadened, and the number of California wines trading on Liv-ex has doubled in the past two years, with both the UK and Asia becoming increasingly interested in what the Golden State has to offer at the top end.

However, the ongoing trade war between the US and China is stalling sales in Asia. While the US will always remain the number one market for these wines, the majority of which are sold direct to consumers via coveted mailing lists, many of California’s top producers are keen to increase their global presence, and are making their wines available in the UK for the first time, though the allocations are often miniscule.

Cult California Cabernet Ovid from Pritchard Hill will soon make its UK debut through The Wine Treasury, but don’t get too excited – account manager Christian Manthei told db during the recent Collectible California tasting at the American Embassy in London that the UK will be allotted between 18 and 24 bottles per year. The UK’s allocation of Harlan is slightly higher, ranging from 20 to 200 bottles, depending on availability, many of which are ‘flipped’ on the secondary market soon after being snapped up – a trend Weaver admits he has no control over.

“If you’re blatantly buying the wine to sell on then you’re not my favourite customer, but what people do with the wine once they buy it is their own business,” he says. One venue keen to make the most of its Harlan allocation is celebrity chef Jason Atherton’s new Mayfair restaurant, The Betterment, where a 125ml glass of Harlan 2012 will set you back £495.

Keen to expand his international reach, last summer movie mogul Francis Ford Coppola started distributing the Rutherford jewel in his California crown, Inglenook, through La Place de Bordeaux via three négociants – CVBG, Duclot and Maison Joanne. Jackson Family Wines does the same with Vérité, its revered range of three Bordeaux blends from Sonoma County. “We want the wines to compete on the same stage as top Bordeaux, and being available through La Place has helped us to expand our reach to France and other parts of the world,” says Christopher Jackson. “Selling through La Place is a major point of pride for us.”

The likes of Jackson and Inglenook aren’t the only ones benefiting from this new route to market. “As the world shifts away from en primeur, Bordeaux négociants need to change their business model accordingly, and working with California’s top producers is a great way to do that,” believes Dave Allen of California wine importer, The Vineyard Cellars. While the Jacksons like to benchmark Vérité against the likes of Margaux and Petrus, wine writer Francis Percival believes California’s top Bordeaux blends “exist in their own lane, and have no direct competition, except perhaps the Super Tuscans, as they’re both warm climate wines loved by Baby Boomers”. The jury is out as to whether the likes of Screaming Eagle and Dominus are made with the American palate in mind. “Definitely not,” insists Alistair Viner of Mayfair fine wine Mecca, Hedonism.

“These wines appeal to such a wide and varied group. We have over 1,400 California wines in stock and they account for a considerable percentage of our overall business,” he says. Oliver Bartle of Roberson thinks that while a number of the big five were initially crafted to appeal to sweet-toothed Americans, with their ripe fruit, high alcohol levels and lashings of new oak, he has noticed a stylistic shift in recent years. “They have become more food friendly and European in style, and display structure and balance,” he says. California-focused wine writer Stephen Brook has noticed “more polish, better handled oak and more refined tannins” in top California Cabernet of late. For Don Weaver, the abundance of sunshine in California is intrinsic to the character of Harlan, leading to “dense and profound wines with luscious texture”.
 

The Sine Qua Non room at Hedonism in Mayfair

Perhaps the more important question is whether or not California’s big five and beyond have true ageing potential; as this is often considered the mark of a fine wine. While many of California’s cult Cabernets are too young to be able to prove themselves over time, older vintages from the likes of Heitz, Dunn, Stag’s Leap and Château Montelena are proving increasingly popular at auction.

Macy Pigman of Christie’s New York says: “The auction market for the upper echelon of California Cabernet is exceeding expectations, and we’re seeing a resurgence in demand for 30- to 40-year-old Cali Cabs as collectors and critics begin to discover the unbelievable ageing potential these wines.” Viner stocks California drops dating back to the 1930s at Hedonism, and is confident about their ageing potential.

“I have been lucky enough to try several wines from the 60s and 70s from the likes of Heitz, Inglenook and Mondavi, and they have all been exceptionally good and very fresh,” he says. Cathy Corison’s elegant expressions are often used to highlight the ageability of California Cabernet. Bartle of Roberson says: “Corison ‘89 is a superb example of a mature Napa Valley Cabernet that has retained its acidity and fruit character, making it great to drink now or 20 years from now.”
 

Single bottles of Harlan sell for US$900 on release

For Dave Allen of The Vineyard Cellars, the ageability of top California Cabernet depends on the intentions of the winemaker when creating it. “Those made with a view to ageing will certainly do so, but those made to be voluptuous in their youth will struggle after 15 years,” he says.

But it’s not only ancient Cabernets that are attracting attention at auction. The allure of the big five is so strong that recent vintages are generating eye-wateringly high hammer prices. Just last month three bottles of the 2010 vintage of Screaming Eagle fetched US$10,625 at a Christie’s auction in New York.

The same auction saw three Screaming Eagle wines from the recently released 2016 vintage sell for US$7,500, fuelled by rumours that the 2017 vintage may not be released at all due to fears of wildfire-induced smoke taint. The winery’s inaugural 1992 vintage, made by Heidi Peterson Barrett, still has pulling power.

Last month a pair of 1992s went under the hammer for US$15,000 at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. The fact that the big five don’t tend to hold back a lot of stock is only adding fuel to the fire. “The lack of library stock in a period of rising demand has undoubtedly helped to push prices northward,” says Gibbs of Liv-ex.

While the likes of Harlan and Screaming Eagle make so little wine that the idea of holding a sizeable chunk of it back each year would be counter-intuitive, a growing number of California estates are waking up to the benefits of nurturing a wine library. John Williams of Frog’s Leap has held back 10% of his stock each year since his debut vintage in 1981, to be able to prove that his wines age gracefully. Having heavily invested in the fine wine side of its business, E & J Gallo is looking to build up its library stock, particularly of its Louis M. Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet.

“This is top of mind for us. In some markets our distributors have built a library of our wines to be able to put on vertical tastings. Having a library of back vintages is an important way of gaining visibility in the on-trade, particularly at fine dining restaurants,” a Gallo spokesperson said. Jackson Family Wines, meanwhile, has started putting aside as much as 25% of the annual production of Vérité, with the aim of re-releasing the wines at a later date with they are ready to drink.

“Our library programme was created in response to certain vintages of Vérité getting snapped up really quickly, so we’re forcing the hand of the market a bit. We’re going for the long-term decision rather than the short-term gain,” says brand ambassador Dimitri Mesnard MS. With Scarecrow and Screaming Eagle’s chief winemakers having moved on to launch their own projects, might we soon see a slew of new ‘cult’ California Cabernets threatening to topple the big five from their throne?

 

Lawrence Fairchild with his new ‘cult’ Cabernet, Perrarus

“Napa is a very close-knit community and people tend to follow the path of a winemaker, so Heidi Peterson Barrett’s new small production projects like La Sirena, Kenzo and Lamborn are all gaining traction, as are those made by Napa legends Andy Erickson and David Abreu,” says Christian Manthei, who was astonished to chance upon dozens of Napa Cabernets he didn’t recognise priced upwards of US$200 at a grocery store in Oakville during a recent buying trip.

Alistair Viner flags up Russell Bevan’s Perus as a winery to watch, while importer James Hocking describes Philippe Melka’s Moone Tsai as a future classic.

However, California’s fine wine future won’t necessarily lie in Cabernet. “I think Pinot Noir will start to command as much attention as Cabernet, as producers work out how to get the best from this fickle grape in California,” predicts Dave Allen of The Vineyard Cellars, who believes the likes of Kutch from the Sonoma Coast and Domaine de la Côte in the Santa Rita Hills are poised for their moment in the sun. While most estates need to prove themselves with a 20-year track record before they can enter the fine wine canon, some labels lay claim to being a ‘cult’ wine off the bat.

In August, Lawrence Fairchild (pictured), a Washington insider during the Reagan years, and now a wine entrepreneur, released 300 magnums of a 2015 Napa Cabernet called Perrarus (meaning ‘exceptional’ in Latin) priced at US$3,500 a pop, which he describes as being “the Ferrari of wines” with “the wild energy of a leopard”. The magnums were allocated at random to members of Fairchild’s mailing list.

How long the likes of Ridge and Opus One can continue their upward trajectory on the secondary market remains to be seen. Justin Gibbs of Liv-ex has already noticed that the price appreciation “at the very top of the California tree” is slowing. However, with limited supply, critical success and a run of good vintages, the top drops from the Golden State are helping to expand collectors’ wine horizons and prove that, in sensitive hands, California is more than capable of creating wines that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of Bordeaux.
 


For these and other excellent California Cabernets, please visit our store at http://GoldenGateWineCellars.com. As always, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 415-337-4083 for any questions, suggestions, or wine advice