Sonoma has roughly the same number of wineries as Napa, yet it is spread over twice the distance. Sonoma certainly has more diversity in terms or regional terroir and climate. It also boasts 17 American Vinicultural Areas (AVAs), which are the American version of French AOC, Napa has 16 AVAs. There is a much more varied terroir and climatic conditions found in Sonoma and it remains undiscovered when compared to Napa. In many ways, Sonoma wine country is like Napa 30 years ago. Sonoma is one of the most exciting and prominent wine regions in the world. Following our recent Donelan dinner we are delighted to release two of their wines, Cuvee Keltie 2013 and Genevieve’s Block Chardonnay that we sell out of perennially on release.

Cuvee Keltie 2013 has been awarded a stunning 97 points from Robert Parker, its second highest score behind the 99 scoring 2012, which already trades above £2,000 a case. We can offer the 2013 today at £840 per case of 12, the same price as their US mailing list price, a 50% discount to the UK market. At £70 a bottle and a score of 97 points, the result is a Price over Points (POP) ratio of 49, remarkable for a leading Californian wine. Even more exceptional when we consider 300 cases are made per year. Donelan wines only sell in tiny parcels, so boutique is their production. Robert Parker considers Donelan to be ‘one of the most impressive Rhone Ranger winemaking estates in California.’ He has awarded their wines a plethora of 100 and 99 point scores, which are backed up with superb scores from Antonio Galloni and Jeb Dunnuck.

Cuvee Keltie is 100% Syrah, one of the finest Rhone Ranger wines. It is curated from three exceptional Single Vineyards; Walker Vine Hill, Obsidian and Richards. Cuvee Keltie is a superb example of outstanding site selection and blending, achieving in 2012 and 2013 something that is superior to the sum of its parts. It is noteworthy that the Obsidian vineyard was devastated in the 2017 fires and now being replanted. Furthermore, the Donelan family will not make wine from Richards vineyard again, the owner deciding to rip up the vines. The wine is designed to let the terroir speak, no oak is employed and the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. It is a stunning exemplar of Rhone style Californian wines. It provides plenty of sweet spice, cardamom and white pepper, floral notes, graphite, tobacco and superb minerality. The palate full bodied, with notes of charcuterie, smoked meats, smoked bacon and even truffle. It is a superb gastronomic wine, its power and finesse would allow it to deal with any meat and even spice!

We are also extremely excited to be offering Donelan Genevieve’s Block Chardonnay from the 2017 vintage. We are big fans of Californian Chardonnay and Donelan’s offering is remarkable. Of the 2013, Parker commented ‘This is a stunner that comes across like a great Corton-Charlemagne from Burgundy.’ In 2014, Parker stated, ‘somewhat grand cru Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet’, awarding it 96 points. In 2015, Lisa Perrotti-Brown awarded it 97 points and Jeb Dunnuck 98 who says it is ‘Tasting like a Grand Cru Montrachet (seriously, it’s that good)’. The 2016 has recently been awarded 96 points from the Wine Advocate and we expect the 2017, to equal or surpass this. As the notes above attest, this is stylistically Burgundian, akin to Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet, which costs upwards of £350 per bottle. The Donelan Genevieve’s Block Chardonnay 2017 has not yet been tasted, however, we tasted it recently at our Donelan dinner and it is stunning, a brilliant addition to the Estate. We are able to offer a limited parcel for £640 per case of 12, which translates as £53 a bottle; a White Californian of this quality is steal. If you love White Burgundy or Napa Chardonnay this is a must, less than 200 cases were made and the price jumps to £900 on secondary market trading.

Donelan Family Wines began in 2000, originally known as Pax Wine Cellars. It was founded by Joe Donelan, who left his job as a Vice President of A.T. Clayton, after several years of becoming impassioned about great wine via an inspired sommelier at Toppers Restaurant on Nantucket. Joe’s vision was to create terroir driven Syrah and Rhone-varietals. Added to this is an incredible philosophy of finding vineyards and sourcing fruit. They tirelessly look for plots which stand out with natural potential. Generally, these are relatively cool-climate, high elevation plots. Sonoma, as mentioned, remains capable of new gems as potential great vineyards still remain hidden. For example, the vineyard manager of Devoto Vineyard, where the Genevieve’s Block Chardonnay is sourced from, wanted to pull up the vineyard and replant it fully with Pinot Noir before Joe convinced him that is was perfect for Chardonnay. The resulting wines immediately obtained some of the highest Parker scores of any White Californian wine. The Devoto Vineyard benefits from a west-facing slope and Goldridge Loam soil. It is only two acres in size of which only one produces Chardonnay.

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