The estate that brought California to the forefront of the wine world is not surprisingly one of the most collectible from the region. Even before the 1976 Judgment of Paris, when Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay was rated above all other wines (including four of Burgundy’s finest), this forward-thinking producer has been crafting classically styled, age-worthy wines.
Montelena is one of the most European-style wines, crafted in the image of the great wines of Bordeaux. In great vintages, it is one for the long haul, but when the tannins do soften out and yield, the elegance and grace of Montelena sets it apart.
Heitz is a legend that has helped shape the history and notoriety of California winemaking, including the introduction of Napa’s first vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignon, the globally celebrated Martha’s Vineyard.
It is arguably the single-most acclaimed vineyard in the Napa Valley, an icon since the first vintage in 1966. The wines produced at Heitz are truly individual in nature, with structure and character to age beautifully for decades.
One of California’s original ‘cult’ wines, Screaming Eagle sits perennially atop lists of California’s most expensive wines. This small production estate, which had its first vintage in 1992, shocked the wine world when in 2000, a 6 Liter bottle of the ’92 vintage sold for $500,000 at Auction Napa Valley.
It’s only fitting that Napa’s ‘First Growth’ should be one of the most collectible producers from the New World. From its Estate red to The Maiden, each vintage surpasses expectation in terms of balance and finesse.
Harlan’s prime location on some of the better elevations and soils in the Oakville region gives it one of the best expressions of California Cabernet. It’s a truly impressive wine, often fetching 100-point scores and boundless praise. As far as a safe bet for longevity goes, Harlan is as good as it gets.
Formerly known as Araujo Estate, Eisele Vineyard had originally been planted in the 1880s to Zinfandel and Riesling, while its first Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted in 1964. The vineyard has a rich history of producing excellent wines for several top tier California producers including Joseph Phelps and Ridge, but its cult status was cemented when the Araujo’s began bottling the Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in 1991.
Its wines invariably express the exceptional depth, elegance and longevity which are hallmarks of the Eisele Vineyard.
The realisation of the shared dream of Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Opus One is a staple in any serious collector’s cellar. Mixing elements of classical European and contemporary style, in winemaking and architecture, Opus One produces only two wines: Opus One and a second wine, Overture, made of the fruit that doesn’t quite make the cut. At the inaugural Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1981 a case sold for $24,000 — a price that was unheard of a the time.
Founded in 1992, Colgin’s vineyards are among the best hillside plots in the Napa Valley; the oldest of which is Tychson Hill. The vineyard was owned Josephine Tychson in the late 19th-century, who was first woman to build a winery in the Napa Valley. It was removed during Prohibition and rediscovered by founder Ann Colgin in the mid-1990s.
In 2005, Robert Parker named Colgin, ‘One of the Fifty Greatest Wine Estates in the World’.
From the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ridge’s flagship Monte Bello is recognised as having helped to change the perception of California wine with the success of the 1971 vintage at the 1976 Judgment of Paris. It also took first place in the 30th-anniversary re-tasting.
Though Cabernet is a sure bet, the Zinfandel is equally impressive in terms of structure, length and age-ability. Its estate in Lytton Springs, Sonoma, is an exceptional piece of ground, and it consistently produce wines that are cellar-worthy yet understated and sophisticated.
French for ‘young wild boar,’ Marcassin’s wines are undoubtedly among the best that Sonoma has to offer. They regularly hold their own against their Burgundian counterparts in the minds of critics and connoisseurs.
Winemaker Helen Turley, who was recently inducted into the California Hall of Fame, perfected her craft at other famed California estates including Turley, Peter Michael, Bryant Family, and Colgin.
Iconoclast vintner Manfred Krankl has a seemingly never-ending waiting list for his Sine Qua Non wines, which hail from some California’s lesser-known wine regions and are predominantly made from Rhone varietals.
Sine Qua Non has a unique and highly collectible tradition, in which each wine has a distinct name, label and occasionally bottle style. Each label is designed by Krankl, often with linocut artwork of his own creation.
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