New wines are arriving all the time at our stores. But if you’re a California cab lover, then we’ve got four new bottles you need to put on your radar.
Kicker Cane wines showcase the great Cabernet Sauvignons of California. Each is made in a different region – Rutherford, in the Napa Valley; Sonoma County; the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County; and a blend from Napa and Sonoma counties – and offers its own distinctive take on the variety.
Kicker Cane Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
Bold blackberries, cherries and creme de cassis held together by balanced oak drive this wine. Alexander Valley terroir shines through with the depth and complexity it gives this cabernet.
Kicker Cane Cabernet Sauvignon Napa-Sonoma
Napa structure and power combined with Sonoma mouthfeel and texture define this complex cabernet. Notes of vanilla and spices from the oak act as the glue and bring this bold, intense wine together.
Kicker Cane Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford
A wine of place, this power house delivers classic notes of black fruit, coffee, creme de casis and a “Rutherford Dust” minerality. A fruit-driven wine that is all about complexity of fruit and Rutherford, Napa terroir.
Kicker Cane Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma 750ml, California
An excellent example of Sonoma Cabernet that is luscious and smooth with a lot of dark fruit. Powerful yet not over-extracted or clumsy, this shows that Sonoma Cabernets are more than just values, they stand on their own.
These wines are available now at your local Total Wine & More. Stop in and pick up a bottle or two for the weekend, or head to our website to shop how and when you want with free one-hour express pickup.
Since its founding in 1972, Caymus Vineyards has focused its attention on Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Charles F. (Charlie) Wagner, his wife Lorna B. Wagner and their son Charles J. (Chuck) Wagner built their winery among the vines planted on the family’s ranch in Rutherford, a district long recognized for producing high-quality Cabernet Sauvignons.
The Wagner Family, including the late Lorna Belle Glos Wagner
Charlie Wagner planted most of his Cabernet vines in 1965 before this varietal was universally considered the king of Napa Valley wines. The Wagners’ first production of just 240 cases came from the 1972 harvest, and Caymus has released a Napa Valley Cabernet in every vintage since. In 1975, the Wagners produced their first Special Selection Cabernet, made from the outstanding lots of that vintage. Special Selection Cabernet is produced only in vintages that Chuck Wagner, who directs all of Caymus’s vineyard and winemaking operations, feels are appropriate for this bottling.
Wine Spectator covers featuring Charlie and Chuck Wagner
Over the years, Caymus has won numerous awards and praise from wine critiques and fans alike. Among these awards is “Best Winery for Cabernet” by Wine Spectator magazine, so you know that Caymus is the real deal when it comes to Cabs. Ask anyone who has tried their Cab, they’ll tell you. Caymus helped make American Cabernet the staple in the wine world that it is today.
Today, Chuck and his children are proud to showcase quality Wagner made wines produced from the premier winegrowing regions of California. This year celebrates the release from the 2012 vintage and marks the 40th Anniversary of Caymus Napa Valley Cabernets release. In honor of this monumental occasion and achievement, Total Wine & More is holding a special event in our classrooms to help toast to Caymus with the Wagner family.
Please join Chuck, Charlie, Joseph and Jenny Wagner for an exclusive live-via-webcast guided tasting featuring five delicious wines, including the 2012 40th Anniversary Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, on June 14th from 4-5:30 PM EST. You can search for remaining tickets here
Up bright and early, we headed to our first stop at Beaucanon Estate. The de Coninck family has a long winemaking history in Bordeaux, they own the St Émilion Grand Cru Classé estate Château Canon. In essence, Beaucanon is the family’s Napa outpost located in the southwestern part of Napa Valley. Every time I taste their wines I’m impressed – dollar for dollar the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon are best-in-class. We enjoyed a sunny stroll through their vineyards, tasted some wines in their garden with proprietor Louis de Coninck, it was an excellent way to start our day!
Then it was a short drive to Monticello Vineyards which is located in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll District, a family owned winery since its inception. Founder Jay Corley and his two sons were on hand to greet and take us through their wines. In the 1960’s Jay lived in Virginia and became fascinated with Thomas Jefferson and his passion for wine, so when Jay had the chance to purchase some vineyards in Napa Valley, he jumped at the opportunity and built a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s house in Charlottesville, Virginia, aka., Monticello. Under the shade of umbrellas, the Corley family explained their farming and winemaking philosophies and the style they strive to achieve in their wines. To cap the visit, Jay Corley donned a colonial style coat and a powdered wig to take some pictures with the team!
It was then off to lunch with two of our most important winery partners – Rutherford Ranch Winery and Arroyo Secco Vineyards. These folks are the teams behind the Muirwood and Dominican Oaks brands, two of our top selling customer favorites. The team took us through their newest releases, including Cuboid out of a box, which was fun! They provided an incredible lineup of food; succulent heirloom tomatoes and local burrata cheese, deviled eggs, grilled steak and chicken, all were all delicious.
The rest of the afternoon was packed with visits to some of the most elite wineries in Napa Valley. These intensely passionate producers are protective of every cluster, every grape, from budding to bottling. Nothing but perfection is allowed in these wineries. The production areas are impeccably clean, fermentation tanks are custom-made for specific blocks in the vineyard, and they have sorting tables that require up to 20 people to separate every grape and remove every stem jack painstakingly by hand.
Cyrus Hazzard (L) and Lou Kapcsándy
A stop to see Lou and Louis Kapcsándy was first on the list. Lou took our team through the vineyards while explaining his winemaking philosophy – Lou is a firm believer that if you don’t get outstanding grapes, you can’t make top quality wine. He poured his rosé first for us, then the Endre (his second label) and then the Grand Vin 2009. The Endre Cabernet was superb – something that you can drink now while the Grand Vin ages (although it’s super tasty now too!). The winery was immaculate, Lou is a perfectionist and it shows in his wines.
From left: Claude and Katherine Blankiet with Cyrus Hazzard
Next, the group split into two, with one headed to ROY Estate and the other headed to Blankiet Estate – since I had tasted the ROY wines on Monday, I elected to be on the bus to Blankiet. I have been a huge fan of Claude Blanket’s wines for years, even before I started with Total Wine & More I was purchasing his wines off his mailing list. Nestled on the western hills of the town of Yountville. Right behind Dominus Winery, owners Claude and Catherine greeted us, sharing the story of how they started Blankiet. They took us to the top of the hill behind the winery to show us how differing soils, sun exposure and canopy management are important for each site and grape variety. Back down at the winery in the fermentation room, we tasted through their three wines, the Prince of Hearts, Rive Droite (Right Bank) and Paradise Hills Proprietary Red. The 2006 Paradise Hills Proprietary Red was stunning, featuring rich notes of forest floor, well integrated oak flavors/aromas and dark cherries and espresso aromas – you can drink the Proprietary Red now or age it for at least 20 years more. What amazing people and amazing wine, Claude and Catherine were truly gracious hosts, I can’t wait for my next trip back here.
Larry and Mary Anne Tsai
The last stop of the day (which last year featured the most amazing lunch we had the entire trip) was down to Coombsville with Larry and Mary Anne Tsai – proprietors of Moone Tsai. They greeted us with a glass of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and some delicious hors d’ oeuvres – Niman Ranch bacon fritters, soufflé Gruyère cheese puffs, and grilled Point Reyes oysters with sweet Thai flavors. Those Gruyère cheese puffs were perfectly paired with the Chardonnay. After a quick tour of the caves we sat down for dinner where each course paired with one of Moone Tsai’s wines – their Napa Valley Chardonnay, Howell Mountain Red, Napa Valley Cabernet and Cor Leonis Cabernet were all served. The boneless sterling short ribs with buttermilk mashed potatoes were delicious, and a perfect pairing with the Napa Valley Cabernet. Larry and Marry Anne Tsai were tremendous hosts as always and provided the best meal of the week so far – Thank you, Mary Ann and Larry!
Well, that was another memorable day in wine country, and another amazing lineup of producers!
Winemaker Philip Togni pulling barrel samples for tasting
First on our agenda is driving up Spring Mountain to visit two producers. Because the wineries are so small, we had to split into two groups. My group visited one of my absolute favorite producers, Philip Togni. He has been making wine in the Napa Valley for over 40 years, and in the early 80’s he planted vines of his own on Spring Mountain. Today, he, his wife Birgitta and his daughter Lisa, manage a small plot of land where they produce two Bordeaux varietal based wines and one dessert wine. There is no sign indicating the winery from the road, no tasting room, and no place in the valley to taste their wines so this visit is a special and exclusive treat! I first tasted Togni’s wines in 2000, when I lived in Napa Valley and was working at Dean & Deluca where my wine team got a bunch his wines from the 1980’s. It was my true first experience tasting mature aged wines, one I will never forget. These wines are proven to withstand the test of time, and today Philip shared the 2011 vintage in barrel and both the 2005 and 2008. I cannot pick a favorite, they are all equally amazing. Thank you Brigitta, Lisa and Philip for hosting us!
View of Barnett Vineyards, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley
Next was Barnett Vineyards – hosted by owner Fiona and Roy Barnett along with their winemaker, David Tate. The property features a stunning view of the valley, I can’t imagine waking up to these views every day! The Barnetts are super-organized, we were escorted into the caves where the three of them had tables set up classroom-style for our team to really focus on the wines and take good notes. We tasted two Chardonnays, three Pinot Noirs, a Merlot, their famous Cabernet Sauvignon and the legendary Rattlesnake Cabernet were all open for us to taste. I was really impressed with these wines, there definitely will be a few of both Cabs going into my cellar and some of those tasty Pinots for enjoyment over the rest of the summer.
From left: Joe Wagner, Cyrus Hazzard, Chuck and Jenny Wagner.
After the tasting, we headed down the mountain to the town of Rutherford for a visit with the team at Caymus Vineyards. Our group was particularly inquisitive this year, and had so many great questions for each stop with our Caymus visit being no different! We were greeted by the fantastic team of Jenny, Joe and Chuck Wagner – a family of Napa Valley icons. Jenny is the newest addition to the Wagner winemaking team, and there will be another addition to the Wagner Family of Wines soon, Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc which Jenny is in charge of. Joe Wagner is making the Pinot Noirs from Belle Glos, and of course, family patriarch Chuck Wagner makes the great Cabernets of Caymus. All were tremendous hosts, greeting us with a glass of Conundrum white as they led us out to the vineyards for some education on growing
Owner Chuck Wagner speaking with our team
Cabernet grapes, hosted by Chuck. It was a bit warm out there, but not to worry, once we were finished The Wagners refreshed us with a crisp glass of Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc and then took us into the cool caves for an amazing lunch and tasting with Chuck and Joe. We tasted Mer Soleil Silver, Mer Soleil, Meomi Pinot Noir, Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir and the upcoming release of the 2011 Caymus Vineyard Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon and as a special treat, their 2003 Special Select. A big thank you to the Wagner family hosting us!
Rich Salvestrin (right) speaking about his winery
A quick jaunt up the road to St Helena took us to Rich Salvestrin, owner and winemaker at Salvestrin Winery. There’s a cool story here, the Salvestrins actually own the property that the Dr. Crane (of the famous Beckstoffer Dr. Crane vineyard fame) lived on and includes some of his original vineyards. The Salvestrin Sauvignon Blanc was bright and refreshing and their Cabernet Sauvignon was silky and elegant.
Long Meadow Ranch
From there, we headed down to Whitehall Lane Winery and then up the Mayacamas Mountains to Long Meadow Ranch. Long Meadow Ranch is a very interesting property, it’s not only a winery, but they have olive orchards including a stone wheel oil press for producing olive oil from those orchards. Here was another amazing view of the valley, overlooking the small town of Rutherford, with views of St. Helena and Oakville. Long Meadow Ranch also owns the restaurant Farmstead in St. Helena, which features delicious farm-to-table cuisine where they showcase as much as possible from their ranches on the menu.
Our team with the owners and winemaker of Amici Cellars
The last stop of the day was at Amici Cellars located just off Old Toll Road near Calistoga. After last year’s visit, Amici set the bar very high! As expected, they were up to the challenge, greeting us at the winery with their Sauvignon Blanc (there seems to be a lot of great ones today!) and a tasting of their new releases of Olema Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and No Curfew Red Wine. After the tasting, we walked down to a beautiful clearing to taste through the entire line of Amici wines – and like last year, the Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet was a stunner! Sadly, there’s not a whole lot of this around but if you really want to treat yourself, this one is the one to get. They also introduced us to the newest addition to the Amici family of wines – the Amici Reserve Cabernet which will be available soon at your local Total Wine & More, it was spectacular! As if the tasting wasn’t a good enough, we were treated to Gott’s Roadside for dinner – for those of you that have visited the Napa Valley, you would remember it as Taylor’s Refresher, definitely the best burger in town! As we watched the reflection of the sunset off of the beautiful Palisades mountain range, the night came to a close.
Tomorrow the agenda is packed again, this time with some of the biggest hitters in the Napa Valley, stay tuned!
Check out more of my photos from the trip here!
It’s 8:00 a.m., and the team is on the bus and headed for wine country! First stop is Ceja Vineyards, located in the Carneros region of Sonoma. For those that are not familiar with Carneros it’s actually called Los Carneros, or “the Rams” and is an AVA (American Viticultural Area) that straddles both Napa and Sonoma. Owner and co-founder Amelia Ceja was the first to greet us – and let me tell you, this is one of the most passionate wine personalities I’ve ever met! The family has an incredible story; the Cejas were originally harvest workers that made it to the big show – producing some of the best examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California. My favorite of the visit was their Pinot Noir, full of mouth-watering acidity and gorgeous fruit flavors, all about finesse and elegance. Sadly, we had to keep to our schedule which if it was up to Amelia; she would have had us for the entire day to herself.
Jeff Kunde speaks to our team
Next up, Kunde Family Estate.
Running just a tad behind we turned into the Kunde estate where we were greeted by Owner, Jeff Kunde and his winemaker, Zach Long. With no time to spare they each jumped onto a bus and we headed up the mountain to get a better view of the property. The Kundes have been growing grapes and making wine for over 100 years and are the largest land owners of planted vines in Sonoma Valley. They also make our Kinneybrook line, which is actually where the Kunde Winery is located. The Kinneybrook Ranch … and of course there was a brook running through the property – so hence the name Kinneybrook. All the grapes for those wines come from that piece of the property. There are amazing views from the Kinneybrook vista point, not to mention outstanding wines. We tasted through the entire lineup of Kinneybrook for the upcoming releases with not a bad wine in the lineup! Lunch was served in the shade of trees and then we headed back on the bus to Green Valley for a visit to River Road Winery, one of our best winery direct partners.
Winemaker Joe Freeman
Welcoming us with a glass of rosé, the team of River Road was all there to say hello. Boy, did they pull out the all the stops! Owner Ron Rubin, winemaker Joe Freeman, assistant winemaker Ed Morris and several vineyard owners were in attendance including the Boschetti and Hopkins families – names you may know from River Road’s single vineyard Pinots and Chardonnays. In the winery they had tables set up for us to go through the most recent vintages of their wines. Winemaker Joe Freeman led the tasting, with support from his assistant Ed, who used to work for a cooperage and has extensive knowledge of how barrels are made and the effects they can have on wine. The group this year was really inquisitive; Joe had his hands full answering all of their questions. Because we had so many questions, we ran a little behind, sacrificing some dinner minutes to take advantage of the time we had with Joe and Ed. It’s not like they let us leave hungry though, the Hog Island oysters on the half shell and crab cakes they provided were delicious!
(center) Craig Haserot, proprietor of Soujourn Cellars
Peter Paul, proprietor (left) with winemaker Daniel Moore (center) and our team
As if that wasn’t enough for one day, we went back to the hotel where we had a meet and greet scheduled with 25 more producers. What an amazing tasting; each year this event keeps getting better and better. Each team member interviewed one producer and will be sharing their findings on the bus to their teammate in between winery visits over the next few days. Of course, once the interviews were over, we had the chance to walk the room and taste all the wines which came from Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Amador County and the central coast. It was really hard to pick favorites, but a few of the highlights for me were the Peter Paul Wines, Sojourn Cellars Pinots, Black Cordon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and of course, ROY Estate.
Ah, it’s a lot to ponder, especially with my palate fatigue (this is tough work!). Time for me to put the glass down. More tomorrow!
So I left the team on Saturday and had a packed day of visiting wineries on my own! During the meet and greet Monday night I made some great connections with some of the producers who kindly invited me to come back at the end of the week to visit and learn more about them. This day was much more my pace – only four wineries to visit. The agenda: Blankiet & Kapcsandy in Yountville, Hestan in Wooden Valley and finally Jemrose in Bennett Valley. The whole mission of this day was for it to be a scouting trip for some upcoming video shoots. (Look for those here on our blog in the upcoming months!)
On my way out to the first stop I picked up my good friend Michael, fellow wine connoisseur and expert on the Napa Valley wine region, to keep me company and be my guide.
First stop was at Blankiet and the owner, Claude, was patiently waiting for us when we arrived at the winery. I forgot how traffic can be on a Saturday so we were a little late. I had been here once before and as before, I was stunned with his facility. His quest for perfection and nothing less was evident in his facility. He has fermentation tanks tailored to each block of his property and beautiful caves. It was so clean you could practically eat off the floor – not that I would attempt to! We got to walk in the vineyards, visit his tasting room and spend some time with Claude. I’m really looking forward to this shoot, truly one of the greats in Napa Valley.
Then it was off to Kapcsandy to visit with Lou. Lou owns one of the most well-known vineyards in Napa, State Lane. For those that don’t know, this was one of the key components in the Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for many years. Lou actually owns several 9 litre bottles of the original 1976 Beringer State Lane single vineyard!
As with Blankiet, Kapcsandy was all about perfection both in the cultivation and in the winemaking process. Lou gave us a great tour of his facility and vineyards. After setting the tone with his amazing sorting equipment and describing the process of selection, it was no surprise that the wines were amazing. He broke down his vineyard into specific blocks using NASA to actually plot out the proper height of the vines to protect his precious fruit! Being here for harvest next month will be an amazing experience.
We also got to peek into his wine cellar which was truly one of the most amazing collections I’ve seen. He showed off a few of his most prized bottles, including a 1905 Lafite which is over 100 years old and I’m betting still amazing. Look for a video in the future with Lou and his cellar! Also, check out the Kapscandy story. It was truly an amazing journey for this family and a lesson on how to succeed in the land of opportunity with hard work and determination.
Next we went out to Hestan in Wooden Valley. The plan was to take a look at the vineyards with the vineyard manager Angel and look for some good spots to film. We got more than we thought we would, including some quality time with owner Stanley Cheng who was at home in is house that overlooks the vineyards.
He was an extremely gracious host whose passion for wine and his specific vineyards were evident throughout the visit. We also had the chance to walk through his cellar as well, another amazing collection. It is one of the most scenic vineyard sites I have ever visited.
The final stop was to visit to visit Jim Mack at Jemrose. Jim is the owner of one of the greatest vineyards in California for Syrah, Cardiac Hill. He took us on a tour of the vineyards, pointing out each of the single varietal wines by vineyard. Let me tell you, looking at the Cardiac Hill Vineyard, I have a better understanding of how it earned its name. After the vineyard tour, Jim took us into his “man cave” for a tasting. As funny as it seems, we hadn’t had a single glass of wine all day up until this point! Jim opened up two vintages of his Syrah (‘06 & ‘09) to compare, his 2010 Viognier, 2007 Grenache and a bottle of the Carlisle 2009 Cardiac Hill.
The 2010 Viognier hit the spot after a hot day in the vineyards and the 2009 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah was as I remembered it the other day, fantastic! Jim gave us the rest of the bottles to take home and finish with dinner, which was a very kind gesture. All the wines were really outstanding, so we definitely accepted them with great pleasure.
Claude, Lou, Stanley and Jim – Thanks for your gracious hospitality! Stay tuned in the next couple of months to see video from this outstanding tour of Napa Valley.