Call it a “Best Buy”, “Customer Favorite”, or whatever, WORTHY SOPHIA’S CUVEE continues to be a Top Selling Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and rightly so. The wine offers a luscious, full-bodied, and concentrated red wine experience that is a proven “crowd pleaser”, at a nominal price point.
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For the second time in as many weeks, a wildfire is racing across Lake County.

While cooler temperatures during the night helped firefighters battle an uncontrolled wildfire that has burned through 16,500 acres of Lake County, erratic winds Wednesday continued to push the blaze forward, according to Cal Fire.

Fire officials Wednesday morning noted that few roads were available in the rugged terrain and that was hampering progress. The winds also have been adding to high intensity uphill runs, and have carried burning embers ahead of the fire line, Cal Fire officials said.
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Winemakers are Optimistic as the 2014 Wine Harvest ramps up – Could this be the 3rd “Dream Vintage” in a row?

The 2014 wine harvest, or “Crush”, is picking up steam throughout California with each passing day. A trend has emerged, and the familiar refrain from grape growers and winemakers goes something like this: the 2014 growing season and wine harvest in California looks really, really good, but it’s earlier than ever.

Grower/winemaker, Steve Matthiason states, “2013 was an early vintage, and this year is even earlier.”
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Carte Blanche Winery lineup

CARTE BLANCHE is a relatively new winery project in Napa Valley that is raising the eyebrows of wine enthusiasts who enjoy high quality, world class wines.

To say that proprietor Nick Allen and his family have a history of producing monumental wines would be an understatement.  Allen is the great-grandson of Clarence Dillon who purchased Chateau Haut-Brion in 1935 (now owned by the family company, “Domaine Clarence Dillon”).  As you may know, Haut-Brion is one of the original five Grand Crus of Bordeaux.

To make the wines under his newly formed CARTE BLANCHE Estate in Napa Valley, Allen spared no expense in luring one of America’s top winemakers, Luc Morlet.

Some of Morlet’s Milestone Achievements:

  • Creating Newton’s Unfiltered Chardonnay (96 points from Robert Parker)
  • Winemaker for Peter Michael (98 points from Robert Parker for his ’02 “Les Pavots” Cabernet blend
  • 99 points for his ’01 Peter Michael “Point Rouge” Chardonnay)
  • 97 points for his ’05 Peter Michael “Les Pavots” in Wine Spectator
  • Also winemaker for Staglin and his own highly acclaimed Morlet Family Vineyards

Suffice to say that Luc Morlet has an illustrious track record of making award-wining, highly-rated, world class wines. CARTE BLANCHE is destined to follow suit.

Vineyard Sources

The wines are made with some of the best grapes money can buy. Vineyard sources include Beckstoffer’s “ToKolan Vineyard” in Oakville, Newton’s “Hillside Vineyard” on Spring Mountain, and Beckstoffer’s historic “Missouri Hopper Vineyard” in southern Oakville.

“Carte Blanche is a partnership between proprietor Nicholas Allen and winemaker Luc Morlet. Although a new project started only in 2008, all of the wines I have tasted so far have been impressive. The 2010s are no exception.” —Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate

From top to bottom, no expense has been spared to ensure these wines live up to Nick’s uncompromising standards in becoming hallmark wines of the highest quality.


– The Wines –


2010 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Carte Blanche Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

This is a rich, opulent, beautifully balanced wine! Brilliant golden in color, an alluring bouquet, super creamy and plush on the mid-palate with a finish that lingers forever. Notes of peach, lemon meringue, nectarine, creme brûlée, hazelnut, and minerals all in perfect balance. A remarkable Chardonnay! Only 200 cases produced. ($75)

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

Carte Blanche Cabernet Sauvignon

“Another powerful, young wine, the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is incredibly dense and virtually impenetrable. Blue and black fruit, grilled herbs, licorice, new leather, menthol and tobacco flow through to an incisive finish layered with graphite and crushed rocks. Today, the 2010 is cool and implosive, suggesting it needs at least another few years to come together. The addition of 10% Petit Verdot seems to give the wine some of its brooding personality. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2028.”
—Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate,
Issue 204 Dec 2012 – Rating:  94

400 cases produced  ($125)

2010 Sandstone Seven
Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino

Carte Blanche Sandstone Seven Rhone-style Blend

A brilliant Rhone-style white wine blend. Aromas of bright white flowers jump from the glass, surrounded by notes of lemon zest, wet stones, mineral, slate and sea shells.  The palate entry is silky and rich with fine acidic structure.  Subtle spices speak of Bosc pear galette with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of cardamom.  Crushed granite and the faintest flash of petrol barely whisper in the long, clean finish.

From Stu Bewley’s immaculate, impressive, and meticulously farmed Alder Springs Vineyard in Northern Mendocino County, this amazing blend of 40% Viognier, 40% Marsanne and 20% Rousanne is reminiscent of the great white wines of the Southern Rhone.  Alder Springs Vineyards lies seven miles from the Pacific coast, sitting on well-drained, ancient sandstone slopes at elevations ranging from 1700′ to 2700′.  Truly expressive of the terrior, the small intensely flavored berries create a beautiful, complex and unique wine.  125 cases produced. ($50)


To Purchase the CARTE BLANCHE Wines

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New Cabernet Sauvignon Releases From The Exclusive Pritchard Hill Region Puts MONTAGNA VINEYARDS Squarely In the Elite Napa Wine Category!

Montagna Vineyards

After Montagna’s 2007 ‘Tre Vigneti’ Cabernet Sauvignon release was met with resounding applause, we were eagerly anticipating the next release of this up and coming winery founded by Bob Long, co-founder of David Arthur Vineyards.

As it turns out, there were no wines made in 2008 by Montagna Vineyards, a decision not made lightly by a winery in its formative years.  But these are the tough decisions that have to be made to maintain the level of quality the proprietors want their wines to convey, and which will elevate the winery’s status into the upper echelons of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon producers.

The Wines

Montagna 2009 Cabernets

MONTAGNA 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
‘Tre Vigneti’ Estate

Montagna_Tre_Vigneti_labelComprised of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Syrah and 2% Malbec, there was a total of 843 cases produced of the 2009 ‘Tre Vigneti’ Cabernet.  The fruit was carefully selected from all three vineyards on the Montagna Estate on Pritchard Hill.

Tasting Notes:

A dark Ruby red color leads to aromas of ripe cherry, black currant, cedar, spice and vanilla.  On the palate the resolved, fine grain tannins frame flavors of dark plum and cassis, with hints of mocha on the finish. Drink now through 2020.  ($50)

MONTAGNA 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
‘La Presa – One South’ Estate

Montagna_La_Presa_labelWith the 2009 vintage, Montagna has included the inaugural release of the ‘La Presa – One South’ 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 288 case bottling of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the La Presa Vineyard, one of three vineyards on the Montagna Estate.

Tasting Notes:

A deep dark ruby color leads to profound aromas of blackberry-cassis followed by hints of floral-lavender and then spices of roasted coffee, fresh saddle leather, molasses and candied ginger.  On the palate the wine is rich and broad-shouldered with prominent tannins that are both firm and fleshy.  Nuances of anise, licorice and dark chocolate add to the layers and complexity as the wine continues to open up.  Hints of chocolate covered black cherries make an appearance on the finish.  Still a little closed, decanting is highly recommended for near term drinking, but the ‘La Presa – One South’ Cabernet should drink beautifully in about 3-5 years with another decade of cellaring potential.  ($125)

About MONTAGNA Estate Vineyards

Bob Long

Bob Long

Bob Long is the proprietor of Montagna Estate Vineyards located in the prestigious Pritchard Hill region of Napa Valley.  Long has a storied history in the wine industry beginning with the co-founding of David Arthur Vineyards in 1978 with his brother, David.  The first release of Montagna wines consisted of a small amount of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2009 vintage marks the third release of Montagna wines as there were no 2008s produced.

The Montagna Estate rests at about 1400 feet elevation and consists of three distinct vineyards: La Presa (the “Pond”), Montagna (“Mountain”), and Casodores (the “Hunter”).

Nile Zacherle - Winemaker

Nile Zacherle

To help craft the wines, Long enlisted the help of wine-making veteran Nile Zacherle who has been making the David Arthur wines for several years.  Zacherle’s wine endeavors began at Navarro Vineyards. He went on to studied hands on, old school winemaking at Château d’Arsac in Bordeaux.  He returned to California in 2000 as winemaker for Chateau Montelena and Barnett Vineyards, before taking the reins at David Arthur.


About Pritchard Hill

Pritchard Hill is a rocky, rugged region located in the eastern hills of Napa Valley.  The soils are red rock, well drained and very suitable for Bordeaux varietals.  The problem is getting water.  Several of the wineries that planted vineyards in these eastern hills of Napa Valley have employed extreme measures including employing “water witches” to locate the best source of water.

However, the region has proven to grow phenomenal Bordeaux grape varietals and attracted some of the top “cult” wineries in Napa Valley, including such renowned wineries as Bryant Family, Colgin, Ovid, Chappellet, Continuum, and David Arthur.

Suffice to say… it’s a pretty good neighborhood!


Alexander Valley

Mentioning the name “Silver Oak” in a conversation about wine will typically elicit
some very strong opinions on both sides of the fence.

Justin Meyer Silver Oak

Justin Meyer – Founder/Winemaker

On one side of the Silver Oak debate are those who consider the wines to be a hallmark of California Cabernet Sauvignon and purchase them with each new vintage release.  Many even boast about verticals they have in their cellars that date back to the days when the winery, under founder Justin Meyer’s rule, bottled a miniscule production, and highly prized “Bonny’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon” from Meyer’s one-acre parcel in Oakville.

There are apparently legions of Silver Oak fans judging from sales each year of about fifty to sixty thousand cases of the Alexander Valley bottling, and about twenty thousand cases of the Napa bottling.

On the other side of the fence are those that contend that Silver Oak has seen it’s heyday, and is not the “cult wine” favorite that it once was.

However, there can be no argument with the fact that Silver Oak Cabernet played a major role in developing the mystique surrounding California “Cult Cabernet Sauvignon”.

Twice A Year Silver Oak Release Parties Draw Huge Crowds

Silver Oak Release Party

Silver Oak Release Party

The first Saturday in August, and again the first Saturday in February, Silver Oak Cellars releases it’s new vintage of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, respectively.  Devout fans from all over the country, if not the world, descend on both the Napa and Alexander Valley facilities.  Attendees are not only able to taste and purchase the new release, but often are treated to library wines.  Limited release large bottle formats are also made available for purchase at the release parties.


Silver Oak 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet SauvignonThe current release is the Silver Oak 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  (The Napa 2007 will be released at the Release Party on February 4, 2012.)  From the epic 2007 vintage, this wine is one the best Alexander Valley Cabernet bottlings for Silver Oak in the past decade.

  • Vintage: 2007 – one of the BEST in recent history
  • Appellation: Alexander Valley
  • Composition: 100% Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Big Bottles: Large bottle formats – Limited – 1.5L Magnum & 3.0L Double Magnum – (send inquiries to

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes:

Daniel Baron Silver Oak Winemaker

Daniel Baron – Winemaker

“Our 2007 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a profound,fruit-driven wine from a great California vintage. It has a dark ruby color with a purple edge and an inviting nose of ripe black plum, blackberry, baking spices and soy sauce. On the palate, the wine is rich and full, reminiscent of the flavors of a berry cobbler. It has a long, fruity finish with fine grained tannins, and is a testament to exquisite ripeness at moderate alcohol. With proper cellaring, this wine should give drinking pleasure through 2031.”

Vintage Description

“The 2007 vintage had an unusual combination of a light crop and a cool summer which resulted in great concentration and mature flavors and tannins at moderate alcohol. The season started cool and dry with less than an inch of rain in January. The dry weather continued into spring and the dry soils induced early budbreak and bloom. Fruit set was light and berries were small: crop levels were 15% to 20% below normal. Summer weather was mild with temperatures rarely exceeding 90˚F. Continued dry weather, a warm spell in early August and a Labor Day heat wave were the catalysts for achieving perfect maturity. The small berries and long, slow ripening resulted in extraordinary wines.”

Blending and Aging

“Our 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of wine from several different vineyards, is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. We blended the vineyard lots in early 2008 and transferred the wine to 50% new and 50% once-used American oak barrels for aging. Blending prior to barreling allows us to achieve a balance of the wine’s natural elements, such as fruit and tannin, before they are influenced by oak. The wine was then aged in barrel for approximately 25 months and another 15 months in bottle to harmonize its components before release.”

SILVER OAK 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

$840 per case $70 per bottle – 750 ml

$840 per case $140 per bottle – Magnum (1.5 Liter)

$382 per bottle – Double Magnum (3.0 Liter)

Looking to purchase Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon?

Send an email to

Howell Mountain 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

“…just the right amount of hedonism.”

Joshua Clark grew up in Napa Valley and was immersed in the wine culture, under the watchful eye of his parents, Laurie Claudon and Tom Clark, owners of Clark-Claudon Vineyards and Clark Vineyard Management.

In 1999 Josh accepted his father’s offer to manage the family vineyard management company, which manages vineyards for Clark-Claudon, Tamber Bey, Harris Estate, Slaughterhouse Cellars, and Flying Horse wineries among others.


The Clark Family

The Clark Family


In 2006 Josh and his wife Heather started SAUNTER WINES. Their mission statement pretty much sums it up…

“At Saunter we believe in slowing down and letting
each moment ripen to its fullest. We believe in family,
in nature, in just the right amount of hedonism.”


Saunter 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Saunter 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon



Cabernet Sauvignon
Howell Mountain

This is the second release for Saunter.  The 2006 Cabernet was extremely well received.

The fruit for this killer Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Clark-Claudon Vineyard on the backside of Howell Mountain. This deep, dark Cabernet exhibits the characteristics of its mountaineous terroir origins. Decanting is highly recommended.

Fantastic structure and varietal character.  Full-bodied, dense forward fruit and well balanced.  Rich, concentrated flavors of black cherry, plum, dark chocolate, earth, cigar box, and pencil lead.  Very smooth for a Howell Mountain Cabernet.  Pleasant yet firm tannins, sweet vanilla oak and clean earth nuances lead to a supremely long finish. Decanting highly recommended for near term drinking, this wine will age well for another 10-15 years.  Amazing! 200 cases produced ($65)

Unfortunately the wine is sold out, but if you are lucky enough to run across a bottle you may want to grab it.

Thomas Brown – Winemaker


Thomas Brown - Harris Estate Winemaking Consultant

Thomas Brown


Thomas Brown’s rise to the top echelons of California winemaking did not happen over night. After working the harvest in 1997 with Kent Rasmussen, he became the assistant winemaker to Ehren Jordan at Turley Cellars, along with consulting for a number of select, high profile California wineries.

In addition to making the Saunter wines, Brown is also the winemaker for Schrader, Outpost, Maybach, Two Hands, GTS (Tom Seaver’s label), as well as making wine under his own label, the revered Rivers Marie project focusing on Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Brown’s credentials as a top winemaker have risen dramatically with two ratings of 100 points from Robert Parker, Jr. for two 2007 Schrader Cabs, and in the high 90s for other Schrader and Maybach wines  resume of producing highly rated wines.

Whether or not you subscribe to the theory that women make better winemakers and therefore better wines, there is no doubt that women have left an indelible mark on the California wine landscape, creating some of the most memorable and highly celebrated wines in the world.

Helen Turley is credited by Robert Parker, Jr. as being one of the first and “greatest” wine making consultants that put California “Cult Wines” on the map at such wineries as Pahlmeyer, Bryant Family, Colgin and Blankiet. (Food and Wine).  I would have to put Heidi Barrett in the same category with a proven track record of having made some of the most sought after wines at Screaming Eagle, Grace Family and Dalla Valle.

Others soon followed:  Martha McClellan (Sloan), Celia Welch – formerly Masyczek (Scarecrow), Mia Klein (Dalla Valle), Pam Starr (Crocker Starr, Bridesmaid), and Merry Edwards (Merry Edwards Wines), to name a few.

Two Current Napa Cabernets – Side by Side

In a recent tasting by North Coast Wine Brokers we had a chance to taste two Cabernets side by side; the Revana 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon made by Heidi Barrett, and the Hollywood and Vine “2480” 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon made by Celia Welch.  It was interesting to see the stylistic differences in the wine, but the tasting left no doubt that these two winemakers are at the top of their game.

Hollywood and Vine 2480 and Revana Cabernet Sauvignon

Revana Family 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley
Heidi Barrett – Winemaker

Heidi Barrett

Heidi Barrett

Proprietor Dr. Madaiah Revana not only hired one of the best winemakers in Napa Valley, he surrounded her with some of the best in the business, like uber vineyard manager Jim Barbour (Hundred Acre, GTS, Parallel) and assistant winemaker Tom Garrett (Detert Family, Jus Soli).  The Revana Family Vineyards are located just north of St. Helena right across Highway 29 from Vineyard 29 and Grace Family.

A hallmark of Heidi Barrett’s wines is their impeccable balance; between power and finesse, structure and elegance, fruit and tannin.  The Revana 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits these characteristics and is simply a pleasure to experience.

Deep, dark ruby in color, the 2006 Revana Cabernet Sauvingon offers up captivating aromas of black cherries, black currant, earth and vanilla oak.  This med-full bodied Cabernet is luxurious, complex and layered with purity of fruit and silky tannins.  Complex, elegant and seamless with a nice minerality on the extremely long finish.  ($125)

Heidi Barrett grew up around wine as the daughter of Richard Peterson, who has a distinguished and elaborate history in California wine.  Dr. Peterson tells the story of how Heidi would come and hang out in the barrel room with industry guru Andre Tchelistcheff at BV, where Dr. Peterson took over the wine making reigns in the early 1970s.

Barrett was thrust on to the world wine stage when the 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon she made at Screaming Eagle received a 99-point rating from critic Robert Parker, Jr.  The Screaming Eagle wines continued to fetch lofty scores in subsequent years including a 100-point rating for the 1997 vintage.  Heidi continued producing other star-studded wines for wineries such as Grace Family, Dalla Valle (Maya), Paradigm, Jones Family, among others, as well as her own label, La Sirena.  She is without a doubt one of Napa Valley’s brightest stars!

Hollywood & Vine “2480” 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley
Celia Welch (formerly Masyczek) – Winemaker

Actor turned screenwriter and director, Doug Barr moved to the Napa Valley in the 1990s and was inspired to pursue a dream of making world-class wines after finding a manuscript by wine industry icon Maynard Amerine in the home Barr purchased.  (You may remember Barr as Lee Major’s sidekick in the TV series The Fall Guy).

Celia Welch

Celia Welch

After the first couple of vintages beginning with the inaugural 1998, Barr decided to hire Celia (Mazyczek) Welch, who was rapidly climbing the Napa Valley wine scene.  The wines have continued to go from strength to strength and developed a very loyal following.  Once Cabernet lovers try this wine, they become instant and devout fans.

The first thing you notice about the wine is the massive bottle with its emblazoned, red “2480” on the black bottle.  A striking presentation, it is merely a prelude to what’s to follow inside the bottle.  The 2006 Hollywood & Vine Cabernet Sauvignon is a compilation of both mountain and valley fruit from some of the top vineyards stretching from the Coombsville region to Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain.  Two prominent vineyards included in the wine are Robin Williams’ Pimrae Vineyard on Mount Veeder, and the J.J. Cohn Vineyard, the source for the heralded Scarecrow wines.

The 2006 Hollywood & Vine “2480” Cabernet is super dark and inky in color, leading to enticing aromas of cassis, dark chocolate, licorice and subtle cigar box.  Gorgeous black and red fruits coat the palate with flavors of creme de cassis, raspberry, mocha, espresso, spices and minerals.  Juicy and luxurious, nicely balanced with good structure.  Prominent yet resolved tannins lead to long finish that lingers on and on.  The wine should age well for another 10-12 years.  ($83)

Celia Welch (formerly Masyczek) has an impressive track record of making distinguished wines for some Napa Valley’s top wineries including Staglin Family, DR Stephens, and Hartwell.  Her current clients include Hollywood & Vine, Rocca, Husic, and most notably Scarecrow where Celia received a 98-point rating from Robert Parker, Jr. for the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon.