2015 Lewelling Vineyards St. Helena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Lewelling Vineyards
California: Napa Valley: St. Helena
Strike a pose
Never thought I’d see the day we can offer a Dave Phinney made $135 Cab from the near impossible to find upper echelons of Napa Valley at $79.
Finding this wine is a challenge. Owned by celebrity photographer Greg Gorman, the near entirety of the 9 barrels made are enjoyed by the rich and the famous he hangs out with daily. A small stash for our Operatives only, and at about half the price? Have I died and gone to heaven? Or is this wine heaven? You betcha…
Black as night to the core, relents light through only at a narrow purple rim. Jammy blackberries, crème de cassis, sexiest oak, pencil lead, and chocolate on the ‘can’t stop sniffing’ perfume. Blue and purple fruits galore once it takes over your mouth with plush tannins, layers of spices, and game. Continues to build to a crescendo, bordering sensual overflow, and lasts for at least a minute on the finish reminiscent of the impression an eternal portrait leaves in the eye’s mind. Beefy in its own right with chewy texture, built for many a daring meat dish, caution is advised for pairings as its immensity could overwhelm delicately flavored foods.
Phinney needs no introduction. He’s the genius behind the original Prisoner and that just scratches the surface with what makes him arguably the most influential young winemaker in America. A Forbes article last year sums it up well; “Jeopardy question: Name three forces of nature in California. - El Niño. The San Andreas Fault. And David Phinney. El Niño may blow you away. The San Andreas Fault may swallow you up. But David Phinney may make you blow a day’s pay on an incredible bottle of a California wine … pretty much guaranteeing you will swallow it up! And come back for more!”
There’s yet another reason why this deal is so groundbreaking. Lewelling grows some of the best Cabernet fruit in Napa Valley, it’s a secret ingredient in wines by Harlan and Caymus, for example. It’s an expensive source. Make that VERY expensive. Planted in 1846, it’s consistently been so. Just the fruit is worth about $100 a bottle, before the Phinney touch and the Gorman pizzazz.
What are you waiting for? Hit that button, capture it NOW as that perfect pose won’t come back.
Here’s what the wine press has to say:
96 Points – Jeb Dunnuck - “Made by winemaker Dave Phinney and photographer Greg Gorman, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is a terrific, hedonistic, ready to go blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc and the rest Merlot and Malbec, all of which is from the Lewelling Vineyards. Deep purple-colored with sweet notes of blackberry liqueur, incense and spice, a touch of floral and graphite nuances, it’s full-bodied, nuanced, and seamless, and best drunk over the coming 10-12 years. Drink now-2030.
Photo Finish – Wine Spectator
Celebrity photographer Greg Gorman sets his sights on the wine industry, by Daniel Sogg, September 30, 2009
“Ask Greg Gorman about any A-listers from the past four decades, and chances are he has photographed them. Brando? “Yeah, he was a real nice guy.” Bowie? “I shot four or five of his album covers.” U2? “No,” he says after a moment. “But they have been over for a couple of parties.” Gorman, 60, is a preeminent celebrity photographer. He took his first picture in 1968, borrowing a friend’s camera for a Jimi Hendrix concert in Kansas City, MO. He moved to California in 1970 to study cinematography at the University of Southern California, and has been in Los Angeles ever since…
Gorman has since done scores of magazine covers, shot hundreds of celebrities and worked on the promotional photography for dozens of films. “I was fortunate to get some of those big jobs under my belt early,” he says. People tend to warm to Gorman, who has an infectious affability. Despite his many Hollywood connections—and fees that hover around $20,000 a shoot—Gorman is ready for a change. “I’ve had a wonderful career in the movie business, and I feel like it has run its course,” he says. “My passion now is for wine.”
That passion has been growing since the mid-1970s, when Gorman first started sampling bottles from Greenblatt’s Delicatessen & Fine Wine Shop in West Hollywood. He bought his first case there, a Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva from the late ’60s. Another early favorite was Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1982, while shooting the ad art for Tootsie, Gorman spent about five weeks in New York, often dining with the late Sydney Pollack. Pollack enjoyed Italian food and wine, and he got Gorman hooked. “I fell in love with Tignanello,” he says, referring to the Sangiovese-based super Tuscan blend produced by Marchesi Antinori.
In 1992, American Photo profiled Gorman, who is also known for work in black and white and with nudes. The article included a shot of him with bottles of 1982 Silver Oak and 1982 Château Pétrus. Silver Oak ended up inviting him to its Oakville winery, a visit that started Gorman down the path of exploring Northern California wine regions. “I didn’t know to spit at first,” he says with a laugh.
In the late 1980s, Gorman began collecting. The first step was creating a cellar space in his home, applying insulation and refrigeration to what had been a storage room for negatives. Gorman now has about 3,500 bottles divided between his two homes, the original one in West Hollywood and his new house up the coast in Mendocino. Italy and California were the initial focus for his collection, especially Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons and the wines of Tuscany. Washington state Syrahs and California Pinot Noirs are a couple of his more recent interests.
Gorman percolates with energy, like he just downed a double espresso. And no topic animates him like wine—ask him about his favorite producers, and names issue in a torrent that includes Napa brands Carter, Robert Foley and Schrader; Brunello estate Casanova di Neri; and California Pinot Noirs Aubert, MacPhail and Londer.
Some of the owners of these estates have become his friends, especially since 1998, when Gorman finished construction of his home in Mendocino. He spends as much time there as possible. “When I’m arriving in the plane to Santa Rosa and see the vineyards, I just relax,” he says. The lifestyle in Mendocino is slower and celebrity-free, but Gorman’s photography work helps open wine-industry doors. He shot an album cover in 2008 for Napa winemaker and musician Robert Foley. In 2007, he made wine with the help of vintner Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift Cellars in Napa Valley. The two met through a local retailer who knew that Phinney was looking for a photographer for a new label. The standard fee was out of range, but Gorman accepted the job in exchange for wine—he loves, in particular, Orin Swift’s Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Mercury Head.
Gorman’s work on the photoshoot made Phinney a fan. “He really brings over-the-top attention to detail,” Phinney says. “He took five hours, and the last shot was the one we used, but Greg would have kept shooting. He then worked on the [digital photo] for a week straight.” The finished product is a striking label, a close-up of the weathered hands of grower Vince Tofanelli, who produced the grapes for the Cabernet blend Papillon, at his vineyard in Calistoga. Gorman has already made one wine this year with Phinney at Orin Swift and expects to make two more. The first was a barrel of a 2006 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot from Stanton Vineyards and the Lewelling Block of Taplin Vineyards, both in St. Helena. The others will be a barrel of 2007 and one of 2008. Initially, Gorman asked Phinney to put together a blend for him, but Phinney had other ideas. “I trust Greg’s palate so much, I told him to come in and make his own wine,” he says.
The 2006 was intended to be a trial run, and Gorman has not yet decided on the barrel lots to be used for the 2007 or the vineyard blocks for the 2008. He decided to call his label GKG Cellars, because “Gorman” had already been trademarked. The prospect of working the 2008 and 2009 vintages from start to finish especially excites Gorman, allowing him to trace the maturation of the grapes, to taste through potential vineyard blocks with Phinney, and then to follow the fermentation and development in the barrel. “I know I’ve got a lot to learn,” he says. “It’s like photography. You can study textbooks, but nothing beats hands-on experience.”
At the beginning of his career, Gorman mostly photographed the talent, the people on screen and the people onstage. But he’s grown more interested, both personally and professionally, in the people behind the product, the directors and producers. In the same vein, it’s now the people behind the wine—the growers and vintners—who most intrigue Gorman. He’s cutting back on the celebrity photography and hopes to buy a home in the north of Napa Valley, closer to the wineries and his own winemaking ventures.
But photography will always have a prominent role in his life. Gorman, who has published seven books of photography since 1990, has a new book, In Their Youth, coming out this fall. A collection of black-and-white photographs taken over several decades, the book presents portraits of young men—actors, musicians, chefs and others—at the beginning of their careers. Leonardo DiCaprio, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Costner and Charlie Sexton are among the famous subjects shot by Gorman in their late teens and early 20s.
Gorman teaches a six-day digital-photo workshop four times a year at his Mendocino home. He shifted from film to digital in 2002 and is recognized today as one of the gurus of the medium. The seminars always include wine tastings proctored by vintners, such as Phinney and Pete Seghesio, of Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg.
For Gorman, the processes and parameters of winemaking and photography are quite similar, and the transition from one to the other makes perfect sense. “You are only as good as the subject,” he says. “You can enhance the subject, but you can’t change them into a different person. Winemaking is the same.”
Black as night to the core, relents light through only at a narrow purple rim.
Jammy blackberries, crème de cassis, sexiest oak, pencil lead, and chocolate.
Blue and purple fruits galore, with plush tannins, layers of spices, and game.
Builds to a crescendo bordering sensual overflow, lasts for at least a minute.
Beefy in its own right with chewy texture, built for many a daring meat dish.
What the Winery Says
- Dave Phinney
- 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot, 1% Malbec
- St. Helena, Napa Valley
- 100% Lewelling Vineyards
- 6-day cold soak, 30 total on skins
- 18 months
- 60% new French Oak by Taransaud, Fouquet & Baron, medium+ toast
- 9 barrels