There I was, in the captivating area of St Helena, Napa Valley, in the delightful home of Rosemary Cakebread, winemaker and proprietor of Gallica wines. It was our first meeting, and immediately, she made me feel at ease with her graceful demeanor and warm smile. She had made us lunch, anticipating that I would probably be hungry yet in desperate need of a healthy meal. All the stress from the previous week just melted as I breathed deeply in the comfort of her dining room which had old world charm with modern sensibility.
I was fortunate to receive a fellowship to attend The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at one of the top resorts – Meadowood Napa Valley. We would have seminars, tastings, opportunities to meet other writers and editors around the world. I know what you are thinking and as much as it was a “please don’t wake me up from this fantasy” experience it was exhausting. As a wine writer you have these amazing experiences but you have to do your job – take massive amounts of notes, make sure you didn’t miss anything vital and you are working on other assignments at the crack of dawn while you are away from home. It takes its toll and although I was certainly completely drained the Friday I met Rosemary I was still determined to see, since I had read fascinating things about the wines she was producing, to visit her before my long journey to the San Francisco Airport and after The Vintage Perspective Tasting in Napa.
The Vintage Perspective Tasting takes place during the highly anticipated Premiere Napa Valley wine week which gives a chance for members of the wine trade and media to taste the current vintage in barrel (currently the 2015) so they can either bid on lots during the auction/or write about the wines. There is also a “perspective tasting” giving a further opportunity to taste Napa Valley wines blind, various whites and a 2012, 2013, 2014 vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The answer to each blind wine, that was numbered, was at the back of our tasting book and I decided to not look at the answer key until I had left the tasting.
I showed up to Rosemary’s place with my suitcases and I was relieved, after the week long parade of events, to be able to have a nice one on one intimate conversation about our lives, our love for traveling and her relationships with her exceptional grape growers with their unique, family owned vineyards where she sources fruit outside of her own estate. I had already researched her remarkable background as well as reading that some of the top wine critics were awestruck by her wines. And the wines, just like Rosemary herself, had a stunning grace, intense depth of expression, and transparency of pristine fruit.
Later that day, as I raced through the San Francisco airport, got past security, I immediately sat down on the nearest bench – I wanted to take a quick look at the two producers I tasted blind that blew me away during the blind vintage perspective tasting. The first one I looked up had a big circle with lots of stars indicating my tremendous excitement and I saw they were Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon wines. I didn’t even know that there were any Gallica wines in the blind tasting… it just proves that sincere, beautiful wines and people will always shine through… especially if we take the time to thoughtfully taste them and to listen to their story.
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
2015 Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California ($14): 95% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Semillon and 1% Muscat. This is one of the white wines I tasted blind during the Vintage Perspective Tasting, and although I have always been impressed by how much this wine consistently over-delivers for the price, it was nice to know that I gave it high marks during the blind tasting. Lovely honeysuckle and citrus peel notes dance along the mouthwatering dry, crisp finish.
Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)
2015 Gallica Albariño, Rorick Heritage Vineyard, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County, California ($36): Mostly Albariño with a touch of Muscat Blanc. Rorick Heritage Vineyard is located north of Yosemite National Park in the Sierra foothills at 2,000 feet. Albariño is a white grape variety from the north west part of Spain and it certainly was taken to another level by the skillful hands of Rosemary Cakebread. It is a thrilling white wine with intoxicating aromatics of orange blossom and spice with juicy white peach flavors and an incredible structure. CCOF certified organic vineyard. 180 cases produced.
2014 Gallica Shake Ridge Red Wine, Shake Ridge Ranch Vineyard, Sierra Foothills, Amador County, California ($50): A field blend from a site in Amador that is between 1,500 and 1,700 feet in elevation. 53% Syrah, 34% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre and 2% Viognier. This wine really highlights the delicacy of the Grenache, the regal framework created by the Syrah while deliciously expressing the smoky meat flavors of the Mourvedre with a floral lift on the finish from the Viognier… while being wrapped in the ‘pristine’ flavors, a trademark of Rosemary’s wines, of raspberries and red currants. 213 cases produced.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
2012 Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Ranch Vineyards, Oakville, Napa Valley, California ($160): 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. After tasting several Napa Valley Cabernets during the Vintage Perspective Tasting this was one that stood out. It was singing with gorgeous flavors of baking spices and black currant with a hint of dried herbs that had a long, pure and stunningly expressive finish. I was also immensely dazzled by Rosemary’s 2013, a bigger wine that needs more time, with its manicured tannins and overall powerful yet breath-taking charm. And finally, although 2012 and 2013 were back to back super star vintages in Napa with 2014 being considered more average, Rosemary was only one of two producers who I tasted blind that I found all three vintages (2012, 2013 and 2014) showing extraordinary qualities. CCOF certified organic vineyard. 391 cases and magnums produced.