MORE CALIFORNIA CABERNETS
2006 Niebaum-Coppola "Rubicon" SALE $159.99 (last bottles)
- The Niebaum here is from Mr. Gustave Niebaum, the founder of Inglenook
back in 1879. Coppola is Francis Ford, famous movie producer.
Founded in 1978, Coppola purchased the Niebaum residence and some vineyards.
Adjacent to this property he purchased some 120 acres of vineyards. In 1995 he
bought the Inglenook property, across the street from Beaulieu Vineyards. This was
owned by Heublein and came with another 70+ acres of vineyards. Also part of
the package was a bunch of wine.
The original wine made here goes by the name "Rubicon." A South
African winery also makes "Rubicon," by the way. Rubicon has been a
Cabernet-based blend. The first vintage was 1978, though Coppola didn't release this
until the mid-1980s. It was a bit rustic and astringent. People bought it
anyway, curious to taste what Coppola could produce in the vinous world.
Over the 1980s the wines continued to be of this somewhat rustic, harsh,
more-tannin-than-fruit style. I remember tasting a whole line-up of these when they
were about 10-15 years old and finding them to be somewhat dried out and short on fruit.
I suppose Mr. Coppola felt a need to improve and he hired Tony Soter (Spottswoode,
Viader, Etude, etc.) some time ago. Bingo! Instant improvement.
Soter helped craft the wine to have much better balance and significantly more fruit.
These also show a nice sweet oak note.
His fingerprints remain, though I am not certain Soter still is affiliated with
The 2006 is a full bodied Cabernet, showing some ripe tones and a
whiff of wood. It's drinkable now and should remain in good condition
for another 5 to 10 years.
The winery offers a bunch of wines with the Coppola name on them. We
have found these to be fairly commercial and of little interest. As we
get requests for something with the Coppola label, we carry a red wine
called Claret. It's a decent bottle, but hardly spectacular wine.
- MARIO PERELLI-MINETTI WINERY
2015 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon SALE
2001 "MIRIAM" Napa Valley
CABERNET (Was $75) Sold Out
- The winery has a small sign out in front noting "American Owned".
Old Uncle Mario's family had been in the California wine business for years.
Look in any book covering the wine scene in the early part of the 1900s. The history
Mario, who passed away at the age of a hundred-and-something in late 2010, lived up the street from the shop and
he'd had a small cellar
in Napa making Cabernet. It's 100% varietal.
Oak is not a
big part of his wines. They feature the grape. The quality is good and the
pricing is imminently fair.
Mario was a friendly old fellow who was even more of a
dinosaur than are we!
His wines are not going to win tastings, but enough
restaurants around here have his Cabernet on their wine list that the wine is rather
popular. People like the Cabernet because it tastes good with food and doesn't cost
The 2015 vintage is a medium-full bodied Cabernet and is drinkable now and should remain in good shape for 4-6 more years, maybe
more. It's a bit of an old-school California red wine, not the
currently-fashionable fruit bomb with noticeable (and bothersome) levels of
Still, it's an impressive Cabernet for twenty-bucks.
made a reserve wine and named it in honor of his late wife, Miriam. I
think she was an avid swimmer and so there's a small icon representing her
on the label.
The wine is quite different than Mario's regular Cabernet. It was
matured for about two and a half years in French oak, all the cooperage
being brand new. The resulting wine is deep and dark. It's from
the 2001 vintage, so it's had considerable bottle aging.
The 2001 Miriam is now "history" and we thoroughly
enjoyed that wine...lovely work!
And we'll miss Uncle Mario...he was a character and a treasure.
- His grandson Andrew now runs the business and we hope he's
got big feet, because Mario had big shoes.
- JOSEPH PHELPS VINEYARDS
- 2012 Insignia SALE $219.99
2014 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon $69.99
- We were one of Mr. Phelps' first customers back when they released their 1973
vintage wines. This was the "new, cool" winery in Napa and
the wines were "must haves" back in the day.
Joe Phelps owned a construction company with an office here in Burlingame,
so he was well-known to us from the start. Mr. Phelps was a home-winemaker back in
Colorado. What with being in the Bay Area, it made sense that he might
take the plunge and try making wine under his own label on a professional
basis. Back in the early 1970s there were only a few wineries in Napa
and vineyards were interspersed between fruit orchards and cattle ranches.
The property Phelps had his eye on was near Heitz Cellar on Taplin
Road. It was owned by an old cattle rancher and he was not much
interested in selling the property and having someone come along and
bulldoze the place to plant a lot of concrete and cement.
Phelps appreciated the fellow being somewhat of an environmentalist and he
promised that he'd build a winery which respected the nature of the
property. The fellow eventually said "okay" and in the early
1970s Joseph Phelps Vineyards became a reality.
the outset, Riesling was a specialty, as the winemaker back then was of German
origins, Walter Schug.
He was most interested in producing Pinot Noir. The winery also made a
name for itself with some Rieslings.
Phelps discontinued Pinot Noir in the late 1970s, so Schug started making
his own with Phelps' permission.
In the early 1980s, though, Schug departed to launch his own winery in
Sonoma and Pinot Noir was a specialty. Curiously though, he didn't
continue making Riesling.
Phelps made some pleasant Cabernets in those early days, but these were not
viewed as especially outstanding.
We recall those early vintages were not consistent as Phelps was purchasing
fruit from growers around the Napa Valley and these farmers may have been
more interested in tonnage than anything else. Some of the first
vintages were a bit herbal and maybe under-ripe.
In 1975, though, they launched a wine called "Insignia." It
was a blend of whatever the best barrels in the cellar were. The blend
varied from vintage to vintage, but it was a pretty good bottle of wine and
one of the first "Bordeaux Blends."
Back in the 1970s, we would get in the van and drive to Napa to pick up some
wines and taste out of barrel, as well as previewing new and upcoming
had called and ordered a couple of cases of Phelps' Pinot Noir from the
Heinemann Mountain Vineyard.
Computers were new-fangled gizmos back then and when we arrived at the
winery, the only guy who knew how to operate that device was away from the
cellar. His name was Bruce Neyers. Yes, the same Bruce Neyers
who launched the Neyers brand of wine and who has been associated with
Kermit Lynch Wine Imports as its sale manager.
We were a bit frustrated when the would not part with a couple of dozen
bottles of this wine because nobody in the office could figure out how to
use the computer.
A few weeks later were were planning to go pick up wines again in "The
Valley" and called Phelps to order the Heinemann Mountain Pinot
We made some remark to whomever was answering the phone that we'd appreciate
if they'd have the order ready for us as the last time they could let us
take the cases due to the compute issue and we were a bit pissed off over
A day or two later the phone rang and the voice said "Mister Weisl,
this is Bruce Neyers from Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Mr. Phelps is
listening on the other phone here. Say, we wanted to ask you a
question. Did you say you'd be 'pissed off' if the wine order wasn't
"Yes, I think that's pretty accurate."
- "Well Mr. Weisl, how'd you like it if we called your
store and used such language with your wife?"
I said that sort of talk was fairly tame.
"Mr. Weisl, I'm afraid we don't want to sell you any of our wines if
you're going to speak like that."
Wow...stunning. I'm sorry Mrs. Phelps had such tender ears.
You'd think people who owned a construction company and had big, strapping
builders would be accustomed to hearing their employees using far worse
language when whacking their thumb with a hammer as they're nailing
We wondered if Phelps insisted they refrain from any sort of profanity and exclaim
something like "Oh Sugar!" when missing the nail and hitting a
Of course, in those days there was a slightly more gentile protocol for
language on the radio and TV. These days you'll hear people say
"A-hole" and "D-bag in so-called polite company.
A few weeks later we were driving around Napa and stopped at the Oakville
Grocery store to use the pay phone (another sign of the times). A call
cost ten cents in those days. (Phelps, by the way, had owned the
We dialed the Phelps winery and asked to speak with Bruce
"Bruce, are you still pissed off at me or can I come pick up some Pinot
We were able to buy the wine.
And Bruce, who is an ex-Marine we believe and who has a way with words said
he thought we were "More nuts than a f#@%ing bunny."
Mr. Phelps, bless his tender heart, passed away in 2015. But he was
quite an innovator.
Aside from creating the Insignia wine, Phelps was a leader in dabbling with
Syrah and other Rh˘ne varieties.
Early Cabernets were promising but not stellar.
launched something called Insignia back with the 1975 vintage.
The wine was going to represent the best barrels in the cellar and some
early vintages were predominantly Merlot and others were mostly Cabernet
These days it's a Cabernet-dominated blend. And it's now
established as a benchmark for Napa Valley Cabernets and Bordeaux-styled
blends. Insignia is a wine showing lots of dark fruit and plenty of
wood. Some vintages may even have a tiny bit of residual sugar.
The "regular" bottling of Phelps' Cabernets are perfectly
pleasant and typically of good quality. We thought the current
vintage measured up to about a fifty-buck bottle, but would have had to sell
for nearly $70. No thanks.
Phelps has bought fruit from the Backus Vineyard since the 1977 vintage. When
the Backus family wanted to sell the entire vineyard site, Phelps stepped up to the plate.
This is a special vineyard in Oakville along the Silverado Trail. The
original vineyard covers less than seven acres, but Phelps says there are about 21 acres
which can (and are) being cultivated. Neighbors to this vineyard include
Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle, amongst others.
We had a mid-1980s bottle of this
at the Vino Fino holiday dinner in December of 2000 and this was a sensational bottle of
wine! Very exotically-perfumed. The flavors were amazingly deep and lengthy.
It's been great to see this producer emerge in the past decade as a truly serious
PETER MICHAEL WINERY
Peter Michael is a royal subject of the Queen of England and he's got a nice
little winery and vineyard here in California. A venture capitalist,
this fellow has his fingers in the operation of radio stations around the
planet, along with a couple of luxury hotels (they refer to these as
"restaurants with a room"), a golf course and, oh, by the way, a
little winery in Sonoma.
The first winemaker here was Helen Turley. She's one who has strong
ideas about winemaking and viticulture. Typically she is affiliated
with a winery for several years and then moves on, leaving a disciple in her
stead. The Turley-ite here was Mark Aubert, who departed to start his
own winery, but has since returned on a consulting basis.
The winemaker today (they've had a bunch of people) is a French fellow,
Nicolas Morlet, whose family owns
vineyards and makes sparkling wine in the region of Champagne.
The Cabernet here is sold as a proprietary vineyard blend called "Les
Pavots." This vineyard site was dubbed "Les Pavots," by
Sir Pete's wife, Lady Maggie. This refers to the wild California
poppies growing around the vineyard. It comprises some 23 acres
and is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon along with Cabernet Franc and
Merlot. We've long been fans of this wine (since before it acquired
its somewhat cult-like following).
The wines through the 1990s have been really good, but with 2001 and now
2002 the use of oak gives the wine a sweeter fragrance and flavor. It
scored a high numerical rating from various point-scoring critics and this
has increased the demand significantly. As a result, the winery has
raised its price in hopes of either separating "the men from the boys" or you
from your money.
The winery then decided that it needs to be even more profitable
that it already is (might they consider abiding by the laws in Sonoma and
reduce the amount of fines they're paying to the government there as a
result of doing some non-permitted development?).
As a result, the 2003 vintage brought a temporary end to retail wine shops
carrying Peter Michael wines.
Sir Peter issued a statement saying the winery would no longer
be selling wine to some of its original customers, in favor of selling
directly to consumers.
"For the present time," according to
the letter. If consumers don't flock to the winery to buy $150 bottles
of Les Pavots, Peter Michael may choose to stoop to selling wine to the likes of a
shop such as Weimax.
UPDATE: With the
release of the 2008 vintage coinciding with a 'down cycle' in the economy,
Sir Peter's wine once again became available to us. We may still have
a few bottles of the 2009 in the shop...it's a nice, big, robust,
With shorter crops in succeeding vintages, Peter Michael cut back
drastically on the sale of its wines to their distributors. We
understand they may have 60 bottles of a particular vintage with which to
accommodate more than a hundred accounts. Good luck.
- They will need eye-droppers to make such allocations
- Official Peter Michael Winery
- Currently in stock:
2011 PETER MICHAEL "Les Pavots" Sale $189.99
2012 PETER MICHAEL "Les Pavots" Sale $199.99
PIED └ TERRE
is a new label for us.
Pied Ó Terre is a term with a few definitions...it literally means having
a "foot on the ground" and certainly this vintner is
You'll also find this term used to describe a small apartment or flat in a
big city...or it could be someone's home-away-from-home when they're at
work. There are some flight attendants who come and go from here in
Burlingame and they maintain an apartment over at Northpark so they have a
comfortable place to stay when they've land at SFO.
A New York sommelier of note, Richard Luftig, was bothered by the lack of
good quality and affordably-priced California Cabernet Sauvignon, so he
embarked on a winemaking adventure with Napa Valley vintner Steve
Matthiason. These days his winemaker is Dry Creek's Clay
As a wine guru at Gramercy Tavern in New York and, these days, at
Cookshop, Luftig wanted to be able to serve a sensibly-priced wine which
offered good quality. Yes, you can find plenty of relatively
modestly-priced California Cabernets, but there are not many worth
So, Pied Ó Terre was born a few years ago.
We tasted the new release, a 2015 vintage. This is quite charming
and a bit more reminiscent of old-school California Cabernets than today's
hit-you-over-the-head, punch-you-in-the-nose sorts of wine. It's one
of those wines which transports us old-timers back to the days when
California Cabernet was an elegant wine and perhaps even a bit
The Cabernet is primarily from Sonoma's Alexander Valley, though there's a
bit of Dry Creek Valley fruit here, too. You'll get a hint of wood
on the nose, but it's not a heavily-oaked wine. The tannin level is
modest, so the wine is quite drinkable now and will even blossom a bit
more with several years of aging. It's a shade deeper than the
previous vintages, in our view.
And you don't need to speak with a mortgage lender or finance agent to buy
Currently in stock: 2015 PIED └ TERRE Sonoma
County CABERNET SAUVIGNON $28.99
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