One of the best parts of living in California is that it has numerous world class wine regions. I like to visit them multiple times a year and stay current on new releases and how to pick up on the indicators, nuances and styles of the current/newest release vintages. Also, talking with the winemakers and other wine trade professionals who live the wine lifestyle and live in the growing regions can really tell you what the weather was like that year.
My Napa trip lasted two days before I drove into Sonoma. From all the wineries I visited there where a few that stood out and for different reasons. One of my favorites of that trip was Realm Cellars located in the Stags Leap District in Napa Valley. Juan Mercado the founder of Realm has been making wine for years and sourcing fruit from numerous amazing and highly respected vineyards sites. They finally have a home taking over the old Hartwell Winery and it is currently under construction as they modernize it and give it their own personal touch. I’m very excited to see the end result.
I’m not going to give you a lot of backstory of the winery because someone else has already written it more eloquently. If you’re interested, please go visit their websites and get all the details in length… https://www.realmcellars.com
I had the privilege of enjoying a private tasting for my assistant and I in the current Realm Cellars private tasting room. We were hosted by the Director of Operations Elizabeth Vianello who was extremely knowledgeable, personable, and professional.
The First wine I tasted was their Sauvignon Blanc, the 2017 ‘Fidelio’ sourced from Napa Valley fruit with a limited 500 case production. I didn’t write notes on it as I was greeted with the wine at the door and consumed most of it before sitting down in the tasting room. I remember it being well balanced with great acidity and lots of tropical fruit and citrus notes. Mouthfeel was supple and complex as well as a long finish inviting the anticipation of the next sip. I am generally not a huge fan of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc in general although I respect the style and its general terroir indicators, which in my opinion tends to show a good amount of lemon grass and green notes. The Fidelio broke that mold with vibrant energy and tropical fruit notes in perfect harmony. While looking for the wine online I found its retail price is right around $100 which is probably one of the most expensive Sauvignon Blanc’s I have ever tasted or seen marketed outside of Bordeaux. However, that number lends to the small production, high demand, highly allocated and hard to find nature of the Realm Cellars portfolio. I wouldn’t personally spend $100 on that wine since there are some many amazing white wines you can get for that price including premier-cru burgundy. However, I would drive 30 minutes to meet someone who is opening up that bottle and sharing it… and If I did buy ‘Fidelio’ I would be happy with the purchase without a hint of buyer’s remorse. It truly is an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc and probably my current favorite being produced out of the Napa Valley.
The next wine I tasted was the 2015 ‘The Bard’ Red Blend composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. This is the biggest case production from Realm with 1,750 cases produced in 2015 which is still relatively small. The fruit is sourced from numerous vineyards. However, I did take notes on this amazing wine.
-The Bouquet was rich with black fruits, blackberry, black plum, licorice, and spice.
-The Palate confirmed the nose. Deep and rich black fruits, blackberry compote, robust full bodied texture with hints of spice, espresso, graphite, and vanilla.
Robert Parker rated this wine 97 points and I agree for the most part. I would personally rate it 95-97 pts. It is a fantastic wine with power, elegance, and balance and it is still super young. What I love about this wine is its value. It Retails at $150 and is very hard to find. $150 a value for a bottle of wine? YES! We all look for wines that over deliver for price, well, that goes for expensive wines too. I enjoyed this wine immensely more than the 2014 Opus One I tired the previous day which has a $300 price tag. I liked it better than Epitome, the very high end blend from Pine Ridge which I had the same day and was also amazing with cost around $250.It was right on par with Stags Leap’s Wine Cellars Famous Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon I had the previous day which cost close to $300 and is also a new favorite. If fact in my opinion the quality of this wine is on par with single vineyard offerings from Paul Hobbs and Schrader which typically command around $300 or more a bottle. So Yes, at $150 this is a value!
Credit for ‘The Bard’ being such an exceptional wine for the price can be given to Internationally Renowned Winemaker Benoit Touquette who is considered to be one of the top winemakers in the world. He joined Realm Cellars in 2011. Shared credit of course goes to founder Juan Mercado for having the foresight to buy and source such incredible fruit from outstanding vineyards. The last three vintages of ‘The Bard’ have received at least 95 point scores from Robert Parker with the 2013 getting a perfect 100 pts.
I have had a chance to purchase a few bottles online as the wine was already completely sold out at the winery. There are still some bottles online and I suggest you pounce on them as they are highly collectable, age worthy, a solid investment, and freaking delicious!
The last wine I want to talk about from my tasting at Realm is the 2015 Moonracer single vineyard cabernet sauvignon which is Realm’s estate vineyard wine coming from their property in Stags Leap District. This wine blew me away and still haunts me. It was my favorite wine of my entire trip throughout Napa and Sonoma. Obviously it was sold out at the winery as there is a two year waiting list just be able to join the wine club and be eligible for allocations of Realm’s highly sought after juice. There is still a bit of it trading online between $300-$400 a bottle. I believe it’s original retail price is around $300. 500 cases produced.
I took notes..
-Bouquet was deep, rich, and complex with layers of wild red berries, black fruits, asian spices, tobacco, and currant.
-Palate confirmed the nose and expanded on it. Currants, asian spice, dark plum, blackberries, vanilla, espresso, forest floor, rich tobacco with underlying savory notes intermingling throughout.
The spices, fruits, tannins and acid were in perfect harmony with deep complexity wrapped in a lush, silky, balanced, full bodied, mouth coating and hedonistic wine. I guess you could say I loved it, as that wine was better than many sexual experiences. It is worth the $300 price tag and eventually I WILL acquire some! I just have to sell some of the wines I have first before I spend $1800 on six pack before tax and shipping. If I ever get married this will come with me on the honeymoon. Robert Parker gave this wine 96 points, I would give it a solid 98 points and it’s still very young being their most current release.
Realm Cellars also has several other high priced highly allocated wines that I can’t wait to try such as their Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard, and ‘The Absurd’ Bordeaux style blend which is modestly priced at $650 and has at least one 100 point score. There are numerous more.
In closing, Realm Cellars is now one of my new favorite wineries. They are a cut above the rest and are on their way to cult status if they are not already there. I can’t wait till their new release this fall when I have a chance to see what their 2016 vintage has to offer.
I also had a chance to perform magic in front of Realm’s Founder, Director of Operations, Managing Partner and his Executive Assistant which was a real honor and a true pleasure. I happy I was able to share some of my magic with them after they shared their magic with me.
(Realm cellars did not give me any incentive or product to write this and actually has no knowledge that I did… unless they read this. My actions of writing this do not represent anything affiliated with Realm Cellars and all the other legal jargon. I will take it down if I have said anything they don’t like or want published. This was written solely because of my passion for great wines.)