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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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.
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.