• New California Icon:  2018 Matthiasson Dead Fred Cabernet

    New California Icon: 2018 Matthiasson Dead Fred Cabernet

    “If one person stands to rewrite the trajectory of California wine—in Napa's luxurious heart, no less—it is Steve Matthiasson.”
    — Jon Bonné, San Francisco Chronicle

    Steve Matthiasson, a farmer turned viticulturist and winemaker,  is a leading figure in the wave following the Robert Parker era of high-octane wines. He produced organic, low-alcohol wines before the U.S. natural wine movement had a name and now serves as a mentor to California's next wave of growers and winemakers.
    Dead Fred Cabernet Sauvignon especially stands out for its signature notes of black fruit and graphite. Steve has farmed this vineyard in Coombsville, situated at the mouth of Napa Valley, since 2012. He’s drawn to these types of vineyards—ones with cooler-temperature sites and rocky soils—for the freshness and structure they provide.

    Last year, I wrote a story for Wine & Spirits Magazine on California winemakers farming white grape varieties for skin-contact wines. Steve has an affinity for Italian grape varieties, and he talked about growing Cabernet Sauvignon in comparison. While he allows Ribolla Gialla full sun exposure to fully mature the skins, he’s more protective of his Cabernet, keeping the vines in balance with minimal leafing, so the fruit is sheltered from Napa's Mediterranean climate.

    Matthiasson's Cabernets are hand-harvested in small lots, gothrough a long and slow fermentation, and age for 20 months in mostly used oak. Extraction is kept to a minimum to preserve freshness and high-toned aromatics—a thread that runs through the entire lineup!
    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Languedoc's Prime Jewel

    Languedoc's Prime Jewel

    Outside of the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon addresses in Bordeaux, there's one name in France that can go toe to toe with these chateaux in its complexity and age-ability. Mas de Daumas Gassac. France's Southwest Languedoc region may be most famous for its value, but Herault's distinct cool microclimate has proved itself through the decades.

    Mas de Daumas Gassac was established in 1970 when Véronique and Aimé Guibert came across an abandoned farmhouse owned by the Daumas family along the Gassac river in the Herault. The typical blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon supplemented with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Tannat, and Malbec. Alcohol levels have remained modest through stylistic shifts, never taking Bordeaux's cues when things drastically changed in the '80s.

    The underground water springs and surrounding mountains created a relatively humid microclimate that mirrored Bordeaux's Médoc. Vine material from First Growth Bordeaux chateaux was planted here to create the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wine of Southern France. The cooling influences and limestone bedrock are all reasons why Mas de Daumas Gassac has long stood out as a beacon of sorts for Languedoc freshness. The region has an abundance of 100-plus-year-old plantings, with the dry and favorable climate allowing organic viticulture to thrive.

    The wines are highlighted by espresso, dark chocolate, cigar box, brambly blackberries, and savory spices. The underlying verve and tension of the wines have allowed them to improve and transform dramatically with age. As always, the provenance of older wines is the critical factor in the quality you will find in glass, and I'm thrilled to offer this mint condition collection of Languedoc's star estate.

    Shop Mas de Daumas Gassac wines

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • New California Frontman

    New California Frontman

    Farmer turned viticulturist turned winemaker, Steve Matthiasson is one of the leading figures in the wave following Robert Parker’s era of high-octane wines. In 2013, Jon Bonné cannoned Matthiasson and his peers as the New California, the next generation of winemakers focused on balance and terroir. If there's anywhere to begin the exploration of New California, Steve Matthiasson is a good place to start!

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Matthiasson Phoenix Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Last August, I wrote a story for Wine & Spirits Magazine on California winemakers farming white varieties for skin contact wines. Steve’s affinity for Ribolla Gialla and other Italian varieties was at the forefront of that story, and he talked about growing Cabernet Sauvignon in comparison. While Steve allows Ribolla Gialla full sun exposure, he’s more protective of his Cabernet, keeping the vines in balance with minimal leafing, so the fruit is sheltered from Napa's Mediterranean climate. He’s also drawn to cooler sites with rocky soils for the freshness and structure they provide.

    2017 was a big year for the Matthiassons. After 14 years of making wine in other wineries, they purchased a property from an elderly couple who could no longer keep up with the day-to-day tasks of farming and winemaking. With it, the Matthiassons inherited a winery and a 1982-planted parcel of old heritage field selections of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, which has since been converted to organic farming.

    The Phoenix Vineyard sits on a steep hillside above the Matthiasson winery. While most of the Napa Valley consists of volcanic soils, Phoenix Vineyard is situated on a ridge of ancient marine shale soils. Steve says it's the rock content and sea minerals here that especially attribute to the wine's aromatic, high-toned red fruits, what's intertwined with the supple tannins and structure I look for in Napa Cabernet. The wine does take some time to unwind, really blossoming on day two, so this would definitely benefit from decanting.

    Napa faced dire wildfires in 2017. However, the Phoenix Vineyard ripened quickly that vintage, and the fruit was harvested and finished fermentation by the time the fires struck in October. The fruit was fermented in small, open-top tanks and punched down by hand one to three times per day depending on taste. Like all of the Matthiasson Cabs featured below, elevage was for 20 months. Only 98 cases produced!

    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Turning Back the Clock: 2018 Di Costanzo Farella Cabernet Sauvignon

    Turning Back the Clock: 2018 Di Costanzo Farella Cabernet Sauvignon

    "The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Farella Vineyard is just as impressive as it was from barrel. A wine of tremendous gravitas and power, the Farella is endowed with so much personality. The darker side of this Coombsville site emerges with real power. Inky dark fruit, licorice, menthol, sage and lavender infuse with myriad layers of complexity. This is a reference point wine for Coombsville. In a word: magnificent." – Antonio Galloni, Vinous (Jan 2021)

    New California Wine, as was appropriately dubbed by Jon Bonné in his excellent book, has brought to the forefront so many talented winemakers throughout the state who are working to express terroir through more minimal intervention and a scrupulous eye on balance. While so many exciting projects are coming from every corner of the state, Napa Valley as a region has been more tied to its recent history of bombastic wines than others. Today, there's no project more dynamic than what Erin and Massimo Di Costanzo are producing from the Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Coombville's Farella Vineyard.

    I'm happy to offer Di Costanzo's 2018 Farella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Di Costanzo's Cabernet Sauvignon captures everything that's so thrilling about the variety when coming at it from a very sensitive and thoughtful approach. It's at once dark and savory with smoke, graphite, and scorched earth notes reminiscent of the volcanic ash scattered throughout the vineyard. And, at the same time the wine is supremely elegant and speaks to Massimo's travels throughout the world working with the tannic variety and getting accustomed to taming its burly predisposition.

    Coombsville is perhaps the coolest AVA within all of Napa, thanks to moderating influences from the nearby San Pablo Bay. Before launching his label Massimo spent years working with the Farella winery getting intimately familiar with the nuances of the red gravel-dominant vineyard.

    Massimo's 2017 "DI CO" Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a shale and sandstone vineyard at the foothills of Mt. Veeder in Napa Valley. Under 300 cases produced.

    After receiving his Enology and Viticulture degrees from UC Davis in 2002, Massimo worked with wineries in Tuscany (Tignanello), Stellenbosch, Mendoza, ending at Ovid and then Screaming Eagle in Napa working as the winemaker alongside Andy Erickson. Massimo's extensive familiarity with old-school Napa Valley has greatly shaped his approach to production. It's these wines from the 1960's and 1970's that are the ultimate inspiration for what's being achieved today from this epic Coombsville site.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Barraida Late-Winery-Release:  1991 Caves San João Poco do Lobo Arinto Branco

    Barraida Late-Winery-Release: 1991 Caves San João Poco do Lobo Arinto Branco

    Some of our most successful offers to date have come from late winery releases via Portugal and Spain. In all circumstances these are red wines. While wineries do age whites for late release, it's just not nearly as prevalent as with reds. Furthermore, drinking 25+yr-old whites can surely be a fascinating and even delicious exercise, but if I'm not at least enticed to finish an entire bottle, it's a hard pass for me

    Today, I'm very happy to offer the white that broke this mold, the 1991 Caves San João Poco do Lobo Arinto Branco for $63 per bottle, and discounted with special mixed 3-pack pricing including the 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1996 Tinto (Baga).

    In 2013 the Costa family, owners of Caves San João in Portugal, decided to open their cellars up and begin to release wines that have aged on site. Vintages ranged from 1959 to 2000. The dominant white variety in coastal Barraida is Arinto. In its youth Arinto has a sharp acidity that begs to be given time in bottle. Having these wines arrive directly to California this year from Caves San João is a fortune that simply does not exist today in the world of wine. Well, at least not at pricing that dips below $60 for a 28-yr-old white wine at its peak.

    1991 was a particularly stellar year for Arinto in Portugal's coastal Barraida zone. Vines were planted in 1950 on a mix of limestone and clay that endows this high acid variety a serious sense of grace. To bring some flesh and texture the white Arinto grapes are partially fermented on their skins. And instead of aging in oak, this is exclusively aged in cement tanks, an important element as to why at 28 years old this white still carries a relatively pale hue and wicked amount of tension.

    Using aged Viura of white Rioja is an adequate gauge for the general profile you should expect here.  I'm hesitant to dive into the cornucopia of flavors, as this covers such a diverse range from citrus to stone fruit, fresh herbs to white flowers, and finishing with chalky minerality that veers more toward rounded earth tones as it's exposed to air. If this were a red I would heavily advise against decanting for aeration, but as a white I think this really begins to hit its stride after about 30 minutes in the decanter.

    While these late winery release reds from Portugal have proved to be big hits with our customers, I'm very excited today to finally offer a white. One that doesn't just check the intrigue box, but also brings a delicious-factor that will pull you to the bottle's very last drop.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen