By: Karina Calayag



One never knows what s/he will find in a wine show.  As such, there is always that level of excitement from the anticipation of discovering those gems of new releases and vintages not yet “met,” and when cult wines are added to that mix, these gatherings become even more interesting.  Stars they all are and just like these brilliant heavenly bodies, wines shine in a boundless multitude in its own universe;  ever-changing and ever-growing with the constant influx of new wines being introduced from the more recently produced to the “libraried” vintages.  In San Francisco alone, surrounded by the best vineyards and wineries in the world, one might say the selection landscape is as immense as the Milky Way.

Here’s a list of the most notable wines and phenomenal cult wines to watch out for at The SF Vintners Market last April 14.  Get to know these “Love-at-first-sip” out-of-this-world and champion wines and their winemakers.




Tess Winery SF Vintners Market


TESS Red & White Blend, Persephone Vineyard, Pope Valley in Napa Valley $20

TESS Winery is co-owned by two sisters Lisa and Arianna Peju from a second generation renowned Napa Valley winemaking family, Peju.  Founded only in 2012, TESS Winery’s first wine, TESS Red & White Blend, is a wonderful proprietary blend of all good things: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Tess means harvest and it invokes Lisa and Arianna’s earliest memories of farming grapes and making wine as a family.

Delightful and refreshing it showcases the bright fruit of strawberry, raspberry and watermelon. The texture is surprisingly rich and balanced by crisp, clean acidity. Because it is recommended to be served chilled, it is a perfect everyday drink for now and the warmer days ahead.





White Oak SF Vintners Market


White Oak Vineyards & Winery located in the heart of the Alexander Valley their estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley produce Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc , Napa Valley vineyards produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah., and from their vineyards in Alexander Valley they produce a small bottling of their legendary old vine Zinfandel and two Reserve Bordeaux style blends.

2008 White Oak Napa Valley Merlot  $26

This wine is very approachable, very pleasing and really easy to drink.  Tasting notes: “Lush black fruit notes integrated with toasty oak offer cranberry, nutmeg, and vanillin flavors.  The mid-palette follows with sweet, boysenberry, brioche and roast coffee.  The wine finishes rich and supple, with silky tannins.”



LeChanceaux SF Vintners Market


Le Chanceux is a family-owned boutique winery that produces award-winning wines from their vineyard at Coombsville region, an up-and-coming stellar of an appellation in Napa.  Le Chanceux, French for “the Lucky One”, was founded by Robert and Susan McNerney when they planted an acre of their family estate in 2002.  Their first vintage, the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 2008 and in 2010 this first release won a Double Gold Medal at a prestigious international wine competition.  With Robert’s demise stricken by cancer in 2010, Susan was resolute and persevered to drive their dream forward now with the help of her three beautiful daughters, Lauren, Ellen and Jennifer.  The love and the passion in the story of the McNerneys is transposed in the brilliant wines from Le Chanceux.  With their hard-work and their talent they create their own luck and they are really the lucky ones.  I feel lucky to have met them and their wines.  Who knows drinking Le Chanceux will rub off and bring the same good luck to whoever drinks it?


2007 Le Chanceux Cabernet Sauvignon  $58
This won a Silver Medal award at the 2011 San Francisco Int’l Wine Competition.  Truly meritorious, it is charming, impressive and ends with finesse.



Canihan Exuberance SF Vintners Market


Owner Bill Canihan and their family’s vineyards are in Sonoma in the Los Carneros appellation.  They take pride in their terroir, meticulous organic farming practices, and hands-off winemaking philosophy which result in exceptionally elegant and flavorful wines.

2005 Exuberance Pinot Noir  $60

100% Estate Grown, 100% French Oak, Double Gold Medal- 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition & 2008 West Coast Wine Competition. This is a fantastic Pinot Noir that is highly recommendable.  Tasting Notes: “Aromas of raspberry, plums, violet and floral tones fold into black cherry and cedar as the wine is swirled. The wine’s texture is elegant and rich, with a deep, lingering finish.”



Tamber Bey SF Vintners Market


Tamber Bey prides in producing only 100% estate-grown wines from their two vineyards Tamber Bey Estate and Deaux Cheveaux.  Because they are single vineyard wines Tamber Bey clearly evokes the unique character of each vineyard. “Tamber Bey” has a special meaning to owner, Barry Waitte, as they are the names of his first two Arabian horses that he owned and raced. Deux Chevaux means Two Horses in French.  Tamber Bey wines are truly memorable to the palate and the notes below although close is nothing compared to experiencing it in your mouth:

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Deux Chevaux Vineyard $45

Tasting Notes: “Dark stone fruit with light notes of leather, earth, beef broth, cacao powder and black licorice followed by black cherry and bitter chocolate.”  A very memorable, well-balanced wine.






Cult wines are wines with a dedicated following of wine fanatics who don’t mind paying the high price these superior wines are associated with.  Cult wines are considered trophy wines or investment wines to be held rather than consumed.  It is a curious anecdote I heard about a winemaker who couldn’t sell his fantastic wine at $58.  When he adjusted the price of the same wine later for over $120, it sold out within a matter of days.  It proves that cult pricing and branding has its own appeal factor but one must prove its value as it is more critiqued by a more discerning class of drinkers.  To say the least, there is an intense curiosity for these attention-grabbing cult wines and its avid followers.  I was privileged to access the Cult Lounge and feed my curiosity-appetite on these rock-star wines, their owners and winemaker’s stories that day.




Tamber Bey 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Estate Vineyard $135

It is another Tamber Bey wine and like their other wines the first words you hear from tasters are Wow! and Yummy!  “Deep purple to the rim, scents of dark fruits, minerals and dark chocolate emanate from the glass. Smooth mile-long finish.”  Owner Barry Waitte must agree that like his Arabian race horses Tamber and Bey, this cabernet sauvignon is a Preakness winner!



SPOTO SF Vintners Market


Spoto Wines is a small family boutique winery, owned by Stuart Spoto who comes from an award-winning winemaking family of over 30 years. His ability to perfect his Bordeaux blends innate, Spoto only uses the best grapes primarily from the Oakville appellation.  The surrounding vineyards, in fact, provide grapes for other high-end wines such as Opus One, Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard”, Far Niente and Harlan Estates.

Because these artisanal wines are extremely limited in production and because they are truly delicious fine wines, they sell out quickly even with a two bottle limit per purchase.

2010 SPOTO Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville  $115.  Only 65 cases.

Their showcase wine, it is a seductively balanced blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.  Kept in French oak barrels for 29 months, this wine stimulates the palate with many layers of complexity. Tasting Notes: “Alluring dark fruit aromas draw you in while deep, rich, and explosive flavors of black cherry, wild berry, and a hint of anise and sweet mocha-laced oak tantalize your taste buds.” More impressive is the extremely long finish and smooth lingering flavors which entices to take another sip.



Linked SF Vintners Market


Owned by husband and wife, Jessica Link and Drew Johnson, Linked Vineyards is located in the Knights Valley in Santa Rosa.  The property was purchased by Jessica’s father Ken Link for his family’s legacy while Jessica was still in college.  Jessica later on met Drew who at that time was Beringer’s vineyard manager.  With all their knowledge, hard work and passion poured into the vineyard and winemaking Linked Vineyards is producing superb premium wines today.

The wine they make is literally hand-crafted: the grapes are picked, sorted and crushed — by hand.  Linked is typically one of the last vineyards in the area to begin harvest in order to get complex flavor development. The fruit is hand picked into small boxes and chilled overnight.  Fully cooled, the clusters are hand sorted and gently de-stemmed.  Then, the berries go through two additional stages of sorting, the final one done meticulously by hand.  This fruit is hand-crushed and transferred to small tanks and oak puncheons, and allowed to cold-soak.  Only native wild yeasts are used in the fermentation.  The wine is aged for 16 months in artisan French cooperage.  There is no filtration or fining prior to bottling, presenting a wine true to the fruit.  Every step of the winemaking process is thoughtful and deliberate, allowing the character of the grapes, and the place they come from, to emerge in the wine.


2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Linked Vineyards  $120

100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon, “the intense ruby color hints at the depth and complexity of this wine: layers of juicy blackberry and black cherry, red currant and raspberry give way to hints of warm spices, dark chocolate and graphite. Floral notes and lovely acidity add to this wine’s multi-dimensional profile. The big round flavors and soft, supple tannins create a wine that makes you eagerly anticipate the next sip as you are savoring the last one.”  It is a marvelous wine and is a pure joy to sip and savor.



Courtesan SF Vintners Market


These sexy, seductive and enticing wines are from the prestigious Oakville appellation handcrafted by Proprietress/Winemaker Bridget Raymond, who hails from a family of winemakers.  The Tuscan-style blends are super-secret at a secret winery on Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena.  The mysteriousness is rooted in the name, Courtesan, which means women of the Renaissance, who came from wealthy or noble families but weren’t royalty.  Because they were allowed to study, Courtesans were well educated and worldly.  Aside from their beauty, it was their wit and personality that set them apart from regular women.  They became the companions at social events to men of wealth and power.

They were the mistresses of Kings!

Courtesan “Red Mask” Reserve  $170/$125/$115

This is a top-flight wine;  elegant, velvety smooth and silky.  A ravishing wine that gives a truly unforgettable experience from the first sip you will crave the next one…



Sequoia Grove SF Vintners Market


Sequoia Grove wines are made with 100% Napa Valley fruit from their original Estate vineyard and newly acquired Tonella Estate Vineyard in Rutherford, as well as from premier Napa Valley Growers throughout Napa County.

2008 Cambium $125

“Dark red-black in color with an intense nose of fresh black cherries, sweet cedar and coffee mixed with dark and milk chocolate and a note of wet gravel. Background aromas of vanilla and cigar box interplay with a hint of cinnamon toast. The palate is full, rich, and round with flavors of fresh blackberry and sweet cherries and a bittersweet chocolate and cinnamon finish.” A delicious, elegant and stunning wine, it makes you feel very civilized drinking it.



Somerston SF Vintners Market


Somerston wines are the best expression of complexity, depth in structure and age ability.  Each wine is selected from a single vineyard block from the Somerston property located high in the eastern hills of Napa, where the soils, microclimate, vintage and varietal are in perfect alignment.  Head Winemaker and Founding Member, Craig Becker’s winemaking philosophy leads to minimal winemaker impact, bringing a sense of place into all of his wines.

Their wines:  Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Proprietary Red Blend

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Somerston $120

“The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Somerston stands out for its gorgeous balance of fruit acidity and tannin. All the elements fall into place in this effortless Cabernet. Dark red berries, spices and flowers lead to a creamy, textured finish.”  An excellent wine, graceful as it is grand.



Tournesol SF Vintners Market


Owned by Bob and Anne Arns the Tournesol Vineyards are in the highly regarded Coombsville appellation.  From their estate vineyards practicing sustainability Tournesol produces organic Bordeaux varietals focused on producing two wines each year: the Proprietor’s Blend and the Cabernet Sauvignon.


2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Tournesol  $125

This is a big, powerful, concentrated wine with great finesse and a long aging potential.  It is a splendid wine; bold, intense and very pleasing to the palate.



Spring Mountain SF Vintners Market


Jeridan Frye, Sommelier/Director of Hospitality & Retail Sales, poured for me a tasting of their entire selection (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc).  Everything was remarkable but the ELIVETTE Series, particularly, the 2005 was most outstanding.

2005 ELIVETTE $160.  Served at the finest restaurants such as The French Laundry for much more (I was told $400), its price that day was acceptable to the connoisseurs who showed their appreciation of its value and bought this wine at the show.  It is, after all, a terrific blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 81%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Petit Verdot 7%, Merlot 5% an air of distinction.  Spring Mountain Vineyard’s signature Bordeaux-style wine, the 2005 Elivette was the only California wine to receive GOLD in Decanter Magazine 2010 World Wine Awards.

Winemaker’s notes: “Impressive and highly perfumed on the nose. The palate has a sweet, rich entry with very fine tannins, the fruit is savoury and concentrated. It has a clean and refreshing finish with lingering length. From 2012 onwards.”  An outstanding OUTSTANDING wine!!  A favorite of mine at the show.  Remember your first kiss?  This is like it.  Soft in the mouth.  The nose, so exciting you know something is imminent.  Love at first sip.  Sublime.



TwentyFour SF Vintners Market


Owned by famed NFL player Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders/Green Bay Packers) who, in visiting Napa in 1998, fell in love with wine and the idea that when people there gathered and celebrated there was always a bottle of wine – whether at an opulent setting, for a casual lunch or just plain relaxing.  Woodson decided to become a winemaker after a winery tour at Robert Mondavi hosted by Rick Ruiz who then worked for RM.  Rick eventually became an integral member of the Twenty Four team together with internationally acclaimed winemaker, Gustavo Gonzalez; for a trio responsible for making a most outstanding brand of wines to this day.  Twenty Four grapes are from a vineyard owned by Heitz Bro.s.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon $150.

In the top two best wines (the other, Elivette 2005) at the show it is superbly crafted.  Mesmerizing.  Hypnotizing.  Mind-blowing.  It is proud leader, a distinguished and dazzling Polaris of a wine.

Tasting notes: “Sultry notes of chocolate covered cherries, vanilla and sweet oak dance with cassis and hints of smoke as aromas fill the glass. Bold expressions of powerfui fruit are balanced by layers of coffee, cocoa and violet in this polished Cabernet. Round, refined tannins add weight and structure that is echoed in the plush, velvety finish.”  Same bottle but Autographed by Charles Woodson is $250.



Published:  May 2, 2013

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