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American Wine - Wines of California
Several Californian wines gained something of a cult status in the last couple of decades. These so-called cult wines rise above their peers on clouds of inflated reputations, puffed up by jovial zealots and excited wine critics. They usually carry—and often meet—high expectations, but prices tend to be very steep. The list of cult wines is rather nebulous and shifts year to year, but currently it is believed to include the wines of Araujo Eisele Vineyards, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin Cellars, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Grace Family Vineyards, Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle Winery, and Shafer Vineyards. The prototype and nucleus of Californian cult wines is Screaming Eagle.

American Wine - Wines of California
Screaming Eagle rose to cult status almost immediately when, after its first vintage in 1992, the powerful U.S. wine critic Robert Parker Jr. gave it 99 points out of 100, stirring a frenzy of demand for the mere 225 cases of the wine made that year. Now about six hundred cases are produced—though it varies vintage to vintage—and the only way to get some of this wine is by being on the winery's mailing list, for which there is a twelve year waiting list when this book went to print.

American Wine - Wines of California
Each person on Screaming Eagle's mailing list is allotted three bottles at $300 each. From there, a handful of retailers buy the wine from auctions and resell it. You can buy the 2003 vintage, for instance, from The Saratoga Wine Exchange for $1,200 per bottle. At the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction, a six-liter bottle of Screaming Eagle's first vintage sold for $500,000.

American Wine - Wines of California
In March 2006, Screaming Eagle Winery was sold to two financial entrepreneurs, Charles Banks and Stanley Kroenke. Hopefully the wine won't change with the new ownership. Banks told the San Francisco Chronicle shortly after he bought the winery that he has no plans to change the winemaker, Heidi Barrett, saying, "as long as she wants to be there, she will be there."

American Wine - Wines of California
Heidi Barrett is an independent winemaker who has made wine for such top-tier Napa clients as Screaming Eagle, Paradigm Winery, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Barbour Vineyards, Amuse Bouche Winery, Lamborn Family Vineyards, Showket Vineyards, Grace Family Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars, Franciscan Estates, and Buehler Vineyards. Her latest client is Revana Family Vineyard. Plus, she recently started producing 1,500 cases of her own wine called La Sirena, a range that includes two Syrahs, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dry Muscat Canelli.

American Wine - Wines of California
Dick Grace, owner of Grace Family Vineyards, gives hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit from his cult wines to children's charities in Nepal, Mexico, and India. Grace is a devout Buddhist. If you're wondering what his wine tastes like, the 2003 Grace Family Cabernet Sauvignon shows complex layers of spice, chocolate, cassis, black cherry, coffee, and herbs.

American Wine - Wines of California
While California isn't generally known for its Sauvignon Blanc in the way that say, the Loire Valley in France and Marlborough in New Zealand are, this state does produce some very fine examples of this variety at surprisingly low prices. For about $10, Racho Zabaco's Dancing Bull Sauvignon 2004 is a great buy. In fact, its minerality and freshness is strikingly similar to Sauvignon Blanc from great parts of the Eastern Loire, such as Pouilly Fumé. Restrained asparagus, apple, and herb flavors swirl around a firm and intense stony core. This is very good wine that would make an ideal accompaniment to al fresco dining.

American Wine - Wines of California
Only in California could stardom be intertwined with winedom. In 1974, Francis Ford and Eleanor Coppola used royalties from The Godfather movie to buy the Niebaum- Coppola Estate Winery and produce the flagship wine Rubicon.The wine was named after the river Julius Caesar crossed when he marched on Rome to seize power. Caesar knew once he crossed the Rubicon, there would be no turning back. Coppola said he knew once he sunk the royalties from The Godfather into the estate, there would be no turning back. Reassured he was on the right track by his neighbor and friend ‘Bob' (Mondavi), two Godfather sequels have assured Rubicon's place in winemaking history.

American Wine - Wines of California
Niebaum-Coppola Winery's recent gem is a little pink tin of bubbly. The wine is named Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs after actress-director Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola. The wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat, sells for about $20 for four cans, and tastes of citrus, apricots, tangerine, and pear. It's dry and fruity, aromatic, and, oh by the way, is one of Oprah Winfrey's favorite things.

American Wine - Wines of California
In a groundbreaking blind tasting in 1976 in Paris, top Californian Cabernets beat leading wines of Bordeaux. This was a huge achievement that shook the foundations of the wine world and set the stage for California's ensuing success in the premium and super-premium wine market. At the tasting, Californian Cabernet Sauvignon wines, including Ridge Monte Bello 1971, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973, Mayacamas 1971, Heitz 1970, and Clos du Val 1972, beat toptier Bordeaux wines. The tasting was repeated in London in May 2006 and the results were amazing. Decanter.com reported "some of the world's most eminent tasters found the Californian wines to have retained more of their verve over the years than the Bordeaux."

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  • American Wine - Wines of California
  • American Wine - Wines of New York State
  • American Wine - Wines of Oregon,Washington, and Idaho
  • Argentinean Wine
  • Australian Wine
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  • Buying Great Wine
  • Canadian Wine
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  • Detecting Faulty Wine
  • French Wine - Wines of Alsace
  • French Wine - Wines of Bordeaux
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