Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $84

Paradigm has always been a paradigm of sorts—a classic wine that reflects its place, a wine that’s more modest than showy, a wine that evokes deliciousness and drinkability. It’s one of those satisfying wines that, put in the center of a dinner party table, gets emptied first. Paradigm Winery is owned and run by Ren and Marilyn Harris, both with deep roots in California. Marilyn’s grandparents arrived in Napa Valley in 1890; Ren’s family came to California in 1769. Thanks to a former career in vineyard real estate, Ren knew the Napa Valley inside out. By the time he and Marilyn bought an abandoned prune orchard with the dream of turning it into a vineyard (in 1975), they had settled on Oakville as the most desirable area. This, 18 years before Oakville became an AVA. From the first vintage in 1991, Paradigm’s winemaker has been Heidi Barrett (whose clients now include other esteemed properties as well). 14.6% abv

Available at Paradigm Winery

The WineSpeed Blog

A. Heitz Cellars “Martha's Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

B. Robert Mondavi Winery “To Kalon Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

C. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Fay Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

D. Ridge Vineyards “Monte Bello” Cabernet Sauvignon


While in the Army and stationed near Fresno during WW II, Joe Heitz got a part-time job at Italian Swiss Colony in Asti, Sonoma County. After getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of California at Davis after the War, Joe worked under the legendary André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyard. In 1961, he left to start Heitz Cellars. Five years later, in 1966, he made the first famous vineyard-designated Napa Valley wine—Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville’s “Martha’s Vineyard,” owned by Tom and Martha May. When it was released, the 1966 Heitz Cellars “Martha’s Vineyard” was $7 a bottle—an astronomical price since Heitz’s regular cabernet sauvignon, released just three years earlier, was only $1.99 a bottle.  Tucked against the Mayacamas mountains on the west side of Oakville, Martha’s Vineyard is surrounded by giant eucalyptus trees, often credited as the source of the wine’s distinctive minty aroma and flavor. And the plant material is a unique proprietary selection that produces tiny, thick-skinned berries of great concentration and deep color. For over half a century, Heitz has had the exclusive use of the grapes from Martha’s Vineyard. As for the other options, while Ridge Vineyards released their first “Monte Bello” designated cabernet sauvignon in 1962, beating Heitz by four years, the vineyard is not in Napa Valley, but in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Although the To Kalon Vineyard was established in Oakville in 1868 by H.W. Crabb, Crabb did not vineyard-designate his wines (which included Burgundy, Sauterne, Claret, Riesling, Zinfandel and others). Crabb’s original name for the winery was Hermosa Vineyards which he later changed to the To Kalon Wine Company. The winery burned down in 1939. Planted in 1961 by Nathan Fay with cabernet sauvignon, the Fay Vineyard was the first significant planting of cabernet in Napa Valley south of Oakville. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars purchased the vineyard from Nathan Fay in 1986 and began putting the name of the vineyard on the label in 1990.

Answer: True.

Well, there’s one. Originally built by two Frenchmen, Jean Adolphe Brun and Jean Chaix, the Brun and Chaix Oakville Winery became the 9th bonded winery in California in 1877. In the late 1870s, as wineries were founded and legally permitted, they were required to post a bond (a type of insurance) to guarantee payment of the federal excise taxes they would incur based on production volumes. Permit numbers were given in sequence beginning with, of course, BW-CA-1 (California bonded winery #1). Today the winemaking facility is called Napa Wine Company and is owned by the Pelissa and Hoxsey families of Ghost Block Estate Wines.

Ghost Winery

While the term “ghost winery” conjures images of phantoms and rattling chains, the only spirits referenced here are the wines made long ago. The term is used to describe a winery that was built between 1860 and 1900 and abandoned in the early 20th century as the wine industry was crippled by the vine pest phylloxera, followed by the one-two punch of Prohibition and the Great Depression. Before Prohibition, there were more than 700 wineries in California. Following its repeal 14 years later, only 40 wineries remained. The few that were able to stay in business did so by selling sacramental wine and grapes for home winemaking, or outright bootlegging.  Many of the abandoned buildings remained vacant for decades, falling into ruin. As Napa’s wine industry stirred again mid-century, some of these ghost wineries were resurrected. Some are now thriving wineries that welcome visitors; others are private homes. Today, approximately 65 of California’s “ghost wineries” have been restored.  You can find several in the Oakville AVA at Far Niente, Napa Wine Company, Vine Cliff and Oakville Ranch Winery.

What Makes Wine Sexy?

It’s a WineSpeed tradition on Valentine’s Day to ask winemakers what they think makes wine sexy. Herewith, some fascinating responses from a group of winemakers and vintners we think are pretty special.

Research—The Highest Calling

Oakville is the only wine growing region in the United States to have a dedicated research vineyard and facility in the heart of the AVA. For over 50 years the University of California, Davis Research Station in Oakville has conducted studies including trials of clones, rootstocks, vine spacing, pruning levels, and irrigation. The original budwood for Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon came from the Oakville Station, and many of the modern trellising techniques utilized in Napa Valley were devised there as well. The Station, on some of the most expensive wine real estate in the world, is comprised of two vineyard parcels equaling a total of 40 acres. From 1868 to 1879, pioneer viticulturalist Hiram Crabb, purchased the acreage he would eventually plant with vineyards and christen To Kalon, Greek for “highest beauty.” On a 20-acre section (ultimately known as the Old Federal Vineyard) at the heart of the vineyard, Crabb experimented with rootstock and almost 400 different grape varieties. After Crabb’s death in 1899, much of To Kalon was sold to the Churchill family, who set aside the Old Federal Vineyard for use by first the U.S. Department of Viticulture and then the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1947, wanting to secure a research vineyard for the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, a group of Napa vintners purchased and donated a parcel now called the South Station, located south of Crabb’s original experimental plot. By 1955, closing out its own grape research, the USDA did the same and ceded the Old Federal Vineyard to the University.


Current number of Masters of Wine. Over 450 people from 30 countries have become MWs since the first exam took place in 1953. MWs represent a broad diversity of professions from winemakers to wine consultants. There are three stages to the MW program, and the minimum time it takes to qualify is three years. The MW study program, offered by The Institute of Masters of Wine is now open for applications until May 29, 2020. Find details on the program and how to apply here.


Percent of U.S. hazelnut crop grown in Oregon, where it is the official state nut. (The first commercial hazelnut orchard was planted there in 1903). In the last 10 years, acreage has almost tripled. More than 50% of Oregon’s hazelnuts—also known as filberts—are exported to Asia, where the nut has been revered for centuries. A nearly 5000-year old Chinese manuscript refers to hazelnuts as “among the five sacred nourishments God bestowed on man.”


Pairs of shoes in Karen’s closet compared to the 900+ bottles of wine in her home cellar. To be fair, that makes 44 individual shoes, so the disparity is not as glaring as it might seem. Karen divulged this statistic in her recent live virtual tasting: Why Don’t More Women Have Wine Cellars? to both dispute the claim by many males that “men collect wine and women collect shoes” and assert that doing both is possible and necessary.

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