Tips for the Holidays

Throughout the year, we visit a lot of our members in their home towns. We will host private tastings and dinners. We conduct seminars. Or, we just meet for coffee to catch up after a year or two. That said, the most common question I am asked is “how do you know what to buy when you’re out?”

Easy question to answer now, but reflecting back to our times when we first started out collecting wines, we remember panic buying bottles at the restaurant or at the retail shop.

The holidays are a time when we are entertaining, either as the host, or as the guest. Here are some tips when planning around the holidays and where to find great value in the wines you might come across.

  1. Varietals matter. If you’re selecting a bottle of wine and looking for something special for the occasion, select a wine varietal that you’re familiar with. Although Cabernet Sauvignon varies throughout the world, you will be able to find similar characteristics that you like in the wine and it might be a better value or a jump in quality.
  2. Regions, where are you from? Regions are always important when thinking about wine and selecting a bottle to share at the table. If you’re at the restaurant, and cruising down the wine list seeking your favorite Napa Cabernet, keep these things in mind. Be specific. Think of the wine label as your Google Maps. If you’re vague, it won’t necessarily get you to the driveway. With wine, the more details, and specific location, the better.
  3. Vintage, hold old are ya honey? Vintages matter but not always as much as you think. A “good year” in America is likely 80% of the wines produced each year. In Europe, their climate isn’t as generous and hail, frost, and rain can greatly effect the vintages. That said, style will also come into play with these vintages and you might benefit from decanting or extended aging.
  4. Bubbles, let’s celebrate! All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling is Champagne. Champagne is a region, so not all wines that pop qualify for this labeling. Whether you’re selecting a Prosecco, Cremant, Sparkling wine or Champagne, celebrate with the best! If you’re lucky enough to find a bottle with a specific vintage on the bottle, even better! These rare wines are held for only the best of the best fruit to produce a “vintage sparkling” that year.
  5. Gifting… how much is appropriate? Many ask what is appropriate for a gifted bottle and I tend to ask a corresponding question. Are they wine people or just enjoy imbibing? If they’re collecting, or opening wines with you and share a story of the winemaker, their recent trip, or “this is one of our favorites” then I think we have someone who treats wines like a hobby. I’d ask the retail store, or your favorite website, for recommendations. Price doesn’t determine quality, but looking for a region with a story, a slightly older vintage (2007-2012 California looks great now), and a little more specific location. Don’t always go to the fancy label or big wax tops to say it’s quality.

That said, wine is subjective. You’re going to collect, age, or consume certain wines you have a connection with and wines you are excited about. My favorite thing about this time of the year is to experience new wines and discover new producers.

Have a wonderful season celebrating with friends and family.

Cheers.

View the wines in our wine shop for more boutique producers to share this season.

Celebrate the Little Things

As we wrap up the first year of our wine clubs, we’re here to showcase a selection of wines from Northern California. This year alone, we have highlighted boutique wine producers, new winery projects from family owned wineries and wine entrepreneurs. Each of the wines we can proudly say we’ve tasted with the owners, met the winemakers or walked the vineyards. Over the course of the year, we’ve also sampled hundreds of different wines and only selected the best NINE to go into each shipment. The best part, we are working with small producers and introducing their wines to our great supporters.

All that said, here are the wines we selected for your December shipment. As always, if you like the wines, call us quickly as we are very quickly selling out of these small production wines.

Club Cadet is our introductory wine club featuring wines from small producers who sell only direct from the winery.

6 Bottles of Wine | 5 Reds and 1 White wine

2019 T Berkley Wines White Wine, Mendocino County
Chenin Blanc | Winery Price: $30
This wine comes exclusively from Tim Norgard’s Sterling Ranch just outside of Ukiah in Mendocino County.

2018 Jigar Wines Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Pinot Noir | Winery Price: $40
This is a blend of several of their finest Pinot Noir vineyards from around the Green Valley region. The finest traits from each vineyard combine to form this beautiful bottle of wine.

2016 Puccioni Vineyards Old Vine Zin, Dry Creek Valley
Zinfandel | Winery Price: $34
Over 100 years of wine growing and making across four generations in Sonoma County.

2013 Viluko Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Cabernet Sauvignon | Winery Price: $50
A balanced wine, and taut, with ripe fruit and supple texture; its youth is expressed with abundant tannins that soften when decanted.

2014  Meeker Wine Syrah, Dry Creek Valley
Syrah | Winery Price: $40 Family owned and operated since 1977; Molly Meeker is the matriarch and President. Her son Lucas Meeker is the second generation winemaker and COO.


2017 Idell Family Vineyards “Oscar Mixed Blacks” Red Wine, Sonoma County
Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mouvedre, and Grenache | Winery Price: $42
This wine is an homage to the old Sonoma Valley style of grape growing and winemaking:  dry farmed and head-pruned, with five co-fermented varietals as in “old vine” vineyards with mixed varietals.

Learn more about these wines here.

6 Bottles of Wine | 6 Red Wines

2016 Talisman Wines Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, Sonoma County
Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Winery Price: $70
Winemaker pedigree Mary Edwards, Calera, MacRostie

2017 Rudius Kaley Elizabeth Oakville Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery Price: $135
Winemaker Jeff Ames
96+ Points – Wine Advocate

2018 Majuscule Mt Veeder, Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

250 Cases Produced
Winery Price: $80

Learn more about these wines on our website.

3 Bottles of Wine | 3 Red Wines

2016 Talisman Wines Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, Sonoma County
Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Winery Price: $70
Winemaker pedigree Mary Edwards, Calera, MacRostie

2017 Rudius Kaley Elizabeth Oakville Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery Price: $135
Winemaker Jeff Ames
96+ Points – Wine Advocate

2018 Majuscule Mt Veeder, Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

250 Cases Produced
Winery Price: $80

Learn more about these wines on our website.

December Flight and Elite Wine Selections

December Flight Club 3 Bottles of Wine | 3 Red Wines | One Bottle of Each

December Elite Club 6 Bottles of Wine | 6 Red Wines | Two Bottles of Each

2016 Talisman Wines Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, Sonoma County
Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Winery Price: $70
Winemaker pedigree Mary Edwards, Calera, MacRostie

Talisman is focused completely (obsessed?) on Pinot Noir; very small lots of single vineyard Pinot Noirs. Lovingly crafted expressions of different vineyards mostly in Sonoma County; one in Napa County and one in Mendocino county. They partner with their growers, a much more personal relationship than just “buying grapes”. They have specific blocks (or rows) that they source from, work together on, make farming and picking decisions together, and craft exquisite wines from their grapes.

They vinify and age their Pinots virtually identically to showcase the vineyard site; elevation, soil type, age of vines, weather that year, etc. It’s a fascinating comparison of Pinot personalities. They also craft their Pinots to age; 25-30% whole cluster, native (ambient, feral) yeast, a 10 days to 2 weeks post-fermentation maceration, barrel aging of 18-22 months in about half new French oak (5 different coopers for added layers of complexity), and a good 1-2 years in bottle; the wines benefit greatly from time in the bottle.

They strive for balance; tannin, structure, acid, body, flesh, aromatics, finish…. The wine has to have enough “stuffing” to stand up to the levels of tannin and barrel age they give them.

Needless to say… this winery is obsessed with Pinot Noir and we actually took the entire lot so that way we could exclusively offer this wine to our membership.

2017 Rudius Kaley Elizabeth Oakville Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery Price: $135
Winemaker Jeff Ames
96+ Points – Wine Advocate

Winemaker is Jeff Ames (he’s worked with Lynn Penner-Ash and Thomas Rivers Brown and currently is the winemaker for Tor).  This is his personal label… Kaley Elizabeth is named for his daughter

Rudius is the name of the wooden sword that was presented to a gladiator when he was freed by the emperor of Rome. It symbolized the gladiator was done fighting and now a free man.

Perched just above Silverado Trail in Oakville’s sun-soaked eastern hills, the vineyard that produces our Kaley Elizabeth Cabernet is truly one of a kind. Planted in 1988 on terraces cut into the brick-red clay soils indicative of this sub-appellation, the vines here have been painstakingly maintained over the last nearly three decades.

Few Cabernet vineyards in the Napa Valley have such an abiding sense of history and commitment to quality. Clone 7 — a favorite of farmers in the 80s and 90s — delivers consistently rich, bold fruit from year-to-year, while the incredibly well-drained, fractured soil of the terraces adds just the right amount of stress over the growing season. The result: a wine that is both plush and complex, every bit a modern Napa Cabernet, with bold dark elements that harken back to the days of old California.

2018 Majuscule Cabernet Sauvignon Mt Veeder, Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

250 Cases Produced
Winery Price: $80

Tasting Notes: The lively and intense nose leads with a hint of fresh violets and dark fruits. On the palate, flavors of bright red cherries, blackberries and black currant are highlighted with subtle cranberry. With a full-bodied mouthfeel and moderate tannins, the flavors progressively include a subtle spice component with dark chocolate, pepper, licorice, and cedar.

Sourced from two steep blocks in the Wildcat Vineyard on Mount Veeder, our flagship Cabernet Sauvignon has a lively and intense nose, leading in with a hint of fresh violets and dark fruits. On the palate, flavors of bright red cherries, blackberries and black currant highlight, with subtle flavor of cranberry. With a full-bodied mouthfeel and moderate tannins, the flavors progressively include a subtle spice component with dark chocolate, pepper, licorice, and cedar. This wine has structured tannins and will age well over the next 15 years.

Big, small. Bold, timid. There really is no counterpart to the word minuscule in English. In French the opposite is majuscule, literally meaning a capital letter.

The juxtaposition of big and small embodies our wine making philosophy. They craft big yet elegant and balanced wines from exceptional single vineyards in the Napa Valley.

Majuscule is a small, family owned and run winery that specializes in Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their award-winning wines are produced in very small lots – typically less than 100 cases per wine – with an intense focus on quality. 

Working with our friend Lisa Chu, a longtime grower on Mount Veeder, they made two barrels of the first Majuscule wines in 2009 as a side project from the same vineyard they source grapes from today. It was a fun endeavor, and they enjoyed sharing the wines with friends. And the seed was planted for what was to come a few years later. 

In 2018 Majuscule became an official winery. We’re still rooted to Lisa’s Wildcat Vineyard on the steep slopes 1,800 feet above the western side of the Napa Valley. The vineyard is stunning and has several microclimates and grape clones. It’s challenging to farm, but the extra effort yields incredible results in the bottle.



Learn more about these wines on our website.

December 2021 Club Cadet

These wines were a lot of fun to sample this fall and some were on our radar for a few years as they developed as a winery and brand. The scores quickly came in and our Tasting Panel was able to assemble a really fun and unique wine club shipment for our members. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did while sampling together.

Purchase these wines on our website or join the club to secure this selection.

2019 T Berkley Wines White Wine, Mendocino County
Chenin Blanc | Winery Price: $30
Tasting notes: This wine comes exclusively from Tim Norgard’s Sterling Ranch just outside of Ukiah in Mendocino County. Older vines planted in 1980 on the now little used AXR1 rootstock still thrive there in the Mendocino County soils. The grapes were picked at lower brix, crushed and left on skins for a day, pressed, and fermented in a mix of French Oak, stainless-steel barrels, and concrete egg. Aged on lees 12 months, the wine has vibrant acidity and excellent phenolic structure, with notes of honeycomb, lemon curd, and lanolin. Elegant and structured, this wine will benefit from some patient aging, but drinks beautifully today.

  • 326 cases produced.
  • 100% Chenin Blanc from Mendocino County.
  • Fermented 30% Concrete, 60% Neutral French Oak, 10% Stainless Steel.  11 Months in vessels followed by 3 months in tank before bottling.

T Berkley Wines

  • Located in Calistoga, CA –  does not currently have a tasting room.
  • Produces 800-1000 cases per year of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc exclusively.

T. Berkley Wines is the passion project of owner/winemaker Taylor Boydstun, founded to explore the promise of Loire varieties grown here in California. Starting with a long running love affair with Cabernet Franc and finding his white wine spiritual expression in Chenin Blanc, he works constantly to introduce interested US consumers to something more than Chardonnay and Cabernet and welcomes everyone on the journey! 

2018 Jigar Wines Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Pinot Noir | Winery Price: $40
Tasting Notes: Ripe and generous flavors of pomegranate, cranberry, and red plum introduce themselves with a delicate hello. The rich garnet color exudes freshness in the glass. Pairs beautifully with a roasted chicken and could be cellared for several years. Time will only add greatness to this Russian River delight.                      

  • 402 cases produced.
  • 100% Pinot Noir.
  • 18 months on 25% new French Oak.

This is a blend of several of their finest Pinot Noir vineyards from around the Green Valley region. The finest traits from each vineyard combine to form this beautiful bottle of wine.

Jigar Wines

  • Wine is produced in Santa Rosa, CA.  There is no public tasting room.
  • Produce ~1,500 cases per year across Chardonnay, Rose, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and a red blend.


2016 Puccioni Vineyards Old Vine Zin, Dry Creek Valley
Zinfandel | Winery Price: $34
Tasting Notes: Blackberry, blueberry, vanilla nose; plum, chocolate palate with balanced acidity and soft tannins; medium-plus finish.

  • 250 cases produced.
  • Zinfandel, blended with Petite Sirah from Puccioni Ranch.
  • 17 months in Hungarian and French oak barrels.

Puccioni Vineyards

  • Located in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, Puccioni Vineyards has been growing and making wine for four generations – since 1904. 
  • Produce approx 250 cases/year.


2013 Viluko Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Cabernet Sauvignon | Winery Price: $50
Tasting Notes: Deep aromatics of brown spice, cinnamon and clove open to mouthfuls of dark berries and deep red cranberries. A core of minerality supports notes of red raspberries and cocoa powder. A balanced wine, and taut, with ripe fruit and supple texture; its youth is expressed with abundant tannins that soften when decanted. Worthy of aging for 8 – 10 years.

  • 1,188 cases produced.
  • 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • 18 months in 100% French oak, 50% new.

Viluko Vineyards

  • Located in Santa Rosa, Viluko Vineyards hosts tasting by appointment only.
  • Produce 900 cases per year, across Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • The estate mountain vineyard is CCOF certified organic.


2014  Meeker Wine Syrah, Dry Creek Valley
Syrah | Winery Price: $40

Tasting Notes: Blackberry compote with mint leaves, red dirt, dusty stone, cloves and eucalyptus. A playful and high volume mid-palate slides away with elegant length.

  • Based in Healdsburg, CA, the tasting room is by appointment only.
  • Produce 5,000-6,000 cases per year across Pet Nat, Verdelho, Chardonnay, Rose, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Red blends, and dessert wines.
  • Family owned and operated since 1977; Molly Meeker is the matriarch and President. Her son Lucas Meeker is the second generation winemaker and COO.

2014 Dry Creek Valley Syrah

  • 305 cases produced.
  • 100% Syrah.
  • 24 months in mixed once-used and neutral French and American oak.


2017 Idell Family Vineyards “Oscar Mixed Blacks” Red Wine, Sonoma County
Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mouvedre, and Grenache | Winery Price: $42
Tasting Notes: A very rich, complex, robust field blend with notes of blackberry, raspberry and chocolate.

The Idell Family Vineyards “Oscar” Mixed Blacks – Red Wine is a wine of exceptional heritage. The vineyard is located on land which was part of the original Carriger Estate of Nicholas Carriger who came to Sonoma in 1846 (the same year as the Donner Party) and purchased his 1000 acre parcel from General Vallejo.  Carriger reportedly was the first American to grow wine grapes commercially in Sonoma Valley.  This wine is an homage to the old Sonoma Valley style of grape growing and winemaking:  dry farmed and head-pruned, with five co-fermented varietals as in “old vine” vineyards with mixed varietals.

  • 122 cases produced.
  • Because this is a field blend, the %’s of grapes differ from year to year. However, planted are approximately 70% Zinfandel and the 30% balance a mixture of Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mourvedre and Grenache. 
  • 18 months in 40% new, 60% neutral American oak.

Idell Family Vineyards

  • Small, family-owned winery.  No tasting room.
  • Produce ~500 cases per year across Chardonnay, Syrah and the Oscar Mixed Blacks, a Red Wine Field Blend.

To purchase these wines, please visit our wine club page to join today.

A Collection of Rare Wines with Outstanding Pedigree

We absolutely love this time of the year.  The Napa Valley will soon fill with wafts of harvest and another vintage will soon become world class wine. We also release a selection of wines that are near ready to drink this fall with friends and family.  

This shipment highlights winemakers who have incredible pedigree and vineyards that are newer to the scene. These family run businesses and partnerships bring wines that beg to be shared over a meal. Don’t take our Tasting Panel’s opinion (we sampled over 30 wines for September), look at the critic scores and pedigree from each property. 

SEPTEMBER WINE CLUB FEATURES

Flight Members – Receive one bottle each of the following wines.  $300.00, +$9.99 shipping
Elite Members – Receive two bottles each of the following wines. $600.00, free shipping


2018 Titus Vineyards Estate Reserve Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

Titus Vineyards, St. Helena
Winery Price: $105
Jeb Dunnuck – 93 Points

Titus Vineyards is a 2nd generation, family-owned and farmed estate producing high quality grapes for limited production, premium Napa Valley wines, such as Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Cuvaison, Quail Ridge, and Pine Ridge. Philip Titus, has been the winemaker at Chappellet’s Estate on Pritchard Hillfor over 2 decades, where he met Stephen Cruzan, who worked at Cade before becoming the winemaker at Titus.

Purchase

Tasting Notes: The 2018 Titus Family Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon shows off the typical concentration and depth that is quintessential of the vines grown in the rocky soils at our Ehlers Lane Vineyard. The wine is dark with aromas of cassis, blueberry, roasted coffee, molasses and lifted floral notes. The body is dense and powerful on entry with purity displaying black raspberry, blueberry, and black currant flavors. The structure is focused with mouthcoating tannins that draw the wine through the palate. The finish is rich and lingering, accented by essences of cigar box, dark chocolate and espresso. Enjoy from 2029-2038.

2016 Ackerman Family Vineyards, Coombsville, Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon

Ackerman Family Vineyards
Winery Price: $95
Female Owned and Operated, 94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Winemaker Leo Tellez has wine in his blood.  His grandfather spent his career at Charles Krug Winery while Leo’s father devoted more than 25 years at Robert Mondavi Winery.  Leo has made wine for a number of notable boutique producers, including Kapcsandy, Blankiet, Repris, Captûre, Notre Vin and Sodaro Estate, and has been knocking it out of the park with Ackerman Family Vineyards.

Purchase

Tasting Notes: This 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is harvested from the Stonehaven vineyard and is taken to the winery where the grapes cold soak and then are fermented in stainless steel tanks. After fermentation the wines are put to French oak barrels for secondary malolactic fermentation and aging. opens with a lovely bouquet of blueberries, black currants, plum, graphite, violets and soft cedar notes. The medium to full-bodied, beautifully integrated tannins are velvety and soft with balanced acidity and a long finish. This wine is ready to enjoy now and will age beautifully for years to come. Composed of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

2015 Stardust Wines Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Stardust Wines
Winery Price: $100
Only 100 cases produced

Cutting her teeth in wine at Robert Mondavi, St Supery, and Dominus Estates, winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes has made a name for herself in Napa Valley. In addition to being the Winemaker for Stardust, Megan serves as Director of Winemaking for Hall Wines in St. Helena where she has the reputation of creating high scoring, award-winning wines.
  
Purchase

Tasting Notes: Although clearly favoring ripeness, this deep and very well-defined Cabernet is marked first and last by a keen sense of varietal precision. Despite being very rich, it never once comes across as being blustery or anything close to excessive, and, for a wine of its ample substance and size, it is very carefully balanced, exceptionally long at the finish and its tannins are not allowed to get ahead of its generous and juicy fruit. Five years of age are certain to make what is a very good thing even better, and we have no doubt at all that it will be drinking beautifully after another half-decade has passed after that.

Want the Perfect, Custom Wine Gift?

Stop what you’re doing, grab a glass of wine and check this out. We’ve collaborated with ColtreKicks and made one of the most unique wine gifts. Forget corkscrews, wooden boxes or sparkling t-shirts with gimmicky phrases. We have something much better for you that will even be customized to match your unique style.

We’re talking about a custom, wine themed, Nike Air Force 1. These shoes are inspired by the bottles of wine they are intended to pair with. Shop the wines here.

*The images above are examples of the shoes and wines, these are subject to change.

Each month, we will release two limited selection sets; 24 “red sneakers” and 12 “white sneakers”, inspired by Red and White Wine bottles. The shoes are limited, and so are the wines. We taste a variety of wines each month, then select just three bottles from the top producers (see examples on our partners page) in Napa and Sonoma. We then curate a custom set of wines to pair with the unique styling for each sneaker release.

The shoe design? It will showcase the characteristics of the wine; bold, tannic, earthy, dark fruit, red fruit, minerality, stone fruit, citrus, mint, herbs… we could go on. As we taste the wines, our team of professionally trained sommeliers, winemakers and wine enthusiasts make the notes, share them with the team at ColtreKicks and they begin to draft the expression on each pair.

Want to see a quick example of the process? Ok, so, check this video out.

The best part, you get a 30 minute consultation with the designer to add in personal elements to your pair. That’s right. You’ll have the ONLY pair on the planet. The wine notes will remain the same, with your personal flair.

Each month, on the 15th, we will release 36 (24 red, 12 white) Tickets to reserve your pair, add in the set of wines to go along with the shoes and you’re moments away from having the most talked about accessory at your next social event.

Visit our Online Shop to reserve your custom set of wines and we will place you in contact with ColtreKicks to get started! Best part is, your purchase of a wine set includes 20% off your custom pair of shoes!

June Featured Wines

Flight Members – Receive one bottle each of the following wines.  $300.00, +$9.99 shipping

Elite Members – Receive two bottles each of the following wines.  $600.00, free shipping

2018 Somnium Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot

320 cases produced | $75/bottle

Vineyard: Somnium Estate (5 feet below Howell Mtn.) and Coombsville 

Winemaker:  Julien Fayard | Resume Covert Estate, Lafite Rothschild,

Smith Haut Laffite.

Cellaring: Decant, amazing vintage with balance, ideal drinking window now-2030 – TFWC Tasting Panel, 2021

Owner’s Background: Danica Patrick is best known for her prowess behind the wheel of a racecar. She’s garnered international attention for breaking barriers and succeeding in the male-dominated world of professional motorsports. 

Danica started racing go-karts at the age of 10 and worked her way up through the ranks. She burst onto the scene in May 2005 when she stunned the world by leading 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first Indianapolis 500, becoming the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the historic race. Three years later, in April 2008, Danica became the first woman to win a major-league open-wheel race in a North American series with her victory in the IndyCar Series Indy Japan 300.

Her path to appreciating fine wines, which ultimately led to creating Somnium, took root early on during her days in England where she developed a palate for dry white wines like Sancerre and Chablis. It was also here where Danica learned to cook, first out of necessity as she gravitated towards a healthy lifestyle, and later out of interest and growth as she discovered different indigenous dishes during her worldwide travels to places like New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Back on domestic soil, Danica’s taste and interest in wine continued to grow as she developed an affinity for red wine. In 2006, while in town for an event at Sonoma Raceway, she experienced the first of many magical moments in Napa Valley as she sipped wine on a Howell Mountain hill top. From there, a winery and post racing career was born.

Winemaker, Julien Fayard. With more than two decades of winemaking expertise, Julien Fayard is one of Napa Valley’s most respected winemakers producing California varietals with French finesse. He believes in producing wines with an identity, exploiting what makes each one unique. Julien’s wines are a pure expression of their terroir, highlighting the specificities and characteristics of the fruit, vineyard management, soil and climate. He has a track record of building brands both in terms of quality and market presence. 

Originally from France, Julien began his career as a winemaker producing quality rosé at his family’s winery in Provence. In Bordeaux he worked at Lafite Rothschild and Smith Haut Laffite before relocating to Napa Valley. In Napa, he was Philippe Melka’s director of winemaking for a few years before launching his own projects.

Julien earned his Master in Agri-Business from ESA France and his Master in Winemaking from Toulouse France. In 2011, he received his MBA from UC Davis. 

Tasting notes: Seamless season marked by optimal hangtimes and exemplary phenolic development. February brought bountiful rains, followed by an abundance of filtered light in spring and early summer. Bud break and flowering occurred slightly later in 2018, but under ideal weather conditions, creating plentiful and even fruit set. Summer virtually uninterrupted by major heat spikes. A relatively mild summer followed by extended fall sunshine and moderate hear created near-ideal conditions for winemakers to allow fruit to accumulate flavor complexity with gradual increases in sugar levels.

In the vineyard, the Somnium Estate sits on the flanks of Howell Mountain at 1,300 feet and faces directly west and southwest, benefitting from maximum sun exposure. The high elevation keeps the estate vineyard, on average, five degrees cooler than the valley floor, resulting in a steady growing seasons. This wine was harvested from blocks 3, 4, 6, and 7 then blended together from one of the oldest Merlot blocks in Coombsville, situated on a rocky hillside with well-drained soil.

The 2018 Somnium Cabernet Sauvignon is aromatic and fresh with intense blackberry, black currant and blueberry flavors. Cherry fills the mouth, with hints of rosemary, sage and earthy notes on the end palate, followed by a smooth, soft finish.

2016 B Wise Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

100% Cabernet Sauvignon | 200 cases produced | $125/bottle

Vineyard: Coombsville, Yountville and Oakville.

Winemaker:  Mark Herold, formerly making wines at Joseph Phelps, Merus.

Cellaring: ten year aging window, decant upon opening – TFWC Tasting Panel, April 2021

Owner’s Background: Brion Wise describes the emotional part is always development. He was never interested in buying into something already finished. He want to be part of the process from the ground up. It was in 1993 that he went out to California looking for vineyard land. He was originally attracted to the property in Sonoma because of the reputation of the surrounding area that would eventually become the Moon Mountain District. The property had been a cattle ranch; it had no infrastructure. There was a dirt road with no easements. He drilled a well and ran everything on generators. It’s an engineering puzzle with a foundation in aesthetics.

From the time he started B. Wise Vineyards in 2002, his ambition was to make something he could hold up to the best wines he tasted during his travels. The vision is to make a wine of the world, and in his case, it became their flagship wine, BRION. B. Wise Vineyards is about the enjoyment of life. He and his wife Ronda make their own prosciutto; they brine olives; they grow and make wine. Best of all, they share all of this with their friends. Through everything they have done, there is this love of farming and a sense of the kind of perfection you can achieve through patience.

In 2002 B Wise began working with Massimo Monticelli, who joined them from Silver Oak, as the winemaker for the B. Wise Estate. Mark Herold brought them depth in their Napa Cabernet portfolio from his pioneering oenology work for Joseph Phelps and his own successful Merus Cabernet. Rounding out the Pinot Noir portfolio, they include an offering from the classic region for that grape, the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Drew Voit, former winemaker for Shea Vineyards in Oregon, joined them to work with Massimo on their Pinot Noirs.

Tasting notes: From distinguished vineyards in the Coombsville, Yountville, and Oakville districts. The opaque black-red hue reveals the concentration and depth of the wine. Dark fruits of blackberry and cassis with notes of spice, bay leaf, and dark chocolate emanate from the glass. The fruits are further enveloped by toasty oak tones with layers of violet, clove, and vanilla. In the mouth, layers of refined tannin give broad texture and extended length to the wine. The wine finishes with great energy and mineral tones. Drink 2019-2029.

2017 Ellman ‘Jemma’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

100% Cabernet Sauvignon  | 350 cases produced | $125/bottle

Vineyard: 79% Ellman Estate Vineyard, 21% Vine Hill Ranch

Winemaker: Andy Erickson | Resume – Screaming Eagle, Dalle Valle, Ovid, To Kalon, Favia.

Cellaring: Big wine, tons of fruit. Cellar for 8-12 years. TFWC Tasting Panel, April 2021

Owner’s Background: Neil Ellman is a third generation manufacturer, he continues to be the creative force behind his family business, overseeing sales and marketing. At one point, that business had him residing in California. It was during this time that Neil developed an affinity for Napa and a desire to be in the wine business. He considers himself fortunate to have been able to marry his passion for business and entrepreneurship with his love of great wine. Neil, his wife and two children currently reside in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Winemaker’s Notes: Andy brings to the winemaking at ELLMAN a shared value of family and friendship. His rich understanding of the Napa Valley and his thoughtful approach in the vineyard and cellar, give these wines and their estate the opportunity to grow into the multi-generational, family endeavor the Ellman’s dream of. Andy’s body of work as a winemaker is revered and stands alone in the Napa Valley. Check out this article for more info on Andy. https://www.winespectator.com/articles/a-live-chat-with-andy-erickson.

Tasting Notes: Named for Neil Ellman’s wife, 2017 marks the 11th year producing the Jemma Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine. This vintage is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is sourced from the Ellman Estate Vineyard and Vine Hill Ranch.

With an intense ruby taste, the 2017 Jemma has expressive aromatics of elderberries, black currants and a myriad of bramble fruits, peppered with hints of graphite, caramel and thyme. On the palate, it has a lush fruit profile of blackberry compote, plum clafoutis and a basket full of Bing cherries. Muscular and weighty on the palate, the dark fruit character is precisely framed by focused tannins and an enduring, lengthy finish.  Aptly paired with a classic Beef Bourguignon or a simple dry-aged New York strip! 

Wine Country is open, are you ready?

Finally… and we mean finally. As a group that tends to spend most of the time behind a computer and connecting with family, friends, and peers in the wine industry, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other in person. Zoom, Facetime, Teams, whichever your vice for the next family social hour, logging in gets old quick. Thankfully, it looks like brighter skies are ahead and we will soon be able to get back how things were in 2019… maybe?

While preparing for our June shipment, we start by calling to check in with our winery partners and ask the simple question; what’s new? We hear a lot. Some want to chat. Others have an endearing glow in their voice with optimism, others are really chomping to get back to seeing guests and sharing stories over a bottle (or bottles) of wine. We can’t blame them. We are too.

Another round of phone calls we make throughout the week is with our hospitality partners. These are the smiling faces you’ll see when you visit the winery, hotel, restaurant and those who are picking you up before you embark on your daily excursion. These guys know their stuff and often send us recommendations of what wines we might want to feature in an upcoming shipment. You won’t believe how many texts we get throughout the season from a driver or hotel concierge who saying “have you tried this wine? You have to. Here’s the winemaker’s number.”

As you begin planning your next trip to wine country, give these guys a chance to show you around. They are great partners and always have the “next best” property to visit and really have the insider’s eye to wine country. They’ll offer you some suggestions, but the real art to their craft is they spend about 80% of their time listening to what you want to see and how you want your trip to go.

If we can suggest, here are a few of the companies we trust and have worked with for a decade while in other capacities in wine country.

Email john@topflightwineclub.com to start the conversation or connect with either company directly and mention Top Flight sent you.

Ride with Paul

Paul is an industry veteran who knows Napa and Sonoma from years of touring. One day he took the challenge and opened his own business, starting as a one man show. He’s done well and has one commitment to his guests and always wants to share a story or two. Book a Ride

Napa Valley Chauffeur

We go way back here… and Marcus and his family are building a small empire in Northern California. Marcus is the one stop shop for Wine Country. His fleet of vehicles range from couples to group tours. He also offers photography services for the Big Day or Proposals. Book a Ride

Wine Tasting Driver

Here is someone who took a great consumer first approach to wine tour driving. They offer designated driver services and professional drivers in a more casual setting. They offer all types of services, and do it extremely well. Book a Ride

RAM Wine Country Tours

Private Wine Tours and Transportation throughout Napa Valley, Sonoma and Healdsburg. Connect with Reggie and he will be sure to lure you in with witty charm and is always offering to play some golf. Book a Ride

March Featured Wines

Receive two bottles each of the following wines.  $590.00, free shipping

2016 J. Moss Proprietary Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

100% Cabernet Sauvignon | 100 cases produced | $125/bottle

Vineyard: Steffensen Vineyard Coombsville and Mee Lane Vineyard Rutherford 

Winemaker:  James Moss | Resume Mondavi, Opus One, Jessup Cellars, J. Gregory

Cellaring: Decant, 9-12 years prime, ideal for extended aging 15+ – TFWC Tasting Panel, 2021

Owner’s Background: James Moss comes from Dallas, Texas where he first was introduced to fine wines working for a Texas distributor.  His work often brought him to the Napa Valley for further education.  That is when he began to fall in love with the industry and had the desire to produce his own fine wine that he could share with friends and family and eventually all wine lovers.  James decided to move to California in 1998 to follow this dream.

James’ career in winemaking began with helping out a friend at his small winery.  This is where he soon realized the complexity and commitment it took to produce an award winning wine and he has been committed to that goal ever since.  In addition to the day to day operations being the winemaker for J Moss, James hand selects the vineyards where the grapes are sourced, is the welcoming host at J Moss winery tastings and works out in the market hand selling J Moss wines to on and off premise customers in Northern California, Texas, Hawaii and beyond

Winemaking: This limited production 100% Cabernet Sauvignon comes from two special vineyards from the Rutherford and Coombsville appellations of Napa Valley.  The top two barrels were selected from each vineyard and married together to produce this amazing bottle of wine. This Cabernet Sauvignon is intense with dense dark rich concentrated bold black fruits including blackberries, dark cherry, plums with hints of double espresso.  It is rich and full bodied with medium tannins and an intense finish. 

We hand-harvested at dawn October 2016, at 25.4 Brix. Our grapes were picked cool at 47 F, destemmed, cold soaked 5 days to gently optimize extraction of tannins, color and fresh fruit, then fermented in small lot 3/4 ton fermenters. The grapes were punched down by hand two to three times a day until dry. The wine was pressed to barrels for malolactic fermentation, then racked into 100% French barrel for its planned Barrel aged 32 months, which will add complex flavors and lush aromatics. Each barrel was handracked four times and bottled with techniques that ensure maximum protection for aging cellar-worthy collector caliber wines. Limited allocated wine.

Tasting notes: This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon brings powerful, dense, rich Rutherford dust mixed with the deep dark color of Coombsville. The beautiful nose of crème de cassis takes you into complex spice notes with layers of bright, juicy dark fruits like black raspberries, white chocolate, licorice and violets. It’s rich and full bodied and polished with sweet tannins. It’s a classic balance and full structured wine with supple tannins. It will cellar gracefully 15-25 years and may be decanted for earlier gratification.        – 91 Points

2016 Sequum Kidd Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena Napa Valley

100% Cabernet Sauvignon | 200 cases produced | $75/bottle

Vineyard: Kidd Ranch Vineyard, St. Helena

Winemaker:  Paul Skinner, Ph.D in Soil Science UC Davis. Global vineyard consultant

Cellaring: 8-12 years ideal from vintage – TFWC Tasting Panel, 2021

Owner’s Background: Sequum is a soil science term that describes the relationship of a vertical sequence of soil layers. Sequum Wines are each made to showcase Paul Skinner’s, Ph.D., deep understanding of the relationship of soil and climate to grape growing. While Paul has a deep respect for old vines and traditions he also has pioneered the use of new techniques for monitoring and assessing vine, water and nutrient status and the implications and effects they have on premium quality grapes and wines.

Paul began making wine in 2003 because of his passion for wine and inspiration from his Kidd Ranch vineyard in St. Helena, Napa Valley. He combines the practical scientific approach with an artisan’s sensitivity. Sequum wines are made by utilizing the best that science has to offer with an artistic instinct.

Winemaker’s Notes: The vineyard is located on an ancient gravelly alluvial fan of Sulfur Creek that consists of Bale soil with Cortina gravelly mounds scattered throughout. A selection of Cabernet Sauvignon clones grafted to different rootstocks are matched to subtle changes in soil type. Hand farming of traditional Bordeaux-style meter by meter close spacing allows for balanced vine growth and the optimum light and temperature conditions around each ripening cluster. The wine was aged in a mixture of French Oak selected to highlight the complexity that develops in the vineyard. Our goal is to harvest our Cabernet Sauvignon fruit at its optimum quality and produce wines that reflect our small piece of Napa’s terroir.

Tasting notes: Classic aromas of coffee bean, blueberry, sweet red plum, black cherry, dried figs, and baking spices. Flavors of black cherry, black currant, and dark chocolate are followed by vanilla notes. In the mouth, luscious black fruits are wrapped in a smooth and silky texture, finishing with black currant and black cherry.

2017 Mirror Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Napa Valley

100% Cabernet Sauvignon  | 364 cases produced | $95/bottle

Vineyard: Skellenger Vineyard, Oakville

Winemaker: Kirk Venge | Resume – B Cellars, Promise Wines, Summers Estate, Jax Vineyard, Venge Family Wines.

Cellaring: Decant upon opening, 7-12 years prime range from vintage – TFWC Tasting Panel, 2021

Owner’s Background: Rick Mirer is a former American football quarterback in the NFL after a successful collegiate career at the University of Notre Dame. Rick was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the second pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. He went on to play for the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions. It was during his time in the Bay Area from 2000 to 2003 that he fell in love with Napa Valley. After his retirement from football in 2004, Rick went out to find the best vineyards and winemaking team he could find to make his dream of starting Mirror Napa Valley a reality. He is now working with some of the most interesting sites in the valley, with some of the most talented people in the industry – Oscar Renteria and Kirk Venge.

Winemaker’s Notes: Hand harvested at peak ripeness of small concentrated clusters, from middle-aged vines rooted in the red dirt of clay loam soils on a gentle slope between the rising foothills and the valley floor. Traditional fermentation with 22 days on the skins, followed by native malolactic fermentation over the first 6 months, stirred in barrel, with a total of 29 months aging in 70% new French oak.

Tasting Notes: Dark fruit, brooding with black olive, toasted oak, and black licorice. A touch of violet opens to an energetic lift on the mid palate – stewed cherries and roasted capsicum – with tapering tannins and great acid structure. A meal eater’s wine, sure to pair perfectly with almost any braised short rib or grilled tri-tip that’s worth setting a fine table and inviting friends.

Why Start a Wine Club?

Simply, the consumers, and some of my closest friends, asked me to. With years of experience, there was a need that had to be met. One thing consistent with any current online subscription, you have fatigue set in quickly. We as consumers spend hours researching, gathering more data and experiencing new things.

Then, FOMO sets in. So you get another. Then another. And then another. Then, you look at your wallet, or your cellar, and find that you have too much of one thing and need to scale back. Myself included.

Top Flight Wine Club comes in to solve that issue for most consumers. My mission in creating this, and after years of hearing the same reason for cancelling a subscription, is to provide an exploration of a region before committing to one single subscription. My hope for you (and our winery partners) is that you love one wine and winery more than another, are inspired to visit them on site, and then end up joining their wine club as well. For me, that’s the goal. It isn’t to compete in the space, but it’s to enhance it. For consumers to discover it.

That said, I hope you enjoy this new adventure.

Jt3.

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