A Future California Cult Wines List… 4 min read

The true worth of a man is to be measured by the objects he pursues. - Marcus Aurelius Antoninus


Wikipedia’s definition of cult wines reads: “Cult wines are those for which dedicated groups of committed enthusiasts will pay large sums of money.” Such a California cult wines list would include Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Colgin, Bryant, Araujo, Dalla Valle, Scarecrow, and a few others. The consumers that were savvy enough to get on the mailing lists (before the critical acclaim) were able to purchase these wines at release prices, or even re-sell these wines at a hefty profit at auction. By the time a wine achieves a cult status it often becomes unattainable. Enthusiasts that discover cult wine too late face long waiting lists and/or very high prices on the secondary market.


The secret is to get ahead of the curve and get on the mailing list for wines that haven’t yet achieved cult status. Here are some very distinct Pinots and Cabarnet blends that will make it on a California cult wine list in the near future. The list includes half a dozen Pinot Noir and Cabernet producers. They were chosen based on the track record of the winemaker, the vineyards’ reputation, and viticulturalists’ skills. To my knowledge, all but one of these mailing lists is still open. It won’t stay that way for long!


Pinot Noir




Winemaker Gavin Chanin is a rising star, who has earned critical and sommelier acclaim by crafting wines of elegance, varietal purity and restraint. He began his winemaking career as an intern at Au Bon Climat and Qupé, and counts Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist as his mentors. His brand launched in 2007 with offerings selling in record time.




Cirq is a partnership between Michael Browne of Kosta Browne and Charlie Chenoweth, a celebrated grower who sells fruit to the likes of Patz and Hall. Their wines celebrate Charlie’s extraordinary vineyard. Collaboratively, they strive for ultimate balance using their instrument of choice, Pinot Noir.




Owner David Hejl is Kosta Browne’s GM. He is launching his own brand, Della later this year. Naming his label after his late beloved Mom, David set out to make wines of harmony, purity and intensity. Boasting Michael Browne as a mentor, and partnering up with some of the best growers in the Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast, this is a wine to watch.


Paul Lato


A Polish immigrant who started his wine journey at Talley Vineyards, Paul Lato’s wines are now sought by some of the country’s finest restaurants. Critics and a few lucky consumers can’t get enough of his soulful wines. Paul’s meticulous fruit selection (he often sources from specific blocks of the vineyards) and his relentless pursuit of perfection results in wines that will take your breath away.




Lutum is a partnership between Gavin Chanin and Bill Price. Their focus is on small, meticulously crafted lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Gavin Chanin is the winemaker. Price is the chairman of Kosta Browne and Gary Farrell Winery, among many other hats he wears as a partner in Vincraft.




Tim and Jackie Reuling own a 16 acre property in Forestville. Their doting over their vineyard, meticulous dedication to clonal selections, and organic farming yields extraordinary fruit. Reuling supplied fruit for Mark Aubert and Sir Peter Michael.


Cabernet and Blends




Buccella, which means “mouthful” in Latin, strives to craft memorable wines of distinction, grace, finesse, and pure pleasure. With Celia Welch (Scarecrow and Barbour) as a consulting winemaker at the helm, they are certain to become favorites in a California cult wines list.




Brand’s vision is to maximize the majesty of their Pritchard Hill vineyard. Philippe Melka accomplished this and much more.




Located on Diamond Mountain, Checkerboard is a composite of four vineyard developments and boasts a variety of soils, sun exposure, and clonal selections. Meticulous talent Martha McClellan is in charge (Harlan, Estate, Sloan), so pay attention to this wine.




Larry Fairchild learned the value of the best farming practices early on in Nebraska. His vineyard? Stunning. His winemaker? Philippe Melka (Chateau Haut Brion) was named one of the world’s top wine consultants by Robert Parker. His wines? Phenomenal levels of complexity. This is one of the best Cabs I tasted this year.




Tusk is a luxury wine brand created in a partnership between Phillip Melka, Tim Martin, and Michael Uytengsy. They released their first wine in 2008 utilizing some of the best vineyards in Napa Valley. They source their fruit from prime vineyards in Napa’s Oakville and Prichard Hill appellations.




Fruit for Vineyardist comes from their bucolic seven acre vineyard on Diamond Mountain. Jim Barbour (Grace Family, Hundred Acre, Revana) manages the vineyard. Winemaker Mark Herold, who worked with Merus Wines, debuted their 2009 and it was incredible. Combining gargantuan fruit with graceful sensibility, it is a wine taster’s dream.

Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

  • J Lamar Hannah

    Outstanding information as always. Thank you for sharing

    April 24, 2016 at 7:45 pm

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