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Top Ten Wines of the Week, and Greg La Follette

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As always, my full scores and reviews will appear in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast.

Chateau St. Jean 2005 Reserve Merlot (Sonoma County). $90, 150 cases, 14.6%

Chateau St. Jean 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County). $90, 344 cases, 14.6%

Foxen 2009 Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc (Santa Maria Valley). $22, 575 cases, 14.1%

Belle Glos 2008 Taylor Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast). $44. ?? cases, 14.6%

Riverbench 2008 Chapel View Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley). $30, 160 cases, 14.6%

Bugay 2007 The Empress Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County). $75, 575 cases, 14.2%

Gainey 2007 Limited Selection Merlot (Santa Ynez Valley). $38, ?? cases, 14.1%

Mirabelle NV Brut Rosé (North Coast). $27, 6,300 cases, 13.1%

Tercero 2009 The Outlier Gewürztraminer (Santa Barbara County). $20, 160 cases, 12.5%

Pedroncelli 2009 Vintage Selection Chardonnay (Dry Creek Valley). $12, 4,500 cases, 14.2%

* * *

I want to give a shoutout to a friend, an upstanding winemaker, who is launching a new venture. Many, and probably most, of you have heard of Greg La Follette; many of you no doubt know him. Greg’s been around for a while, from his days at Beaulieu working under Tchelistcheff, to a stint at Jess Jackson’s Kendall-Jackson, and thence to a little startup on the Sonoma Coast called Flowers. Greg also served, until recently, as head winemaker at DeLoach. His first personal brand was Tandem, in partnership with Greg Bjornstad. One thing led to another, Tandem was ended, and now Greg is out with the brand he probably should have had a long time ago: La Follette.

I’ve followed Greg’s career for quite a while. I profiled him in my book, New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff (which is out this summer in a new paperback edition), and have delighted in seeing him from time to time over the years. Greg came down to Oakland yesterday and, over chai teas, he told me about his new brand. He’s eliminated many of the outlier varieties he used to make — Tempranillo, Zinfandel — as well as about half the SKUs, and will focus on what he does best: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with a small-production bottling of Pinot Meunier, “just because.” Grapes are sourced from some of the same great vineyards Greg used at Tandem, including Van Der Kamp and Sangiacomo. Production is quite low. I’ve already reviewed a few of the wines and given them high scores.

I’m glad Greg has entered this new phase of his life. While he acknowledges the difficulty of the market in these perilous times, he knows he has a solid team behind him (including Pete Kight, who made his money in financial services and also owns Quivira, which recently acquired the talented Hugh Chappelle from Lynmar).

Greg is out there now, trying to gain some traction for a new brand, not an easy thing to do these days. I wish him and the new La Follette winery well.

  1. David White says:

    Steve – I’ve had some great pinots from Tandem and Flowers over the years, so I’m excited about La Follette. Is there a website (or even an email address) to sign up for a mailing list, etc?

    Thanks!

  2. Steve,
    Your Classic Winemakers was a great read; loved the book. Will the new paperbook have new material??
    Tom

  3. Like…just maybe….HelenTurley??? :-)

    Sorry…me bad.
    Tom

  4. TomHill: Nope. But a new cover, I think.

  5. David White: I don’t think they have a website yet. I looked around for one. Maybe soon. Greg if you are reading this, get yourself a website!

  6. Thanks Ryan.

  7. Steve, thanks for the mention of the 2008 Chapel View Chardonnay! This is the first vintage of this awesome wine- single Clone, the famous representative of the Santa Maria Valley, Clone 4. I really love the acidity; even though it’s got a bit of oak, it’s got a truly stunning brightness. Thanks again.

  8. David White says:

    Thanks, Ryan! (and Steve!)

  9. Steve,

    Greg poured one of his new Pinots at the IPNC in McMinnville, OR a couple weeks ago. It was the most exciting wine I sampled!

    Greg is an excellent winemaker and a better human being. Thanks for giving him the plug.

    Peter R

  10. Peter, it’s always nice when a great wine is made by a good human. But we should not allow our personal affection for individual winemakers to color our perceptions of their wines.

  11. Another reason to write a story about Tchelistcheff’s influence, his proteges and the directions they have taken! :)

  12. Hey Lisa, I think somebody is working on a bio of André. Can’t wait to read it.

  13. Hi Steve,
    I hadn’t heard about that. Do you know who? Book or article?

  14. Lisa, about what?

  15. Steve, I imagine you will be writing more about La Follette and reviewing some of the wines soon. In the meantime, if people would like a glimpse into what Greg’s doing, I posted this a few days ago. http://bit.ly/ce2Oe3

  16. I swear I saw the Mirabelle NV Brut Rosé for around $19 at my local World Market recently. Which, if true, I’m definitely going back to buy!

    I usually write off World Market when it comes to wine shopping because of their big box like nature, but I’ve found some good deals on some interesting wine there, when I’m in the mood to spend some time hunting.

    on my to-do list for 2moro: go back to World Market and snag some of the Mirabelle Brut Rosé!

  17. Kimberly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw it at that discount. The prices we quote at Wine Enthusiast are suggested retail. In my experience, actual shelf prices are lower, sometimes dramatically.

  18. Hi Steve,

    I completely concur when you say “friend, an upstanding winemaker”. I own a winery and a software company for the wine industry – both in sebastopol. Greg is one of my neighbors. After working for years with Greg in a consulting role, we have become very close socially. We still hook up from time to time — as I always speak very highly of him and his “Magician Like wine making skills” — but still follow each others endeavors. I think Greg’s strong point/s personally and in wine making – are the very hard work he puts in and his integrity – real straight shooter.

    Peter Nevin

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