Ever since Steven Spurrier’s legendary “Judgement of Paris” wine tasting in 1976, whereby numerous Californian wines out-scored their French counterparts in a blind tasting, California has garnered a formidable reputation for producing world class wines. What better way to celebrate the 4th July than to snap up some of these iconic wines for your very own cellar. We have compiled a short list of our favourite estates, including premium Cabernet Sauvignon, top notch Syrah and cool-climate Chardonnay. There is something here to sweep any wine lover off their feet!

Opus One 2017

What better way to start than with one of the most sought-after Napa releases, Opus One. Since the 2005 vintage, collectors have been rewarded with an average 78.6% price appreciation from release price to the equilibrium market price and demand shows no sign of slowing down.

Opus One is one of the must own wines from 2017, a vintage that will be remembered for the October wildfires in California. The Estate thankfully faired exceptionally well, picking 91% of the grapes before fires ravaged the appellation, losing two plots only, while simultaneously reducing 25% in measures to continue in their paradigm of excellence. As always it is highly recommended to Bordeaux and Napa Valley lovers alike. The wine sits somewhere between the two regions, it is an extremely classic wine balancing New World power and intensity with Old World elegance and finesse.

From the critics

A remarkable wine for the year, the 2017 Opus One is a dense, full-throttle beauty. Plush fruit and soft, silky contours give the 2017 its racy personality. Exotic, beautifully perfumed and impeccable in its balance, Opus One is one of the most complete wines of the vintage. In 2017, Opus One has a distinctly red-toned fruit profile that distinguishes it from the surrounding vintages. 95+ Points, Antonio Galloni (Vinous). Drink 2023-2042

Harlan Estate 2017

Renowned worldwide for its investment potential and rareness, Harlan is arguably the most liquid and in demand Napa wine alongside Screaming Eagle. With a minuscule production averaging 1,800-2,000 cases a year, Harlan quickly appreciates as soon as it is released. Indeed, the average worldwide trading price for Harlan 2017 is already £6,600 per six bottle case with some listings peaking as high as £8,000. Antonio Galloni tasted a selection of 2017 Napa during his annual Spring Napa report, he believes that the 2017 vintage has produced some ‘sumptuous, racy Cabernets with a lot of potential…there are indeed some wonderfully promising wines in this vintage’. There is no doubt that Harlan will be one of the wines of the vintage. With minerals for some serious ageing, much like left bank claret, Harlan Estate is a phenomenal wine to lay down for future drinking.

From the critics

Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2017 Harlan Estate needs a little coaxing to reveal captivating iron ore, red currant jelly, cloves and crushed rocks scents with a core of warm cassis, Black Forest cake and boysenberries plus a waft of pencil lead. Medium to full-bodied, it has a firm, grainy texture with a lively backbone and loads of earthy layers, long and mineral laced. This should be one of the longer-lived wines coming out of the 2017 vintage. 97+ points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown (The Wine Advocate). Drink 2023-2053

Donelan Syrah Keltie Sonoma County 2016

Donelan Vineyards are considered to be the foremost producer of Syrah in California, or Sonoma to be precise. Robert Parker has described Donelan as ‘one of the most impressive winemaking estates in California’. They are a tiny family run grower with some absolutely incredible cool climate terroir. It’s also a very rare wine. Like most of the Sonoma properties; the production here is absolutely tiny – with just 350-450 cases of each wine made every year. Much like other cult Sonoma properties, 90% of their wine is sold to a mailing subscription list of which there is a years-long waiting list to join. Barely any Donelan makes it across the pond to the UK market, we are therefore delighted to have a small allocation available of their 99 point Syrah cuvee ‘Keltie’ 2016 which is blend of Syrah from their very best parcels of land.

From the critics

A barrel selection from the top sites the estate works with, this cuvée is always 100% Syrah that’s not destemmed and is brought up in neutral oak The 2016 Syrah Cuvee Keltie is another prodigious effort that offers everything you could want from a cool climate Syrah from California. Deep ruby-colored, with a stunning bouquet of dark fruits, ground pepper, lavender, cured meats, and dried flowers, it’s full-bodied, beautifully concentrated, multi-dimensional, and has thrilling length. Drink this fabulous complex, singular Syrah over the coming 15-20 years or more. 99 points, Jeb Dunnuck. Drink 2019-2034

Littorai Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019

There is a wealth of top shelf Pinot Noir and Chardonnay coming from the cool coastal climate region in the USA, which can give many domaines in Burgundy a serious run for their money. One of our flagship allocations from Sonoma are the wines from Littorai, who are considered one of the foremost producers in Sonoma. Littorai make spellbinding Pinots (and Chardonnays) that are seriously elegant, beautifully perfumed and utterly gorgeous.

Husband and wife team Ted and Heidi Lemon established their family-run winery in 1993, having been drawn to the coastal mountains of Sonoma and Mendocino as the very best location in California to produce terroir driven, minimal intervention Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Ted began his career in Burgundy after earning an oenology degree at the Université de Dijon in 1981. He has worked for some top Burgundian estates, such as Roumier, Bruno Clair, Aubert de Villaine and Domaine Dujac, eventually earning a position as winemaker and vineyard manager at Domaine Guy Roulot in Meursault, becoming the first American ever to manage a top Burgundy estate. During his time in Burgundy, he was affectionately nick-named ‘Le Comte Citron,’ a moniker he has memorialized with a crowned lemon on every Littorai bottle. The prices for these wines are absolutely outstanding when we think of what their equivalents cost in Burgundy and rather refreshingly for a US Sonoma estate. This is a phenomenal wine that all lovers of Pinot Noir must try.

From the critics

The 2019 Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard is deep, layered and super expressive. With a bit of air, the Cerise starts to flesh out, showing its breath and creaminess. Blood orange accents add brightness to a core of red cherry/plum fruit. All the elements build into a dramatic, expansive finish laced with exquisite aromatics that only become more vivid with time. In 2019 the Cerise is stellar. 95 points, Antonio Galloni (Vinous). Drink 2024-2034

Sine Qua Non Distenta I White 2019

Established in 1994 by Manfred Krankl and his wife Elaine, Sine Qua Non has become one of the top Californian wineries, known for its sought-after Rhone style blends. A cult winery with an increasingly long waiting list, year upon year these wines become harder to find on the market. Creating a unique blend each vintage, with iconic and unusual names, production is often miniscule with collectors snapping up whatever they can. With less than 900 cases produced of their latest release, we are absolutely delighted to be able to offer a small allocation of their 2019 White Wine Distenta 1. Now holding an outstanding 99 point score from the Wine Advocate, this is destined to be a great wine for the cellar and one which will become all but impossible to find once officially released later this year. Do not miss it.

From the critics

The 2019 White Wine Distenta 1 is a stunning—and unique—blend of 41% Roussanne, 26% Chardonnay, 14% Petit Manseng, 12% Viognier and 7% Gelber Muskateller. Fruit comes mostly from estate vineyards, with 46% from Eleven Confessions, 32% from Cumulus and 7% from The Third Twin. Just 15% Chardonnay from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley is included-—2019 is the last vintage that any non-estate fruit will be included in the blend. It was fermented in barrel and matured on its lees for about 23 months in 64% new French oak barrels, puncheons and demi-muids and was racked just once prior to bottling. Manfred Krankl especially likes the 150+-year-old wood that the Austrian cooper Stockinger uses to craft its staves. The 2019 white offers high intensity aromatics, with layers of peach, kiwi, candle smoke, petrol and green herbs. The full-bodied palate is concentrated, savory and layered, with loads of alluring, spicy accents. What really sets this wine apart is its broad, satiny texture as it glides through the mouth into a tremendously long finish. Krankl notes that the lees-stirring regimen for this wine helps to build texture, and the buildup of lees on the inside of the barrels better integrates its new oak character. “Petite Manseng berries are very small and the skins are very thick,” he adds, “so that also contributes to the texture.” It was bottled on August 18, 2021, and tasted May 24, 2022. 824 cases and 150 magnums will be released in November of 2022. 99 points, Erin Brooks (The Wine Advocate). Drink 2024-2034

Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2019

Founded in 1972 by John Shafer, Shafer Vineyards is one of the most preeminent wineries within the star-studded Napa Valley. Located in Napa Valley’s cool micro-climate haven of Carneros, the vineyard is perfectly situated to produce some of the best white wines to come out of the US. Red Shoulder Ranch 2019 perfectly balances the exuberance of Napa with a nod to Burgundy with its bright acidity and precise clean finish. Jeb Dunnuck scores an impressive 94-96 Points, praising such balance of the ‘classic richer, full-bodied style while staying balanced and light on its feet’. Lisa Perrotti-Brown scores 91-93 Points waxing lyrical over the ‘opulent scents of pineapple upside-down cake, green mango and ripe apricots with hints of candied ginger, brioche, allspice and toasted almonds’. Their Chardonnay never undergoes malolactic fermentation and is 75% barrel-fermented, with the remaining 25% fermented in stainless steel, followed by extended lees ageing which adds to the extra complexity and richness. No words sum up better than Dunnuck… this spellbinding Chardonnay ‘is going to impress right out of the gate’!

From the critics

The I’ve always loved the Chardonnay from this team, and their 2019 Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch has that classic richer, full-bodied style while staying balanced and light on its feet. Buttered lemons, tangerines, green almond, and toasty notes all make an appearance, and it’s incredibly textured, with nicely integrated acidity and one heck of a finish. This powerful Chardonnay is going to impress right out of the gate. 94-96 points, Jeb Dunnuck. Drink 2021-2026

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