The summer is here – does the summer heat remind you of the always-sunny California? In California, there are a lot of excellent producers, such as Opus One, Paul Hobbs, and Louis M.Martini. It is also the birthplace of “Cult Wines”, which are the pigeon-blood ruby of the wine world. Let’s learn more about Cult Wines and some famous names we should know!
What is California Cult Wine?
Garage Wine, Cult Wine, or wine from boutique wineries have something in common – all are made in small batches with great quality.
1. Garage Wine
Garage wine originated in the Right Bank of Bordeaux in the 90’s, when a group of winemakers initiated a revolution that had shaken the winemaking traditions. Some of them believed that “the lower the yields, the better the quality”. So, they started making wine in a very small scale at their cellar or garage, and this’s the story behind the name of “Garage Wine”. They used new wine techniques such as strict grape selection, and made exceptionally good wines in small quantities.
2. Cult Wine
“Cult” is rooted in the Latin “Cultus”, meaning “to worship or give reference to a deity”. What makes people “worship” Cult Wine? It is because of its generally high quality and price, plus the highly limited supply. From grape production to selection, fermentation, and the choices of oak barrels, every single step is strictly examined, and hence assuring good quality. Most Cult Wines are produced in the Napa Valley of California.
California Cult Wines
Based in Napa Valley, Screaming Eagle produces some of the most expensive wine in America, if not in the world. The demand has been driven up since it was awarded Robert Parker score of 99 points for its first vintage. Screaming Eagle also enjoyed several times of perfect score of 100 points. Because of its high quality of wine and scarcity, Screaming Eagle has become one of the most appealing cult wines for collectors.
2. Harlan Estate
Harlan Estate, founded in 1984, is located in the western hills of Oakville in the Napa Valley. Owning 40 acres under vine, the winery is planted with 70% of Cabernet Sauvignon. Described as “the ultimate cult winery”, from 1991 to 2014, Harlan Estate has achieved 6 times of 100-point scores from Robert Parker and has the availability, market price, and status similar to Screaming Eagle. Robert Parker described Harlan Estate’s wine as possessing individuality, power combined with elegance, showing extraordinary complexity with aging potential.
3. Schrader Cellars
Schrader Cellars adopts the most naturalistic winemaking practices. By minimizing human interventions, Schrader Cellars produces the purest and naturally beautiful wines. Schrader Cellars has awarded perfect 100 point scores from renowned wine critics including The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and JamesSuckling.co. Schrader Cellars has even received 100 point scores from Robert Parker for 3 consecutive vintages of the same wine, which is the only wine producer that has such honour in the entirety of Robert Parker’s career.
Other California Collectible Wines
Opus One Winery is one of the most popular wineries in Napa Valley. It was founded by Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, a First Growth in Bordeaux, and the famous Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. The winery produces highly sought-after wine, attracting many wine lovers to visit. Furthermore, its stunning architecture building with marble floors delivers a luxurious, impressive and formal wine experience for visitors as well!
Paul Hobbs is unquestionably a legend in the California wine industry, hailed as “the Steve Jobs of Wine” by Forbes Magazine. He never sticks to the rules and always pursues the highest level of precision. With his sustainable winemaking philosophy, he adapts to the conditions of vineyards and perfectly expresses the terroir. For example, his wines are unfiltered before bottling to retain more original flavours of the terroir. In his namesake winery, there’s a number of highly collectible wines, such as Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. To Kalon Vineyard is a legendary vineyard in Napa Valley, meaning “The Highest Good” in Greek, widely known as one of the best sources of premium grapes in the region.
Other Famous California Wineries
Orin Swift in Napa Valley is bold and creative. The winemaker Dave is recognized as “Winemaker of the Year” by Magazines. Robert Parker even described him as a “genius, creative winemaker”. Most of the Californian wines are made with single varietals, but Dave prefers blending, jumping out of traditions, creating something new and unique. For example, its ‘Abstract’ is made of a blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah and Syrah. This resulted in an array of fruit flavours, also some toffee and spice which is really complex. Dave also likes designing wine labels. The label of ‘Abstract’ collection consists of newspaper and magazine clippings collected by the winemaker. Each of its labels is so different which is worth collecting!
After the abolition of the American Prohibition Era in 1933, Louis M. Martini, as one of the first wineries established in California, has been devoted in showing the world the beauty of Napa Valley by being the first in using Low Temperature Fermentation to produce world-class wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery icon by earning high reviews from world critics’ hand. After the retirement of Mike Martini, 3rd generation of the family in 2015, Michael Eddy took over as the chief winemaker. Today, he continues to create outstanding wines in pursuit of Martini legacy. 2016 vintage, commented by Robert Parker Wine Advocate is the best to try as an exceptional year that will give lovers of Napa Valley wines a lot of pleasure!
Hirsch is a boutique winery in Sonoma Coast. It’s quite remote and took a 2-hour drive from the town of Sonoma to get there. In the 90s, it was simply a grape farm, planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 2002, given they were the source of excellent grapes, instead of just selling to other, they decided to make wines by themselves. Therefore, they started their own winery. In 2014, they ever were fully biodynamic. Its wine style is very different from most Californian Pinot Noir – It is very delicate and elegant, offering much more than just fruit but many different layers.