Sweets, Aperitifs and Digestifs!

A perfect meal always has that touch of a little extra…

An aperitif to set the tone, digestif or dessert wine to take the final notes to a whole ‘nother level… In the eyes of Dhall & Nash the elements that make a wine list great are; The Wine, internationally known and critically acclaimed, of optimal drinking age and referenced on internationally acclaimed lists.

Aperitif – Fernando de Castilla Oloroso Antique

With a history dating back to 1837 and every drop being agged for at least 20 years this Sherry is a highly sought after treat.  Following the ancient traditions of the region, this sherry is unfined and meticulously nurtured. It’s so good it’s been a staple on the list at The Ritz for years.   “The NV Antique Oloroso is open and expressive in the nose, with a predominant note of hazelnuts and varnished wood, a sweet touch of spices, brandy filled chocolates and orange rind. The perfectly balanced palate shows intense, clean, pure flavors and great length. 5,000 bottles produced yearly. Drink 2013-2016” –Luis Gutierrez 95 pt (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)

Digestif – Chambers Rutherglen Grand Muscat

Set in the spiritual home of fortified wines in Australia – Chambers is one the big dogs. This nuanced Muscat is dark spicy and richly sweet; think espresso, candied orange zest and cherry pie. This rare treat is sought by somms the world over. From Rockpool, Sydney to The Grand Hotel Stockholm this wine is revered.  “Deep mahogany. Dried fig and black tea on the nose, then concentrated mocha and molasses flavours, enlivened by candied orange zest. Full, rich and sweet, but surprisingly drinkable, with terrific intensity and length.” – JOE CZERWINSKI 97 pt (Wine Enthusiast)

Noble Wines- 1998 Château d’Yquem Sauternes

This is the pinnacle of dessert-style wines, d’Yquem needs little introduction.  Thomas Jefferson purchased 250 bottles of the 1784 vintage stating Sauternes, This is the best white wine of France and the best of it is made by Monsieur de Lur-Saluces. The wine’s balance of acidity and sugar means its ageing potential is amazing, Robert Parker scored the 1811 vintage 100 points in 1996, well over a century since the grapes were harvested.  The ‘98 is elegant and refined; sweet aromas of creme brulee, pineapples, apricots, and white flowers. Medium to full-bodied with a firm nutty complex finish. No amazing restaurant can be without this wine for ages.  “Pale gold. Knockout aromas of creme brulee, coconut, vanilla bean, honey and orange peel. Lush and seductively silky in the mouth; its creamy, seamless texture makes it seem deceptively accessible today but sound acid structure should keep it going for 20 years or more. Not hugely sweet or tropical but very complex and fine. Firm, hazelnutty finish offers great length…” – 95 pt Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar

Puneet in California: Day 4

California Day 4 – St Helena to Geyserville

 
The day begins at Coppola – Dhall and Nash’s first winery from California.
It’s busy – memorabilia meets wine. But similar to Bogle, literally behind all the glitz is a 2 million bottle a year operation – Coppola is now the 12th largest wine producer in America, and of course privately owned by Francis Ford Coppola. His aura is everywhere, from his wines and film memorabilia to his favourite dishes on the restaurant menu.

 

Emily and Amy meet me and we taste some wines from the large range…

14 Votre Sante Chardonnay – Large mid palate – cream and then more cream.

 

15 Rosso & Bianco Cabernet Sauvignon – A hint of eucalyptus, some stalk but not displeasing.

 

13 Elanor – Petite Syrah / Zinfandel – Lovely aromatics – blue black fruit and spice.

 

13 Archimedes – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon / 10% Cabernet Franc / 10% Merlot from Alexander Valley. 21 months in new French oak. Lovely tannins – a sign of good Cabernet here – not too soft – still grainy but ripe and integrated.

 

15 Diamond Claret – I find the eucalyptus again – red fruit – more aggressive tannin.

 

Excited to be hosting Emily in New Zealand again sometime between June and August, and also to have their consent to start trading Coppola in Australia.

 

In the afternoon we visit Spotswoode – what a joy.
10,000 cases a year produced vinified off of 28 blocks in one site in St Helena. We meet MaryPat and also the owner Beth. Beth’s mother and father had upped sticks and moved to St Helena from Southern California in 1972. Beth’s father was a Doctor and wanted to have a house for his five children somewhere rural where he could work a tractor. In 1972 The valley was much more rural and still not focused on wine growing – many other crops were grown including walnuts and prunes. In1975, Beth’s father died unexpectedly aged just 44. Beth’s mother Mary was left with 5 children and a ship to run – For a few years, Mary sold their fruit to prominent vineyards to survive. In 1978, Mary’s friends the Duckhorn family and the Schafer family told her that the Estate Cabernet was just too good, and they encouraged to bottle under Spotswoode and join them in a similar adventure. Following this their early winemaker Tony Soter (now in Oregon and with high acclaim) encouraged the estate to go organic in 1985. As you can imagine, this was quite a big step at that time. People who went organic were seen as crazy.

 

I tasted the wines as Beth regaled this story to me,

2016 Spotswoode Sauvignon Blanc
Fermented 60% stainless steel / 35% new and used oak and 5% concrete
Bloody nice – a rockiness to the wine that I really like together with a ‘leesy’ texture and good acid

 

2014 Lydenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon
Before the estate was owned by the Spotswoode family, it was owned by the Lyndenhurst family 100+ years ago. 20 months French oak (40% new) 90% cabernet sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, 2%merlot
Oh so yummy and approachable.blueberries, blackcurrants, cassis, leather, fireplace ash, ripe powdery tannins (now when I taste a good cabernet, the tannins are ripe and integrated with a fresh palate – no coarseness whatsoever, regardless of youth) – just exceptional – nothing at all like this in New Zealand

 

2014 Spotswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
100% French oak (60% new) – aged 20 months 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot
Oh wow! First of all, cellar this! great tannins, oh so fresh, beautiful fruit – incredible integration between fruit and secondary characters – as if they are one – jeepers this is so good.

 

Later that night, we are gifted with a bottle of 2013 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon. Can a day get any better! We get Taj to sleep – room service! The special of the house truffle chicken – 2 hour cook time. I crack open the Duckhorn – all I can say is – yes it is that good!
Tomorrow we head to Spring Mountain to visit Schweiger – and to the West Coast and visit Flowers

Puneet in California: Day 3

California Day 3 – Clarksburg to St Helena

 
A crackerjack day. I thought I was walking into the hangars for the new Boeing 777 – But no – it was the Bogle Barrel room – 7-8 rooms – each larger than an aircraft hanger – approximately 1 kilometre long. You could not see from one end to the other – the horizon was in the way. 12,000 barrels per year – Thousands upon thousands of Barrel ferments – each vineyard – vinified separately – incredible. The rooms are specially designed to cope with the massive CO2 emissions during ferment, as well as the massive temperature rise of so many fermenting barrels. The attention to detail is impressive. Anthocyanin and tannin count, mass spectrometers for acids. No sugar or acid additions. The guy doing the lees stirring looked more like a guy off of an Ebert building site –  but then no wonder – he had to traverse barrel mountains like girders on a skyscraper. This new winery was established in 2009 – it really does incorporate all of the modern technology and is a sight to behold – the wines, for example, are gravity fed with minimal intervention… The walkway for the tall tanks is the highest elevation in Clarksburg. The American flag together with the Bogle flag flies proudly from the centre of the winery. The Bogle wines truly do over deliver for the cost.

 

We drive for an hour and twenty minutes into Napa. We arrive at HdV. After Bogle, we are not sure if we have driven into someone’s back yard by accident – which happens to have a couple of tanks and barrels in the back. Little did I know what a sensational tasting was in store. Guillaume the assistant winemaker is busy racking a couple of barrels, and James the Manager meets me. Other than the two of them there is Stephane the chief winemaker – and of course, Aubert…he may not be there but his presence is every where. The first thing that James tells me is that Aubert is an extremely humble person. For him a winery is a winery – no time for flash ‘add ons’ – everything is about the vineyard and the wine expression – we sit in the tiny room adjacent to the winery. I’ve already noticed that they love their Fuders’ – several big barrels in dark dingy corners of the room. Theo Gisen told me that Fuder’s were German – Aubert de Villaine believes that they are Burgundian…

 

The Hyde vineyard is in Carneros. It is 150 acres in total supply several of the greatest wineries in Napa and Sonoma. 23 acres are specifically for HdV. The first vines were established in 1978, and although not certified – Organic practices are 100% employed. The vineyard contains a shallow alluvial soil and then hits heavy clay. Larry Hyde has helped the natural drainage by building larger drainage channels throughout the vineyard to alleviate any high water issues. This has created the phenomenon that is the Hyde Vineyards.

 

We proceed to taste a truly exceptional lineup:

 

2014 De la Guerra Chardonnay
20% fermented in concrete egg – no new oak, The vineyard was planted at the north end of the Hyde vineyards in 2010. Only 250 cases are produced annually with 80 cases for export. I can’t believe the vines are so young – James simply smiles. He does that a lot over the course of the tasting – the knowing smile of someone who knows that you are experiencing a sensory euphoria. The mealy taste I know so well comes through, the balance a mid palate of cream texture, a rounded wine and grace and length – exceptional – and this is the quaffer.

 

Guillaume tells me that 2013 was a great year, but 2014 was an incredible Chardonnay year, possibly the best ever in Napa. An early Spring leads to an early bud burst for Chardonnay and a very long ripening period. Concerns about a drop off in acidity towards the end of ripening due to the length of the season did not eventuate, creating amazing flavour profiles in the Chardonnay. On top of this, there was an Earthquake on August 24th.

 

2014 HdV Chardonnay
Wow – 20% Malo, 20% new oak, 11 months in barrel, 4 months in tank, 1 year in bottle. The wine has lilts and phases – The bouquet is truly aromatic – Guillaume says that all wines are aromatic if you pick at the right time – early stone fruit, through the classic mid palate roundness and cream, constant hints of gunpowder flint (from a purposeful slight reduction technique during the 4 months in tank, through to a beautiful minerality and salinity, with lingering finish. You can taste the vineyard. Superb.

 

2013 Ysabel Pinot Noir from the Van de Camp Vineyards in Sonoma (150 cases produced)
Elevation is high for this vineyard at 1700 feet. Aubert had been resistant to make pinot noir in California for a long time. Rightly so, he did not want to make anything which might detract from the almighty DRC. However, this vineyard changed his mind. It’s not in the Hyde vineyard stable in Carneros, but from the oldest and highest vineyard in Sonoma (planted in the early 1960’s)
The wine is beautiful and rustic with a textural richness. The aromatics sing (something in common with all HdV wines).

 

The Ygnacia we did not try but this is planted from much younger vines planted in 2010 from 7 ‘secret’ sites around the region. The wine shows violets and bright fruit and is as different to Ysabel as one can get. Both are worthy enough for Aubert.

 

2014 Californio Syrah
Oh my God moment! Maybe I do love Syrah after all! 350 cases produced. Some production was lost in the 2013 Earthquake. Violets, all the way through blue fruits to cocoa powder, spice box, and powerful with terrific length – ‘off the charts’ good. selected from 2 blocks in Hyde and 3 clones.

 

2013 Belle Cousine
I now find out the Pamela Hyde (Aubert’s wife) is actually Larry Hyde’s cousin. Larry and Pamela are the same age and grew up together – hence Belle Cousine. 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Red and blue fruits, aromatics bursting, fresh yet rich – will age to plush no doubt. Guillaume stresses that whilst many neighbours add acid, their natural acidity helps the wines to age incredibly. The wine reminds me of the Dominus we had recently – then I am told the Merlot is the same clone. These guys have taken a slice of California with a touch of Pomerol and the result is magnificent.

 

Then I fall off of my seat – the last wine.
2015 Vinehill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Yountville.
This vineyard is owned by the Phillips family and is used for the top Harlan wines. It dates back to the 1880’s.  The wine is clean as a whistle, cassis, blue and red fruits, graphite all the way through – beyond good! Only 2 barrels made and already sold to Aubert’s friends and the most wealthy wine collectors in the World for an undisclosed price. It was a ‘you had to be there’ moment.

 

Tomorrow – Coppola, Spotswoode and possibly Schweiger – a strong tip from James at HdV for incredible Cabernet at very reasonable price.

Puneet in California: Days 1 & 2

California – Day 1 – Sacramento

 It turns out that Sacramento, 90 miles North East of San Francisco is the ‘farm to fork’ capital of America. The city boasts some 1.5 million acres of farm land surrounding the region – many of which are artisanal producers, and the restaurants are proud to source prolifically local.

 

My first wine of the trip – I pick up the menu – ‘eenie, meeni, minie, mo’ – my finger lands in the Cabernet section – lucky! A glass of the 2014 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon at USD$26.  A good start – blueberries, velvety, simple, not a million miles from our Cupcake ‘Red Velvet’, although with more power and structure.

 

It wasn’t till a few moments later as I tucked into my ‘Grange Burger’ (medium rare) – that I realised quite how amazing my choice of meal was – Sacramento immediately vindicated its ‘farm to fork’ status to me. Tomorrow I visit Jody Bogle.
 

California – Day 2 – Clarksburg

Bogle is in Clarksburg. Clarksburg is a small picturesque farm community of 300 and dates back to the gold rush. The soils are heavy clay on a flood plain, protected by levees. The river was a prime trade route in the late 1800’s and the first half of the 20th Century – there is an old time worn picture of a thousand ducks all heaped on each other being barged down the river towards the coastal cities. At the entrance to the tasting venue is Jody Bogle’s grandfathers 1918 Ford Model T Truck. It’s not the only old truck you see as you drive around this agricultural heartland. The place really is beautiful; splendid trees, along babbling streams, brooks and rivers – hills in the distance and exceptionally fertile soils. In fact Dana the winemaker tells me that Vigour is the issue here. The vines themselves are big and bushy – no issues with fungal disease in this dry, breezy environment.(The Delta Breeze keeps the area on average 5-8 degrees Celsius lower than surrounding regions including Napa) environment.

 

We meet Jody, all smiles and warmth in the beautiful garden behind the tasting barn. Jody gladly informs us that Dhall and Nash are now Bogle’s leading importer in the World having just muscled ahead of Japan. We get to tasting:

 

2012 Bogle Blanc de Blancs – a lovely creamy mid palate – would you expect anything else!
2015 Bogle Reserve Chardonnay – 100% oak aged / 100% malo / 24 months on lees / batonage for every barrel every 2-4 weeks. 80% American Oak / 20% French Oak.

 

We spent some time discussing the American Oak – one of Bogle’s secret weapons. They use an American Oak called World Cooperage from a Cooper called ‘1912’ – The oak is heavily fired to its smoke point.
We also talk about the Batch selection for the Reserve wines. Every vineyard is vinified separately, and the best barrels selected for the Reserves. Winemakers Dana and Eric make the first cut and the final selection is done by a larger team including the family. The family work with their own vineyards and growers in 9 A.V.A’s;

 

Clarksburg – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah
Mendocino – Petite Sirah, Pinot noir, Zinfandel
Russian River Valley – Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc
Sonoma – Cabernet Sauvignon
Oakley – Old Vine Zinfandel, Old Vine Mourvèdre
Lodi – Old Vine Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah
El Dorado County – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Amador County – Old Vine Zinfandel
Monterey – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc

 

 We continue to taste;

 

2014 Bogle Viognier – Perfumed, fragrant – tangerines, hint of cream – a must have.

 

2015 Russian River Pinot Noir – Toasted characters mix with light spice and earth (I must confess my pinot noir radar has been off recently – the nose felt a little closed but it could have been me.)

 

2012 Bogle Sonoma Reserve Merlot – Very plush indeed – but still with enjoyable graininess from the tannins – very nice.

 

2014 Reserve Zinfandel – Amador County (Amador and El Dorado are in the foothills and completely dry farmed and certified sustainable). Juniper, concentrated and rounded – a must have.

 

2014 Malbec – Monterey – plush again – some cedar notes.

 

2014 Reserve Petite Sirah – Toasted, spicy plum.

 

2013 Phantom – Zin, Mourvèdre blend 2-3 years in oak – tannins – less fruit secondary characters – more coarse.

 

2014 Petite Verdot – El Dorado County – Possibly one of the most unique wines I’ve tasted and could only be from America – Chargrilled flavours, spice box like the mix rub for your deep south pork ribs – a must.

 

2014 Reverence – Bordeaux Blend – Michael was asking about the Reserve Cabernet – well this has become the Reverence – blended with other Bordeaux varieties – well balanced  and elegant – must have

 

Tomorrow I visit the Bogle winery to meet the two brothers Warren and Ryan, and also Chief winemaker Eric and to see the legendary barrel room. I also head over to Carneros and meet James at HdV

Brandon’s Corner – Oregon’s Best Pinot

Cristom Vineyards is the benchmark producer in Oregon and deserve their well-earned reputation of producing exceptional Pinot Noir. Their rich track record of excellence is poised to take on the world of Pinot Noir with their captivating 2014 releases. Dhall & Nash have just been lucky enough to land some of this coveted allocation.

Winemakers at Cristom taste their creations as they go

Cristom Vineyards were the first American producer Dhall & Nash imported into NZ, I recall the first time Puneet and I tasted the Eileen Vineyard Pinot Noir, jumping up and down in my kitchen in Hawkes Bay at the time, just blown away by the aromatic complexity, almost too stimulating to taste, we needed to sit down and really get to know the wine, it was a profound Pinot Noir experience for us early on in our wine careers.  This enthusiasm and excitement remains strong for Cristom and the amazing wines they produce.  Steve Doerner continues to run the wine program, he has been involved in making the wines here since the early 90’s.  We love his approach with Pinot Noir, which favours whole bunch inclusion, natural handling with ambient yeast fermentation, avoiding fining or filtration and how he puts his vineyard blends together, having that deeply experienced touch from his time at the Cristom Estate for over 25 years.

Best New World Red; One of Oregon’s Willamette Valley Pinot growers – sustainably farmed and with minimum cellar intervention to produce vigorous wines with great purity and vineyard expression that develop superbly.”
Decanter Magazine – Steven Spurrier

We have 3 unique and outstanding wines from this producer. Two single vineyard offerings from the Eileen and Jessie Vineyards, plus the Mt Jefferson Cuvée sourced from the top sites throughout the Cristom Estate and select parcels of neighbouring vineyards who share the same philosophy! The 2014 ‘Mt. Jefferson Cuvée’ Pinot Noir, The 2014 ‘Eileen Vineyard’ Pinot Noir, and the 2014 ‘Jessie Vineyard’ Pinot Noir.

 

2014 Cristom ‘Mt. Jefferson’ Cuvée Pinot Noir

2014 Cristom ‘Eileen Vineyard’ Pinot Noir

2014 Cristom ‘Jessie Vineyard’ Pinot Noir

Schubert New Releases – 2015 Block B and Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

Dhall & Nash are honoured to announce the release of Kai Schubert and Marion Deimling’s Prestige Wines:

2015 Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir & 2015 Block B Pinot Noir

The 2015 vintage in Wairarapa consisted of a windy spring and wet spell over the New Year that was followed by a hot, dry summer. This led to a smaller more concentrated yield which translated beautifully into the wine.

Due to this lower yield, the wines are more exclusive than ever. We have a tiny allocation available with most of it already spoken for. (Please click the bottles for more info)

2015 Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

Beautiful dark ruby hues, a seductive earthy bouquet, lingering notes of poached Black Doris plums, exotic spice, dark chocolate and fine mineral notes.  A composed wine with an entrance of rich Ghana chocolate, fresh dark cherries and five spice. A wonderful earthy concentration, notes of leather and forest floor showing textured tannins and a powerful mineral drive. A wine to be embraced and aged.

“Medium-bodied Pinot Noir with attractive rose petal, cherry, berry and spice flavours. Elegant and quite linear wine with surprising power and length. A smooth-textured Pinot that can be appreciated now but promises more with bottle age.” – Bob Campbell 95 pts

2015 Block B Pinot Noir

Dark ruby hue, a seductive bouquet showing the complexity and a depth of perfumed violets and floral notes, layers of dark luscious cherries and alluring exotic spices wrapping around a savoury earthy heart in Schubert’s classic Block B style. Beautiful, elegant and silky entrance of fresh dark cherries, a seam of exotic spices entwined with physical tannins with a layered powerful core of forest floor, notes of leather and fine of toasted oak. A truly beautiful example which will cellar well over time.

“Moderately dark, even ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim with garnet hues. The nose is elegantly proportioned with good depth of ripe, dark-red and black-berried fruits with a core of dark herbs and minerals, unfolding violet floral notes. The nose possesses firmness and fine concentration, revealing liquorice and spices. Medium-full bodied, the palate features rich and mouth-filling flavours of ripe dark-red and black-berried fruits entwined with dark herbs violets, spices and minerals. The wine has a deep, rounded core and the palate shows impressive presence while retaining style. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin extraction and fresh, lacy acidity, and the wine carries with good linearity to a long, black-fruited and spicy finish. This is a rich, dark-red and black-
fruited Pinot Noir with herb, spice and mineral notes on a fine, firm-lined palate with impressive structure and presence. Match with lamb, beef and venison dishes.” – Raymond Chan 18.5/20

These phenomenal wines won’t be around for long, if you’re interested in tracking down an allocation please don’t hesitate to contact us; info@dnfinewine.com

 

Hannah’s June Pinot Noirs

Hannah would like to dedicate this month’s picks to her first vinous love – Pinot Noir.

Known as one of the most fickle grapes, this noble varietal needs extensive care and attention, perfect ripening conditions and very specific soil types in order to flourish. But, in those times where the stars align and the wine gods smile, this grape produces some of the most sublime (and expensive) wines on the planet.

While Central Otago and Oregon compete for the mantle of ‘Best outside of Burgundy’, Martinborough and Sonoma Coast are also producing outstanding examples. We’d love for you to try these outstanding wines of even a delicious Burgundian number thrown in for comparison.

Tasting note bellow.

2016 Aurum Estate Pinot Noir  – Lowburn, Central Otago
2013 Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir – Te Muna, Wairarapa
2012 Georgetown Pinot Noir – Kawerau, Central Otago
2014 Cristom Mount Jefferson – Willamette Valley, Oregon
2015 Flowers Pinot Noir  – Sonoma Coast, California
2014 Domaine Olivier ‘Les Temps des Cerises’ – Santenay, Burgundy

(Click to view tasting notes)

Hannah’s May Spotlight – De La Terre

Tony examines grapes at the De La Terre Winery

Later on this month, I am co-hosting an event at Auckland’s Beirut, to celebrate the debut of their new executive chef.  Diners will experience dishes from chef Alex’s exciting new menu, expertly paired with wines from one of the prize stallions in the Dhall & Nash stable – De La Terre. Click here for more information.

The brain-child and personal project of one of Hawke’s Bay’s most celebrated winemakers (Tony Pritchard, 15 years at Church Rd), De La Terre is a family-run vineyard and winery with an uncompromising approach to exceptional winemaking.

The very first time I met Tony last year, I was blown away by his encyclopædic knowledge, and passion for his craft. Tony is a trained food scientist as well as a legendary winemaker, and happily tells how he will sacrifice ‘varietal expression’, in order to produce a wine that is food-friendly. Visits to his custom-built winery often involve a delicious offering from their famous pizza oven to accompany his exceptional wines.

Unsurprisingly, his Chardonnay and Syrah are exemplary. But for me, the real stars are the 5 expressions of Viognier – a particularly fussy varietal, seldom seen outside of it’s spiritual home of the Northern Rhône. I have never experienced a more thrilling Viognier than the 2015 Ridgeline – Tony actually hand-selects specific bunches from his Viognier plantings for this very special wine, based on ripeness and concentration.

I highly rate all of Tony’s wines, and encourage you to discover them.

-Hannah

Opus One – The Composer’s Masterwork

Opus One – The Composer’s Masterwork

Two names which are unavoidable when talking about Bordeaux blends are Mondavi and Rothschild. One representing the new world and one the old. The first meeting between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild occurred in 1970 in Hawaii. This fateful meeting marks the genesis of this composition…

Rothschild is considered one of the great personalities in the history of wine and definitely one of the true pioneers of the 20th century. Retaining management of his family estate in Pauillac at the tender age of 20. Soon after he changed the whole idea of wine sales. Instead of selling everything En Primeur he introduced on estate bottling. This revelation gave them complete control on every aspect of the wine. This idea quickly spread through many Grand Cru and Premier Cru producers. Tied in with this was Rothschild’s unique approach to labeling. Post World War II, Philippe commissioned labels from great artists and sculptors – Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Henry Moore and Jean Cocteau – and many more luminaries were included.

In conjunction with this he started a secondary brand (Mouton Cadet) for the wine he thought wasn’t up to scratch or from a unsatisfactory vintage. However his achievements don’t stop there, he also through intense lobbying managed to elevate Chateau Mouton-Rothschild from a second growth to first growth – a feat not since repeated.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild

Mondavi is also viewed as one of the major pioneers in the world of wine. In 1942 he joined his brother and father on the Charles Krug Estate located in St. Helena. However in 1965 he left after a serious feud with his younger brother over the direction of the winery. This fueled him to found the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville with his sons Robert and Tim. The focus of this winery was to produce wines that would compete with the finest Europe had to offer.

Robert Mondavi

Being the first major winery to be opened in California since prohibition. Including land from the historic To Kalon Estate, founded by Californian wine pioneer H.W. Crabb in the 1860’s.

A year after founding the vineyard they took the wine world by storm by making a heavily oaked Sauvignon Blanc, which was very unpopular at the time, and selling it under the monica Fumé Blanc which was a major success for the new winery.

In 1978 Philippe invited Robert to visit him in Bordeaux. After a few hours of these two heavyweights sitting together they hatched a plan. . .

Château Mouton Rothschild winemaker Lucien Sionneau and Robert Mondavi’s son Tim made the partnership’s first vintage at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1979. The following year the partners officially announced their joint venture.

In 1981 the first case of this astounding, and yet unnamed, wine was sold for $24,000, at the time the highest price ever paid for Californian wine. A year later they began to design a label and think about a name. They both agreed on a Latin Phrase to make it easier in their respective homelands. Philippe suggested Opus: meaning a composer’s first masterpiece. After sleeping on this name the word One was added.

The 1979 and 1980 vintages were simultaneously unveiled in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. Opus One then became known as America’s first ultra-premium wine, establishing a category of wine priced by the bottle at $50 and above…

From left to right : Robert Mondavi, the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and her father the Baron Philippe de Rothschild in California.

The winery has since expanded and now also produces a second non-vintage wine – the Overture; a musical term in Latin referencing the beginning piece played before an opera or play. This wine, whilst still being comprised of the same overall varieties as Opus One, is very different. This multi-vintage wine is a hommage through incredible blending work to the original masterpiece.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – A History in Stubbornness

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – A history in stubbornness

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was founded by Warren Winiarski in 1970 next to the Fay Vineyard owned by Nathan Fay. However his interest in wine was stemmed from studying in Italy for a year focusing on the Philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. His real love was initiated in Chicago in the early 60’s where he experimented at home making his own wine. This in turn eventually led him to uproot his family and travel cross country in 1968 to California. After roles with Chateau Souverain and the then new Robert Mondavi Winery, Winiarski decided to go it alone.

Warren Winiarski – Founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

The eureka moment came when tasting Cabernet with Nathan Fay. Realizing that it was possible to achieve a sense of regionality but also strong elements of classic Cabernet style. The original Stag’s Leap vineyard (S.L.V) was purchased and planted 1970. Originally the land was planted in prunes, cherries, walnuts and small amounts of Petite Syrah and Alicante Bouschet. These were all promptly replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The first vintage of S.L.V. was produced in 1972 in a rented wine making facility.

SLV Vineyard – The site of the Original Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars plantings

However 1973 was the big one for this young vineyard. The first of the onsite winery buildings were completed and the famous ‘73 S.LV. Cabernet Sauvignon was produced. The following year the first Cask 23 was produced after one lot from the vintage was noted as being a truly outstanding expression by consulting winemaker André Tchelistchef.  The life of the vineyard carried on as it had until Steven Spurrier came to visit…

In what is now known as the Judgement of Paris, Steven Spurrier curated a blind tasting of American wines pitted against French wines with a panel of French wine experts. The focus of this tasting was looking at Bordeaux and Burgundy style wines. For the French wines all were First growth or classified-growth including the likes of Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Haut-Brion, Puligny-Montrachet etc. Whilst on the American front wines from all over California from Napa to Santa Cruz. Needless to say in Cabernet (Bordeaux), Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars pipped all the others.

This revelation in wine changed drinking trends over night! There was increased interest in new world wines regardless of whether or not they had been included in the tasting.

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s the business grew, buying out the neighbouring Fay vineyard and having a bottle of the ‘73 S.L.V. being placed in the Smithsonian. Excavation work also began on the now famous Napa Wine Caves.

The Three Cabernet Sauvignons produced off the 2 original Stag’s leap Wine Cellars Estates.

In 2007 after 37 years of stubborn dedication, Warren Winiarski seeded stewardship of his life’s work to a partnership of Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori. Winiarski stayed on after this partnership to ensure that all the wines produced still met the prestigious standard historically set.

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