California’s Formidable Cult Wines


I often receive emails asking what are some of my favorite California wines and why I don’t review more of our gems. For the record, I have a preference for Sonoma County, and a penchant for the Russian River Valley. You guessed correctly, I am passionate about Pinot Noir. I also feel my colleagues at Eve Wine 101, cover the local scene quite well. With this in mind, perhaps in the near future I will introduce our readers to some of my favorite selections from Mendocino, Trinity, and Lake counties. The latter being one of my favorites, and in my opinion, California’s best kept secret.


Napa_Valley_welcome_signHowever, this week I’d like to share my thoughts on some of California wines that have risen to sheer cult-like status. We Californians are quick to assert that Napa Valley’s Cabernet Sauvignon  is the best in the world. If price is used as the benchmark, certainly many of Bordeaux’s most well-received wines would pale in comparison. Point in fact, when comparing California cult Cabs with many classic Bordeaux selections, the French wines come across as relative bargains. Let’s take a look at some of California’s exceptional, lavish, and most expensive wines.


We begin with the formidable wines from Araujo Estate Vineyards. If terroir is everything, the wines produced in Araujo’s Eisele Vinyards best exemplify this school of thought. The northeastern part of Napa Valley excels in rich succulent grapes. Araujo produces primarily classic Bordeaux blends of immense concentration and power, yet with subtle tannins. If you enjoy a big Cab yet with just enough Syrah to complete the flavor palate, be prepared to pay a bottle price of$300-$1200 for an Abaujo Cabernet Sauvignon. Francoise Peschon is the master craftsman who has devoted his life in pursuit of producing the perfect Bordeaux blend.


The Bryant Family Vineyard also produces premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery is located in Pritchard Hill, and the grapes are cooled by the gentle breezes off of Lake Hennessy. Expect to pay a bottle price $600 for one of these delectable wines. That is if you can find one, as there is a waiting list. Philip Melka is only too proud of the success of his wines.


Ghost Horse Vineyards, Todd Anderson’s small-scale project, only produces a mere 75 cases per year. Rest assured that the bottle price of $1000 for this highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon is feasible for the true aficionado. The wines boast incredible intensity, and long lasting fruit on the palate. Todd likes to refer to his wines as the “Occult Experience.”Lake Hennessey


The Grace Family Vineyards, initially one of California’s first boutique wineries, produces only the finest premium Cabernet Sauvignon. Grace Family wines are renown for their rich textured and immensely powerful wines. Only 400 cases of these exalted wines are released each year. If you are lucky enough to find a bottle, they range in price from $700-$800.


Bill Harlan’s original goal when he began Harlan Estate was to produce super-premium wines that would rival anything from Bordeaux. Together with winemaker Bob Levy, they have done just that. Producing only 2,000 cases of incredibly opulent, fruit driven reds which can be aged for decades, Harlan Estate wines are widely sought after. Anyone who is familiar with Bob Levy’s prowess as a winemaker will not shy away from the bottle price of $800.


Hundred Acre is an estate that I know quite well. Winemaker Jayson Woodbridge has been producing some of the most exciting Cabernet in all of Napa Valley. Since their inaugural release in 2,000, Hundred Acre has taken the wine stage by storm. Receiving only critical acclaim, the wines are a rich balance of fruit, oak, and minerality. These ambrosial wines are in short supply, so do not hesitate to take advantage of the bottle price of $450-$500.


wine-cellar-yul1I have saved the most recognizable for last. Screaming Eagle is by far the most famous estate in the Napa Valley. Leading the way for cult winemakers, its wines are renown throughout the world. To add to their exclusivity, Screaming Eagle only produces 500 cases of extremely powerful, dense, and opulent wines. The bottle price for these delectable gems is $1500 … Priceless.


The only thing better than selling two bottles of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon to a client from China, is when he informs you that that the second bottle is for us to enjoy. I thank the wine gods that I speak Mandarin …


“But that my friends, is another story …”