Ridge Monte Bello: One of The World’s Most Legendary Red Wines – Tasting the New Release 2014…

In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the first Monte Bello vineyards were planted, and winery construction begun. A first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; some vines survived into the late 30’s, but by the 1940s they were effectively abandoned. Eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were replanted in 1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962) and subsequent vintages until 1974 when younger blocks replanted in the 1960’s were considered for inclusion. Since then, the historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.

Vintage 2014

Lack of winter rain affected both vines and cover crops, limiting available nutrients. Still, the vines carried a decent-size crop, which ripened in September. Fermentations progressed slowly; extraction was decided by careful tasting. Malolactic fermentations started in tank and finished by February. Merlot, which suffered in 2013, was strong in 2014. Petit Verdot remained challenged by drought.

Winemaking : Grapes were harvested between the 2nd and 24th of September. Fermentation on the native yeasts proceeded with grapes destemmed and 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting was followed by hand sorting. Pressed at ten days with natural malolactic fermentation taking place. In 2014, nineteen of twenty-six Monte Bello parcels were selected for blending, after which the wine was aged in oak barrels: 100% new air-dried oak, 97% American oak, 2% French oak; 1% Hungarian oak, for 17 months.

Ridge Monte Bello 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, 13.5 Abv.

Always exciting to taste a new vintage of Monte Bello. It is truly one of the world’s great icon wines that never disappoints. What is so wonderful about this wine is the ultra intelligent path it treads between new world opulence and old world classical restraint. In 2014, the Monte Bello is a delicious blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. There is a wonderful Cabernet laden nose of blueberry crumble, cassis, black plum, buttered brown toast and a piquant note of cedar wood spice, walnut skins, graphite and vanilla pod spice. The palate conveys such wonderful concentration and depth yet remains so elegantly poised, harmonious and finely balanced. A multi layered wine that is supremely seamless, revealing more saline black current, blue berries, black cherry , vanilla bean, salty liquorice hints and a very long, polished finish. Certainly a very well honed, muscular athlete that is a wonder to behold. The tannins will hold this beautiful wine in pole position for many years to come but should be good to start drinking in the next 2 to 3 years and over the next 30+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

An Upgraded Rating For the Excellent Silverado Solo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – “Built to Thrill”…

Last year when I visited California, I tasted through the excellent range of wines at Silverado Vineyards.

Link to that tasting is here…


Owned by Walt Disney’s daughter Diane and husband Ron Miller, the ex-quarterback of the La Rams, some fabulous wines have been produced in their Stag’s Leap District winery in Napa Valley along the Silverado Trail over the years. Sadly, Diane passed away around 4+ years ago aged 79 but the estate continues to make some superb high quality, moderately priced wines, none better than their Silverado Solo Cabernet Sauvignon.

This certainly is top Cabernet country with illustrious neighbours like Doug Shafer, famous producer of the Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. The Silverado ‘Solo’ single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is situated in the Silverado vineyard with a 15 degree slope over 12 hectares which was replanted in 1988-89 solely with the UCD30 Silverado clone, one of the ‘heritage clones’. The wine was aged in all French oak, 60% new, for 18 months.

2013 was a fantastic vintage in California, making for bracing red wines packed with freshness, elegance, power and intensity at lower than normal alcohol levels in many cases.

Tasting with Silverado President Russ Weiss

Many of the top producer’s wines are long sold out, but if you see them lurking in wine merchants or on restaurant lists, indulge yourself. When I tasted the Solo 2013 back in March 2017, I new this wine was set for greatness, but I just did not realise how good it would turn out. So with this vintage set to be aged for many years to come by collectors, I thought it necessary to re-taste and re-score!

Silverado Solo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, 14.2 Abv.

The stellar 2013 Solo has a saturated dense purple colour to the rim. Wonderfully defined, precise nose of graphite, black berry spice, dried herbs, incense and black inky cherry pith with pretty violet fragrance and cedar spice nuances. Very bold, quite taught, plenty of broody depth and just superb classical Cabernet typicity. But these 2013s are built to thrill, full bodied yet classically mineral and tight, intensely concentrated, powerful but with the most tantalising saline, briney, maritime freshness and dusty Cabernet minerality. Wonderful balance and harmony but the volume is certainly turned to 10. You just can’t expect a vintage of this quality with sublime intensity more than once a decade max. Fill your cellar is the trumpet call!! Drink from 2020 to 2040+

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Magnificence of Pinot Noir Exemplified by the Storm Brothers – Tasting Ernst Storm’s Californian Range…

The Storm brothers, Hannes, 41, and Ernst, 38, grew up in the Western Cape of South Africa, where as teens, they moved to Hermanus in the famed wine growing region of Walker Bay. Fast forward 2 decades and incredibly, both are established winemakers producing high quality, evocative, terroir focused wines.

While Walker Bay based Hannes Storms’ wines have been featured on the Fine Wine Safari before, this is my first encounter with brother Ernst’s exciting wines. Ernst’s career includes successful stints making wine in South Africa at Amani Winery and in the Sierra Foothills of California. He later settled down in California’s Santa Barbara County, where he was winemaker at Curtis Winery while slowly developing his own brand over the past 15 years. With ten vintages of his own wines now under his belt, he is now focusing on his own winemaking project full time.

Rooted in the hills of Santa Barbara County, Storm Wines emphasizes old world influences using new world winemaking techniques. The Mediterranean climate, diverse soils, and exciting new opportunities in this flourishing Central Coast wine region have combined to drive Ernst’s passion for producing his wines.

Ernst’s wines are authentically handcrafted using a combination of Old and New World winemaking techniques. From being present while picking the grapes in the early morning hours, to basket pressing, to only using gravity on the red wines. Fining and filtration is only utilised when absolutely necessary in the reds and occasionally on the whites, making sure the wines express the unique qualities of the fruit’s origin.

Notary Public White Wine Santa Ynez Valley 2014, 13.5 Abv

A Chenin Blanc / Chardonnay blend focusing on the $25-$30 in USA or £35 in the UK. Bright dusty granitic lemon line zesty nose, lime peel and white citrus. Almost Chablis like minerality and restraint. Stony, intense saline freshness, sleek fine boned cool climate texture and an attractive leanness and seductive, alluring pithy austerity.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Notary Public Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 13 Abv. 

Sweet sour plum nose with intense fragrant lift with cassis and black currant leafy spice. Pretty cherry pith, pink musk and delicious cherry sherbet mineral pithy spice. Thoroughly delicious expression, such energy and focus, I really love the purity and textural focus. Real character, real class. (Interestingly, this expression really reminded me of Craig Wessels’ Hemel-en-Aarde expression of Cabernet at Restless River, in Walker Bay.)

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The fruit for this wine is 100% from the famous John Sebastiano Vineyard and only 200 cases were produced using Clone/Rootstock: 44%-115/101-14 and 56% -667/101-14 grown on Marina sand and Chamise shaly loam soils.

Picked between 8/22/14 – 8/24/14, the grapes saw a 5-7 day cold soak with 12 days on the skins. Grapes were basket pressed before fermentation and aged in new tight grained French oak after fermentation with no fining or filtration used.

Storm John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Rita Hills, 13.8 Abv. 

Savoury earthy bramble berry fruit nose showing quince, pomegranate, raisined cranberry, raspberry herbal tea infusions, and subtle sous bois and clove spice. Sweet fruited, opulent texture, dense and quite broad but retains a little more of a rustic, hearty, old world expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Produced from 100% Presqu’ile Vineyard fruit with only 220 cases produced from fruit grown on Clone/Rootstock: 667/own root on Marina sandy loam soils. 20% whole cluster used with a 6 day cold soak and 14 days on the skins. Wine was aged in 25% new French Oak for 10 months with ageing on lees, and no fining or filtration was utilised.

Storm Presqui’le Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Rita Hills, 13 Abv.

Restrained, shy spicy earthy nose with wet earth, blood orange, raisined cherries, and a sprinkling of mineral, crushed river pebble dust. A very elegant, sleek, fresh Pinot Noir style with electrically fresh acids, a suave fleshy mouth feel, notes of black tea and plenty of sophistication on a long, lingering bramble berry laced finish. Very classy.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Storm Slide Hill Vineyard Syrah 2014, Edna Valley, 14.1 Abv. 

Perfumed, lifted blueberry, black currant and savoury peppery meaty spice. Dusty, smokey charcoal, creamy oak, blueberry crumble, and then develops a seductive strawberry coulis complexity. Plush, lush, savoury and beautifully vibrant with an alluring saline vein, and tantalising seashore, maritime black fruited finish. Really impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines imported into the UK by Tiger Vines.

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Three: July to September

After a very busy year, the Summer always seems a good time to catch ones breath and rest ones palate. Well, that is very much wishful thinking. July kicked off with a bang and the calendar was as fully packed as at any other time of the year. There seems to be no off switch anymore. All the more reason to make sure you enjoy your job, whatever it is that you do.

Part 3: July to September 2017

In July I arranged to join Neal Martin on a fun trip down to Wales to visit Ancre Hill Estates the fabulous high quality organic and biodynamic winery producing some of the best bubbles in the United Kingdom. Neal had received such a good response from his first English wine review in the Wine Advocate that it seemed a jolly good idea to go and visit!

A great picture of David Morris, son of owner and wine maker at Ancre Hill. I was thrilled when “Star & Furrow Magazine – The Journal of the Biodynamic Association” asked to use this picture for their January 2018 Edition profiling this talented young winemaker.

Always fun to catch up with Mike Ratcliffe in London, this time for a pre-release tasting of the Vilafonte Series C 2015 which rightfully made it on to my Top 10 most memorable reds from South Africa in 2017.

Thelema wines remain some of South Africa’s most iconic and it is wonderful to see Thomas Webb doing such a great job promoting them in the UK.

Summer time properly kicked off with another BBQ summer party gathering of the TW Wine Club… open to members of the wine trade (and VIP guests by invitation) who live in the Twickenham TW post code. Anne Burchett volunteered her lovely garden again and the weather obliged. Great to catch up with the whole gang including Jamie Goode, Oddbins MD Ayo Akintola, Telegraph journalist Victoria Moore and many others.

August heralded my first trip back to Tenerife since the mid 1980’s to catch a bit of sunshine and visit some of the wonderful wineries on the island, documented in my Fine Wine Safari series titled “The Tenerife Wine Odyssey”.  Great to visit one of the best, Suertes del Marques near La Orotava and be hosted by owner Jonatan Garcia Lima. Some amazing wines made on the island as confirmed by the high scores of Wine Advocate writer Luis Gutierrez’s recent Spanish Report covering the new releases from Suertes del Marques and Envinate, the islands two best producers.

Another great summer bash, this time generously hosted by David Clawson, owner of the Remedy Wine Bar. Plenty of fine wine enjoyed late into the night.

Never a dull moment when Ian Naude is around. He hosted numerous Masterclasses for us and really opened the eyes of a lot of consumers on the quality of old vine Chenin Blanc and Cinsaut coming out of South Africa.

One of the most highly anticipated Champagne tastings of the year was held in the late summer with the unveiling of the new release Krug 2004 vintage. Amazing wines tasted with Olivier Krug.

Plenty of fine wine drunk with Gary Jordan and Ian Naude on the occasion of their UK importer ABS’s new release portfolio tasting. A few cleansing ales wrapping up a fun day.

It’s not often a tasting of a Chilean producer includes a 100 point wine. Errazuriz’s Vina Chadwick cracked a 100 points last year and this year it was the turn of their Sena Bordeaux blend. Winemaker Francisco Baettig hosted us at 67 Pall Mall to sample the 2015 vintage new release as well as a vertical of several older vintage of both Sena and Vina Chadwick. Such distinguished wines.

With Wines of South Africa’s Intrepid Tasting just around the corner, it was time for the Saffers to decent upon London once again. Lovely to catch up again with Martin Meinert and Gottfried Mocke from Boekenhoutskloof.

The Intrepid Tasting was a great success despite the slight scheduling disconnect with The New Wave South Africa Tasting happening one month later. All the top journalists were there in force and the Tim Atkin MW 95+ Point table was a great draw card. Always fun to taste with Joe Wadsack, Neal Martin, Jo Wehring, Victoria Moore, Rosie Davenport etc.

In the gap between the Intrepid Tasting and the South African New Wave Tasting, there were a few moments to concentrate on “other” wines from around the world. Mark Savage MW, who has been importing Tertre Roteboeuf from St Emilion since the late 1970s, was on hand to present a fascinating vertical of wines from the current release all the way back to the late 1980s. A truly rare and fascinating occasion.

Another incredible vertical, written up on the Fine Wine Safari, was Luis Pato’s amazing Bairrada Baga vertical featuring some very rare single vineyard wines back to the mid 1980s.

The late summer was commandeered by Wines of California again starting with an amazing tasting tour of Sonoma wineries around London’s top steak houses organised by The Buyer’s Richard Siddle (above) and Peter Dean. A really innovative event and also very successful as well as enjoyable. Below, with my wing man for the day, Roger Jones.

Part of the entourage for the Sonoma Vintners Tasting was Joe Fattorini, presenter of The Wine Show, which is due to screen its second season soon.

The excellent Wines of California Tasting in Westminster allowed for a little reunion of our group that visited California in March. Above picture, myself with organiser Justin Knock MW and merchant Noel Young from Cambridge. Below, Noel Young, Amelia Singer and Peter Ranscombe.

Always lovely to have big Schalk Burger Senior visit when he is over in London, on this occasion for the Dunhill Invitational Pro/Am Golf Tournament at St Andrews … as well as several obligatory wine merchant visits with new Welbedacht vintages.

To end the third instalment of my year in wine through photographs, here’s a corker of our ex-manager Mick O’Connell MW over from Dublin to give us a preview of his super second vintage of Garnacha not Guerra 2016, which he produces in small quantities (1000 bottles) with his wife in Sardinia. 🍷

Tasting the Incredible Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon Vintages from 2009 to 2014 with Rosemary Cakebread…

One of my most fun days on my Napa Valley Masters Program trip back in 2007 was the viticulture day out in the vineyards with Bruce Cakebread. In March 2017, a most enjoyable afternoon of wine tasting, pizza making and eating was spent with Bruce in Napa Valley. Tonight, I completed the triangle with a most incredible tasting with Bruce’s wife, Rosemary Cakebread, winemaker of Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon based blends, Gallica, in Napa Valley.

Rosemary, previously the winemaker at Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery (1997 to 2006), established Gallica as recently as 2007 where her wines are already making their mark in the industry. Rosemary has earned a reputation for crafting consistent, elegant and restrained wine styles throughout her winemaking career and she describes her Gallica wines as “wonderfully expressive, balanced artisanal wines made from organic vineyards.”

Gallica Vintage Vertical ~ 2009 to 2014

Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, 14.4 Abv. 

Oakville, Coombsville, St. Helena. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 81% new French Oak. Taught broody nose, mineral laden, brambly with plenty of herbal spice. Ripe earthy red currant fruit, sweet tannins and a creamy luscious mouthfeel. Fine, precise acids and an impressively mineral graphite finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, 14.4 Abv. 

Oakville Organic Vineyard. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot, 19 months in 78% new French Oak. Lifted piercing perfume, purple blossoms, violets and a higher toned polished mahogany, black berry and pithy black cherry spice. Palate also reveals cool dark black berry fruits, creamy vanilla pod spice, liquorice stick and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon purity. Classy, picante style.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, 14.1 Abv

Oakville Organic Vineyard. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 19 months in 70% new French Oak. Very pronounced dusty gravelly mineral nose with herbal spice, graphite and leafy characters from a fairly cool vintage. Texture is sleek, precise, and quite suave, elegantly textured but with more angular presence in the mouth. Pronounced acids shape a cool, taught palate that displays beautiful black cherry and bramble berry fruits, herbal spice and silky, dry tannins on the finish. Classy and classically elegant wine. Very nice.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 14.5 Abv.

Oakville Organic Vineyard. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 20 months in French Oak. Taught deep dark rich broody wine with tension, dark spicy Cabernet cedar and herbal notes, dusty graphite, hedge row spice and pithy black current fruits. Fine sweet front palate, supple entry, lovely fleshy black pastille weight of fruit that is more opulent than the nose suggests. Such precision, pin point mineral tannins and delicious pithy graphite tension and power. Very impressive wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 14.5 Abv.

Oakville Organic Vineyard. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 20 months in French Oak. Sweet sour red plum, wet tobacco, forest leaves and pronounced exotic red fruit notes. Quite dusty, granitic and mineral, with dark black picante fruit nuances developing. Palate texture is lush, plush, creamy, dreamy, with expansive sweet tannins, fleshy blueberry and cassis pastille fruit weight. A real turbo charged vintage in the best sense. Harmonious balance, this wine does not put a foot out of place. Hedonistic, opulent, but retains classical shape. A really impressive all round great wine from a fantastic benchmark vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 14.5 Abv.

Oakville Organic Vineyard. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 19 months in French Oak. Youthful, opulent exotic nose brimming with blue berry crumble, mulberries, cassis pastille fruits, vanilla bean spice, graphite and such delicious opulent aromatic lift. The palate is ultra opulent but also hugely concentrated and generous. Tannins are textural, grippy but sweet, acids ultra vibrant but then quietly melt away into the mouth watering blueberry fruit concentration. Young and precocious, the brûlée coffee bean espresso complexity really underlines the showy attractiveness of this wine. A definite crowd pleaser. Give it another year in bottle to assimilate the oak more seamlessly.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Extreme Passion and Precision – Exploring the Cult Wines of Paul Lato from Santa Maria, California…

From his experience of tasting the finest wines from around the world when he was a head sommelier, Paul Lato realised all the greatest wines possessed characteristics of authenticity, harmony, and of course elegance. These are the qualities he set about trying to achieve when he started making wines in California. His ultimate goal was to create wines that are seamless and textural but with enough structure and balance to complement fine cuisine.

In order to make wines of the highest calibre, Paul selected unique vineyards that are cared for by talented growers and vineyard managers committed to excellence. He sought to locate and source from not only the best vineyards but also the best blocks within each of these vineyards, a tough ask with demand outstripping supply from the very best growers. During the growing season, yields are restricted to achieve maximum concentration of flavour. Harvesting is always based on physiological ripeness, which changes depending on the vintage characteristics.

Cellar work is based on minimal intervention, cleanliness and purity of intention. Because every vintage is different, he does not believe in recipe winemaking. With due respect to science, Paul believes that “true artisanal winemaking is based on intuition, sensitivity and passion”. Keeping the lots small allows for gentle handling throughout the winemaking process.

Making only 4000 cases per year, Paul wants his wines to give pleasure and keep the drinkers palate interested until the very last drop from the bottle. Inevitably, with his high level of attention to detail and quality focus, his wines have garnered high scores from the critics and resulted in a massive cult following, with 90% of his wines produced being sold exclusively through his Paul Lato Wine Club.

Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, 13.9 Abv.

A classic Chardonnay which comes from 22 year old Wente clone vines, shows subtle creamy lemon and nutty brûléed citrus fruit lift. Lemon blossom, grapefruit confit and caramel peanut brittle and vanilla bean complexity are all there just teasing the senses. A youthful palate shows nerve, intensity, creamy barley sugar and toffee apple freshness. Intense flavours but nothing over done. Beautiful texture, deliciously vibrant acids, and a subtle minerality lurking beneath the fruit. A very serious multi-dimensional wine that’s also very finely focused. 

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Paul Lato Atticus John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Rita Hills, 14.2 Abv.

Tight intense focused aromatics of black cherry, pomegranate, red tart plums, cranberry and savoury baking spice. Plenty of exotic brûléed notes, intense red fruit layers and peppery, seductive flavours. Sleek, elegant mouthfeel, mouth watering fresh acids, a sweet & sour plummy touch, blood oranges and plenty of bright salty, bramble berry fruit nuances. The ethereal Burgundian lacy texture is most impressive. Fabulous wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Paul Lato il Padrino Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah 2014, Santa Rita Hills, 15.4 Abv.

Dense, opulent show stopper style immediately evident. Massive intensity, perfume and fragrance showing cherry blossom, sweet jasmine, blueberry muffin, coffee bean, sweet expensive oak spice and dusty, mineral limestone complexity. Super plush, broad and intense, the acids build a sturdy frame from which the exotic fruit finery is displayed. Big, bold, well executed expression with incredible finesse, polish and precision.

 (Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


The Monday Morning Fog Clears in London to Reveal Another Delicious Wine From Mullineux Family Wines…

Fog Monster wines from Amador County, California (Sierra Foothills) is another boutique project from Andrea and Chris Mullineux of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. Andrea, originally from California, together with husband Chris, have been sourcing unique vineyard parcels in the Sierra Foothills, where the vineyards are exposed to interesting Californian climatic conditions.

In the case of coastal California, the offshore marine layer is typically propelled inland by a pressure gradient which develops as a result of intense heating inland, blanketing coastal communities in cooler air which, if saturated, also contains fog. The fog often lingers until the heat of the sun becomes strong enough to evaporate it, often lasting into the afternoon.

I have not tasted this wine for several years, even though I have several bottles hidden in my cellar, but today it stood out as a real revelation, brimming with characterful energy and freshness. Made from Chenin Blanc from the Story Vineyard (un-grafted rootstocks at 1900 feet), the wine is essentially esoteric in nature, but certainly delicious with broad appeal.

Fog Monster Chenin Blanc 2012, Amador County, California, 12 Abv.

Rich Sauternes yellow colour, the aromatics are initially tight and broody, showing pithy mineraly lemon zest and peach stone fruit. Complexity grows rapidly in the glass where apple puree, orange blossom, and dried Sauternes-like notes of orange peel and lemon / peach tea infusions develop. The mouthfeel is so cool, taught, and tight knit, bristling with wound spring tension and core freshness on a most seductive, textured, lengthy finish. Beautiful weight, fine balance and incredible precision. A really lovely natural leaning, minimal intervention wine. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)