There are big stars and exclamation points in my calendar every year next to the date for Premiere Napa Valley. It’s Napa’s best wine event, a four hour marathon tasting (that you sprint to sample as much as possible!) of 225 of the valley’s finest wines, followed by a chance to bid on these once-in-a-lifetime five, ten, or twenty case lots. Everyone’s ‘A game’ material is on display, and the chance to spend time with each producer as you taste their wine is priceless insight on what makes their wine and the Napa Valley community so special.
But coming into PNV14 this year I was more than a little concerned. Regardless of vintage, your palate always gets a serious workout from these young powerful wines and the refreshing dreams of Champagne and oysters set in quickly. Coming off of two cool challenging (by Napa standards) vintages in 2010 and 2011, Mother Nature offered up a dream vintage in 2012. Spectacular growing conditions, the greatest of raw materials, and lots of it.
Would Napa’s elite foam at the mouth and take their 2012s overboard? Would we see another 2007, another big quality / quantity vintage which many producers now quietly admit they killed the golden goose and overdid it? Always a barometer for consumer excitement about Napa’s top wines, the day would say a lot about Napa’s direction.
The day will be remembered for the record setting prices but it’s the brilliant array of wines that I’ll never forget. The stats were gaudy indeed, nearly $6 million when the final hammer dropped, almost double the best previous year set in 2012. $260k for 5 cases of Scarecrow shattered the winery’s $125k record set a couple years ago. Four other $100k lots for the first time. But as pretty as the numbers were, the wines that I sampled held the real beauty. I didn’t taste them all, but I was so pleased to find so much restraint and complexity in these powerful wines that are destined to age beautifully. Yes there were still a few producers churning out wine and partying like it was 1999 (you know who you are, hoping for that RP99+ too I’m sure), but the overwhelming direction was that of a deeper pursuit of elegance over power, and balance over beastly, hyper extracted fruit. Mother Nature put the grapes on the tee for producers to belt out huge fat wines and I’m so glad to see most of them didn’t swing for the fences..
Having crammed about half the wines into my four hours of tasting, I walked away with a strong sense of the vintage’s overall promise. At the same time I see no good in offering wine-specific tasting notes from such a rapid event. Not enough time is spent with each wine to offer anything of detail, and you would quickly tire with my use of ‘delicious red fruits, refreshing acidity, lots of energy’, the defining characteristics of the day’s top lots, which there were many. But I do know you should eagerly look forward to some legendary 2012 offerings from Napa in the coming year and that I’ve already got a big star in my calendar for February 21st, 2015, the date for next year’s event. Early rumors were swirling of an equally successful 2013 vintage!
The defining crisis of our time – a tragic lack of clean water – is ravaging our globe, especially drought-prone areas like Eastern Africa. Unwilling to sit by as millions die from preventable diseases, we at Montesquieu Winery are doing everything in our power to make a difference. That’s why we’re pleased to announce that our Wine To Water Rosé Collection has sold out, raising $20,000 for clean water in Ethiopia.
In defiance of the scourge of dirty water, we designed this collection as our tribute to the power of love. “Wait,” you might ask. “What’s love got to do with it?”
According to CNN Top 10 Hero Doc Hendley, founder of Wine To Water, everything.
“When you completely head over heels fall in love with the people you’re serving to try to save their life, something changes in you,” Doc told us recently over dinner. Peering at the glass of our 2012 Love Rosé in his hand, he said, “The thing that I’ve pulled out of my work over and over again is the concept of love – this last wine right here.”
Doc went on to explain that a spirit of love and connection motivates him to spend his life helping those in need. And it’s what motivates organizations like Montesquieu, and the clients and winemakers we work with, to step forward and take action, bridging the gap between our privileged communities here and impoverished communities on the other side of the world that need clean water.
In our view, he’s right as rain. And there’s no better example of the impact of communities coming together than the Wine To Water Rosé Collection, which we tasted and celebrated over dinner that evening. More than a year in the making, the collection came together when Montesquieu partnered with three different winemakers on three beautiful rosés that together would raise $20,000, enabling Wine To Water to get clean water to 1,500 more Ethiopians. Our sales staff spread the word, and our clients enthusiastically supported the wines – so much so that only a week after the collections were released, we reached our goal.
Doc Hendley, Maqueda in hand, at our dinner celebrating the Rose Collection
“You put this in me the first time I met you, that wine is about community,” Doc told Fonda Hopkins, CEO of Montesquieu Winery, at our dinner gathering. “It’s not just about the taste in the glass or even just where it’s made, but it’s about the thing that happens when we’re gathered around the table like this… It’s about communities coming together – Montesquieu, Wine To Water, and the Ethiopian families we’re helping.”
Of course when it comes to wine, Montesquieu Winery is quite passionate about what’s in the glass and who made it – so naturally the Rosé Collection is truly special. Winemaker extraordinaire Hélène Mingot made the 2012 Love Rosé from gorgeous Alexander Valley fruit; Napa legend Heidi Barrett crafted the Prêt-à-Boire as a testimony to the intensity and elegance of her home region; and Martha McClellan’s stunning and regal 2010 Maqueda Cab Franc (the Ethiopian name for the Queen of Sheba) reflects her Midas touch that has collectors falling over themselves to procure her wines.
We’re grateful that all three of these winemakers provided us with such lovely wines for this worthy cause. But a special word of thanks is due to Martha, who after helping us raise a whopping $120,000 for Ethiopia through the 2008 Wine To Water Napa Meritage magnums, decided she still wanted to do more to serve others in need. “The Rosé Collection project started with Martha’s wine,” Fonda explained at dinner as she raised a glass in honor of the Maqueda. “Martha inspired this. She fell in love with Doc and his work, and she told me that she wanted to donate 50 cases of rosé to us and Wine To Water. She’s such a strong supporter of the cause.”
Toasting the partnership between Montesquieu Winery and Wine To Water
Every step along the way, this collection has been a true labor of love. Montesquieu’s creative director Jen Kaye spent countless hours hand-cutting labels, ensuring each was applied just so, and our warehouse staff put in extra effort to assemble the collections and manage logistics. Without the dedication they and others showed, none of this would have been possible.
Are you feeling the love yet? We sure are, and once clean water is flowing from those new wells, our friends in Ethiopia will be too.
The Rosé Collections are gone, but if you missed out, you can still join us in making a difference. Every bottle of Michel Rolland’s Bonne Nouvelle (available here) raises $20 for clean water in Africa. Buy a bottle, save a life.
Wine Spectator Magazine is the most popular wine publication in the U.S. — and it’s not even close. So naturally, they receive tens of thousands of wine samples each year, from wineries all around the world. The editors have no shortage of incredible wines to feature in their magazine.
And yet, of the 15,000 wines they reviewed for the past fifteen issues, they chose only three wines to feature on their cover. By our count, that makes our 2009 Derenoncourt Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, if not one-in-a-million, at least 1 in 5,000!
As good as the wine looks emblazoned on this issue’s cover, it tastes even better. Since the first vintage we made with international winemaking phenom Stephane Derenoncourt — his first-ever U.S. wines — in 2006, our Lake County Cab has become something of a poster-boy for the emergence of the Lake County growing region. Back then, Wine Spectator‘s top California wine critic James Laube wrote a column in which he used the quality of our 2006 Lake County Cab to announce, in essence, “There’s gold in them thar hills!”
And he’s right. Stephane is fond of telling the story of how, while exploring Napa with us in search of vineyards for our project together, we stumbled across the Lake Country region, which was then more-or-less unknown to discerning wine enthusiasts. Enamored with its volcanic soils and mountainous terrain, Stephane immediately saw its potential for producing Cabernet of immense depth and pleasure. We inked a long-term vineyard contract for his favorite plot in Andy Beckstoffer’s Red Hills Vineyard, and our Lake County Cab was born.
Eight years later, it’s exciting to see our early enthusiasm for Lake County’s potential now being shared with a wider audience of wine lovers. And it’s gratifying that the Spectator editors continue to point to our Cabernet as the standard-bearer of top quality from that burgeoning region.
If you have’t yet had the pleasure of tasting this wine, you can order it here. We love sharing our passion for wine, and few wines have engendered as much passion as this one over the past few vintages. If you’ve enjoyed special moments with this wine, tell us about it in the comments below — we’d love to hear about it!
Here’s to many more of these moments in the years to come!
Dec. 19, 2013 – Thanks to a lot of enthusiasm, little bit of effort and one very special wine – Michel Rolland’s2003 Bonne Nouvelle – 1,800 more people are set to receive the thing they need most: a source for clean water.
Last month, with the holidays in full swing, we at Montesquieu Winery wanted to harness the spirit of giving to bring good news to those who need it most. So, led by our CEO Fonda Hopkins, we set a goal: Let’s raise $25,000 by Christmas Day for CNN Hero Doc Hendley and his organization Wine To Water to dig several more wells for people in Southern Ethiopia. Our Montesquieu wine brokers and clients enthusiastically took up the cause, and in the space of only a few weeks, we raised enough to provide clean water for over 1,800 Ethiopians – and a grand total of 10,000 people in Africa since 2012.
We feel that Montesquieu wines always reflect artisan winemaking and terrific value. But even by those high standards, the 2003 Bonne Nouvelle (“good news” in French) is in a league of its own – as you know very well if you’ve had the pleasure of trying it! Handcrafted by Michel Rolland – inarguably the world’s most famous (and best?) winemaker – the Bonne Nouvelle shows the world-class potential of South Africa’s beautiful vineyards when tended by a master vintner. $20 per bottle goes to Wine To Water to build wells in Ethiopia, so thateach bottle sold literally saves a life. (You can buy it here.)
If you’ve been around Montesquieu much, you’ve heard us say this before, but it needs to be said again: The water crisis is the defining crisis of our time. Dirty water kills more children than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Over 1 billion people do not have access to clean water, and every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-related illness.
And yet, if we work together we can put a dent in this global tragedy and help real people in need, just by doing something simple like enjoying great wine. That’s why we’re so committed to this project.
All of this is part of our broader goal to help Doc Hendley (who is the subject of a new CNN documentary that aired in December) and his organization Wine To Watermake a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of families worldwide. Through past fundraisers, Montesquieu has already raised over $150,000 for Wine To Water, funding over ten wells in Ethiopia and providing clean water to 10,000 people and counting.
“We’re so pleased to partner with Doc Hendley and Michel Rolland to make a difference in the lives of so many families,” says Fonda Hopkins. “But this is only a drop in the bucket. We can and must do more.” Although we reached our holiday goal of $25k, our efforts are ongoing. We won’t rest until we’ve done all that we can. Please join us by buying the Bonne Nouvelle at www.winetochangetheworld.com, and save a life today!
1. There are wineries in Indiana? (Yes, just like each of the other 49 states.)
2. Indiana wineries can’t sell their own products to shops and restaurants? Why on earth not?
Good question. In Indiana, it is currently illegal for a winery to sell wine to a retailer. State law requires wineries to find a wholesaler who’s willing to buy the wine from the winery and then sell it to retailers – after taking a sizeable margin, of course. The result is that many local boutique wineries find themselves unable to place their wines in shops or restaurants, because very few wholesalers are interested in taking on small wineries with low quantities.
Seems strange, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s quite ordinary: Most states have a restriction like this in place. And in every instance, the main purpose of the system is to prop up the politically powerful wholesaler tier – the middlemen of the wine world – at the expense of producers, retailers and consumers (you know, those actually making, selling, buying and drinking the wine).
It’s pretty obvious why this arrangement is a bum deal for wineries and retailers, but what about consumers? After all, can’t Indiana residents simply buy wine directly from Indiana wineries?
They can, but here’s the rub: This law applies to out-of-state wineries too (as do almost all of the parallel laws in other states). And because in Indiana it’s also illegal for an out-of-state winery to ship wine directly to a consumer (unless the consumer first visits that winery in person), there’s no way for wine enthusiasts to get that limited-release Napa Cab they love so much unless a local wholesaler (who almost never deals directly with consumers) decides it wants to invest in a tiny parcel of those wines to carry in the Indiana market – unlikely at best.
When forced to publicly defend this system, wholesalers tend to fall back on several old and rather unpersuasive arguments. They make wild claims like “We wholesalers are the only ones protecting society from public inebriation and under-aged drinking!” and “Without these laws, we’d all be out of business, eliminating jobs and tanking the local economy!” and “It’s been this way for nearly a hundred years – here’s to a hundred more!”
It would be easy to cite data that strongly suggests that these arguments are nothing more than rhetorical cover for wholesalers’ true aim – to use the political system to maximize their own profits by ensuring that state laws force other companies to do business with them.
But that would be the easy way out. Instead, let’s take these arguments at face value and address them on the merits.
To do so, let’s pretend for a moment that out-of-state wineries were able to sell directly to Indiana retailers without wholesaler involvement. Here’s how that system would play out:
Let’s say I own a very small, high-end California winery, and Jane Doe of Indianapolis hears about our wines from an Illinois friend, or maybe she reads a favorable review in The Wine Advocate.
Let’s say she decides she wants to buy three bottles. Unfortunately for Jane, she cannot place an order with us directly, because Indiana law requires a consumer to visit an out-of-state winery in-person before getting any wine shipped to them.
Ok, so Jane then decides to swing by her favorite local retailer to ask them if they can bring it in for her. The retailer calls me and asks if we have Indiana distribution. We’re so small that we don’t, so he places an order for three bottles directly with me. We sell the three-pack to the retailer for $90 and ship it to them via FedEx, and the retailer sells it to Jane for $120. We make $90, the retailer makes $30, Jane gets her wine, and Indiana wholesalers come out the same.
Or maybe the retailer reads about my winery somewhere and knows he can hand-sell a couple of cases to clients who are looking for new Napa wineries to explore. So he contacts me to order 24 bottles, we make $720, he makes $240, and a dozen or more Indiana consumers get to enjoy a wine that’s otherwise unavailable to them.
Can someone make a principled argument as to why this shouldn’t be legal?
What about Constitutional constraints? This one’s easy. Unlike with federal legislation and jurisprudence, 21st Amendment considerations don’t apply here, because a sovereign state is free to make its system as open as it likes.
What about public safety? In the hearing on this subject held by the Indiana legislature last week, the Indiana wholesaler trade association actually asserted the highly dubious and wholly unsupported claim that wholesalers make it their business to ensure retailers are not inebriating customers or selling to the under-aged. Really? I’ve never known a wholesaler sales rep to make this task a priority – have you? State licensing systems hold retailers responsible for withholding alcohol from those who are drunk and under 21. Wholesalers have no obligations in this regard – and why should they since they don’t deal with consumers? The idea that they’re expending resources to serve as public guardians out of the goodness of their hearts doesn’t pass the laugh test.
What about keeping our wholesalers in business?This shouldn’t be a problem if, as wholesalers claim, they act as more than mere middlemen leaching profits from pre-existing revenue and instead add value to the distribution system.And the truth is that wholesalers DO add value – for those suppliers and retailers for whom they add value. Logistics, infrastructure, in-state warehousing, sales reps pounding the pavement – large wineries that need to move large quantities will still pay for those services. If you’re not sure about this, just look at states that have opened their system to allow self-distribution – wholesalers are still flourishing in these places. If anything, a little competition from other tiers only forces them to get better at their job.
But anyway, this is less a principled argument than a protectionist one. Most liberals and conservatives will agree that the government shouldn’t be in the business of making laws designed only to keep a select group of companies in business unless those companies are performing a crucial public service.
So why should we not create a level-playing field? Is it not fair and beneficial to permit wholesalers to continue working with those wineries they want to; to allow wineries without representation either to fulfill orders initiated by retailers or to try their hand at developing their own distribution; and to enable consumers to get wines they can’t otherwise?
We may argue about how much value wholesalers bring to the table, and for whom, and whether that matters when making laws. We may disagree about whether small wineries can successfully distribute their wines themselves. But I have yet to hear a compelling, principled argument about why Indiana — or any other state — shouldn’t open the market to let this play out equitably.
Continuing this protectionist, wholesaler-centered system hurts local shops, restaurants and wineries in- and out-of-state alike, while reducing consumer choice. But more importantly,it does a disservice to ordinary citizens who deserve to have their representatives pursuing their best interests, not the balance sheets of whichever companies spend the most on lobbying.
One concrete way you can help is to join a new organization designed to represent the interests of wine consumers. Surprisingly, no such entity existed prior to this year. Now, you can support the cause by supporting the American Wine Consumer Coalition – www.wineconsumers.org.
Most of all, we need everyone who cares about this issue to take action. Wherever you live, we encourage you to make your voice heard. Tell your legislators that you support freedom for wineries to sell to retailers and retailers to buy from wineries. Tell them that you’re in favor of enhancing choice and healthy competition. Tell them you don’t want your tax dollars spent on making and enforcing laws that serve only to line the pockets of interest groups.
And while you’re at it, tell them that consumers too should be able to buy directly from out-of-state wineries without all the red tape that makes it cost-prohibitive for so many small wineries. Believe it or not, if enough of us speak out, it will make a difference.
The new classification for Saint-Émilion was announced on Friday September 7th by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine). There were four wines promoted to the top level — Premier Grand Cru Classé – three of which are made by Stéphane Derenoncourt: Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Canon la Gaffelière and La Mondotte. As a result of this re-classification, Stéphane is responsible for seven out of the eighteen Premier Grand Cru Classé wines. This impressive achievement underscores why many – including we at Montesquieu Wines – believe that no one knows the Right Bank quite like Stéphane.
One of Stéphane’s most famous wines, La Mondotte, skipped the Grand Cru Classé category entirely, jumping from AOC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru to Premier Grand Cru Classé, which is a rare feat. For those familiar with the famous garagiste wines such as La Mondotte and Valandraud (also promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé), these promotions were well-deserved and not entirely unexpected. La Mondotte has been considered among the greatest Bordeaux chateaux for years, a collector’s gem and fetching prices that one would expect from the top level. View Full Post
September 6, 2012, Yountville, CA – Confronted with a water crisis in drought-stricken Ethiopia, renowned winemakers are responding with a miracle of their own making:turning wine to water.
Montesquieu Winery has partnered with Doc Hendley, founder of Wine to Water, and winemakers Bob Levy and Martha McClellan to turn several hundred magnums of Napa Valley Meritage into clean water for over 12,000 people in Ethiopia’s Dale region. And now, Montesquieu and Hendley have launched a project with famous enologist Michel Rolland that allows wine lovers to help tens of thousands more, simply by enjoying great wine. View Full Post
Syrah is not known as a shy varietal. It is known for its strength, thick skin, and the ability to thrive almost anywhere, and as such is commonly referred to as the “growers varietal”. With this in mind, it is not surprising that Syrah has become increasingly popular, and is now estimated to be the seventh most widely planted varietal in the world.
Part of Syrah being adaptable to grow most anywhere yields the characteristic of producing wines that vary widely according to the climate, terroir and viticultural practices of the particular vineyard. It has been said that the varietal has experienced an “identity crisis” amongst consumers because of this wide variation, plus the unfortunate flooding of the market with generic Syrah with little character.
Additionally when Syrah in the United States was beginning to take off, many American critics were awarding their highest scores to very powerfully extracted wines, including Australian Shiraz with this over-the-top profile that was popular at the time. Many American Syrah producers, seeking approval of the critics, emulated this jammy, intense style.
Many feel what happened was the loss of character at higher ripeness levels which became more important than sense of place, or distinctiveness. Over time, with growers gaining more and more experience with various vineyard locations and climates, we have seen an emerging trend in the industry toward cool-climate Syrah. View Full Post
Memorial Day Red, White and Blue Fruit Cups photo from the Food Network
We’ve celebrated the Kentucky Derby, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, various graduation ceremonies—and now Memorial Day will wrap up this eventful month! We’d like to share some recipes and pairings that are fantastic for this popular BBQ holiday, as well as any other occasion you may have this summer where a great recipe and delicious wine to pair it with comes in handy.
Whether you are hosting the get-together or bringing a dish to one, these creations are easy to prepare, full of fresh seasonal flavors and each paired with a wine that complements the dish. Note: If you don’t have the exact Montesquieu wine, pair with a similar one taking into consideration varietal, region, style, etc.
No matter how you celebrate we at Montesquieu Winery wish you all a very Happy Memorial Day!
Starting Things Off To begin with we have the ever-popular and super-easy Caprese salad. For a fun summer twist this recipe is served on petite skewers, which make for a clever presentation and the skewers are easy to manage for casual al fresco dining.
A delicious pairing with this salad is the 2008 Amura Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This cool-climate Chilean charmer has just the right vibrant acidity with nectarine, citrus and pomelo to lift the flavors around the delicate cheese. An alternative would be other cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc such as Sancerre. View Full Post
As we get set to celebrate Mother’s Day, the following gift ideas are especially nice for wine lovers— sure to bring a smile and may be enjoyed all year. All of us at Montesquieu Winery wish mothers everywhere a most Happy Mother’s Day!
Unique wine accessories make festive gifts. Some fun ideas include flower wine glass charms, wine bottle stoppers or bottle bags or totes, all which may be used throughout the year. Present with a bottle (or more!) of mom’s favorite wine for a lovely and delicious presentation. Candle holders (like the one pictured below) designed to fit the neck of a wine bottle are a fun way to remember a special bottle—just insert, add a candle and voila! For handmade bottle bags and totes see Etsy, and for more artsy wine charms see 47 Gems. View Full Post
At Montesquieu, we bring you the finest hand-crafted wines from the best boutique vineyards in the world. We believe that winemaking is an art. Through every wine we source for our clients, we celebrate the diversity, character and tradition encompassed within each bottle - the true spirit of wine.