Iconic Wine Club: Cuvaison & Brandlin Estate

CUVAISON is a family-owned, locally operated Napa Valley estate vintner dedicated to producing ultra-premium, vineyard-driven and hand-crafted wines with an unmistakable sense of place. Fourth-generation vintners from Switzerland, the Schmidheiny family purchased Cuvaison winery in Los Carneros in 1979, a decade after its first Chardonnays were bottled. Cuvaison was one of the trailblazing wineries that helped put Napa on the map in the ‘70s.

With a focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the new owners had an opportunity to expand so they acquired an additional 400 acres of highly prized land in the Los Carneros.

The fog from nearby San Pablo Bay caresses the gently rolling hills of the estate, making Los Carneros the coolest region in Napa Valley. It’s the ideal place to grow brilliant cool-climate Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. With a team led by the highly acclaimed VP of Winemaking, Steve Rogstad, Cuvaison continues to produce Grand Cru- caliber wines which honor Cuvaison’s historic roots.

In addition to being stewards of the vines, the Cuvaison team carefully tends to the land, air and water which maintain them. Cuvaison is certified sustainable and recognized for their forward-thinking, environmental practices. The winery runs entirely on solar power, and every facet of winemaking, from soil management to water recycling to maintaining the air quality, is done sustainably. It’s another way in which the team’s visionary planning will result in producing classic wines of unparalleled quality for decades to come.

In 1998, the Schmidheiny family acquired the Brandlin Estate, 49 acres nestled on the slopes of Mount Veeder, 1,200 feet above the valley. The Brandlin family, which originally owned the land, had used it in part to make wine as far back as 1926, and those vines are still thriving today. The majority of the vines are around two decades old, and with each passing year the wines they produce — mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with smatterings of Malbec, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot — gain depth and complexity. The altitude, granite-heavy soil, and cool breezes coming from San Pablo Bay give Mount Veeder the longest growing season in Napa Valley. Those factors also produce the lowest average yield. But the grapes that do grow are small, highly concentrated, and intensely flavorful. Like Cuvaison, Brandlin Estate is Napa Green Certified, helping to ensure the vineyard’s vitality for the foreseeable future.

Cuvaison and the Brandlin Estate display the breadth and the depth of Napa Valley wines in every bottle, and we’re beyond excited to share them with you. If you love these wines as much as we think you’re going to, both estates offer memberships that provide guaranteed access to some of their most coveted wines; complimentary tastings and other events; and in the case of Cuvaison, invitations to events at the vineyard itself. It’s an insider’s look into two of the most acclaimed vineyards in Napa Valley. 

Visit cuvaison.com and brandlinestate.com to learn more. 


The Wines

“Great wines are the culmination of years of knowledge and experience. For 20 years, I have had the incredible fortune to work with a grand cru-caliber vineyard to create wines that honor Cuvaison’s roots, while also helping to lay the foundation for the next 50 years.”

- Steve Rogstad Vice President, Winemaking Cuvaison 

2019 Cuvaison Pinot Noir, Spire  

This 100% Pinot Noir expression comes from vines along the steeper slopes of Cuvaison’s Los Carneros estate. The 2019 season began with a wet winter and ended with an unusually long and warm summer, giving a short and concentrated yield for the Pinot Noir vines. Aged for 16 months in French oak and coming in at 13.8% ABV, this is a big, rich wine, a delightful blend of spicy — think allspice, cardamom, and sassafras — and bright fruity notes of cherry, plum, and raspberry. Winemaker Steve Rogstad describes it thusly: “This broad and voluminous expression of Pinot Noir shimmers with acidity and mouth-coating tannins on the finish.” A stunning expression of California Pinot Noir at its finest. It pairs beautifully with richer foods like duck, casseroles, or red meat.

2020 Sauvignon Blanc, En Cigare 

2020 was a rollercoaster of a year weather-wise, with a warm winter, a spring frost, and a summer dictated by both abnormally cold and unusually hot weather. The yields were, as a result, smaller, but the grapes that made it through to harvest produced complex, aromatic, rich wines. The proof is in the bottle of En Cigare, so named because of the cigar-shaped barrels in which the wine is fermented (for 28 days) and aged (for 11 months). It’s a big, bright, tropically-influenced wine redolent of lemongrass, papaya, and mango, bottled at a robust 14.6% ABV. The fruity flavors, along with the tannins in the wine, pair with savory dishes ranging from cheeses like chèvre or feta to Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.

2020 Cuvaison Pinot Noir, Rosé

As with the Sauvignon Blanc harvest of 2020, the Pinot Noir harvest was smaller than normal due to the wildly varying weather. The grapes that resulted, however, produced some tremendous wines, as evidenced by this stunning rosé. The grapes were pressed whole cluster, with the stems intact, which helped the wine retain its delicate yet beautifully fragrant aromas of strawberry, raspberry, and hibiscus, with pomegranate and tropical fruit dominating the palate. Aged for three months on its lees in stainless steel and bottled at 13.5% ABV, its vibrant flavor pairs well with seafood dishes ranging from salmon to lobster, while its light acidity complements rich cheeses like Camembert, or pasta with cream-based sauces.

2020 Cuvaison Chardonnay, Méthode Béton

Another beneficiary of the dramatic weather swings of 2020, Méthode Béton is named after the method of fermentation and aging in concrete eggs. The extended contact on the lees gives the finished product an added depth and creaminess. Aged for 11 months in the eggs and bottled at 14.6% ABV, this richly textured wine has gorgeous aromas of orange blossom and acacia flower, while the palate features crisp flavors of shaved almond, white peach and citrus. Elegant and robust, this Chardonnay is a gorgeous match for sushi and shellfish of all types.

2016 Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon

From high on Mount Veeder, 1,200 feet above the Napa Valley, comes this blend from the exceptional 2016 vintage — winemaker Steve Rogstad calls it “near-perfect.” The vines have a low yield but the grapes they produce are highly concentrated, producing bold, opulent, and intense wines. This blend is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, along with 12% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Aged for 25 months in French oak and coming in at 14.6% ABV, it’s a deep, dark, slightly earthy wine, with notes of blackberry, mocha, fig, date, and black currant, along with a mouthwatering tannic backbone. A wine this bold pairs well with food that can stand up to it — red meat, meaty mushrooms, truffles, rich game birds such as duck, and hearty stews, to name a few.