Wait three years for a bottle of Colgin Cellers wine

Wait three years for a bottle of Colgin Cellers wine
IX Estate, Colgin

Private clients keen on a bottle of wine from cult Californian label Colgin Cellars have to wait an average of three years to get their hands on one.

The winery, located in the town of St Helena, in California's well-known wine region Napa Valley, is famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends. Some of these have been rated 100 points by American wine critic Robert Parker.

Its IX Estate Napa Valley Syrah 2010 was also the first Syrah in Napa Valley to be awarded 100 points.

Indeed, Colgin Cellars' wines are so sought-after that not only is there a three-year waiting list, but there is also a cap on how many bottles an individual buyer can buy. Each buyer is allotted up to a maximum of six bottles, priced at US$350 (S$438) each.

"And that's a big allocation. Most people get only three bottles," says Ms Ann Colgin, 55, Colgin Cellars' proprietor and vintner, who was in town recently to host a private wine dinner and meet restaurant sommeliers.

The wines are sold in 30 markets including Singapore. Here, the label is distributed by wine distributor Water And Wine.

On average, the winery produces about 30,000 to 35,000 bottles a year, which amounts to fewer than 3,000 cases.

About 85 per cent of its wines are sold in the United States and the rest is exported.

Its private client list spans New York to Hong Kong to Singapore. About 70 per cent of the wines are allocated to private buyers while the remainder are allocated to a select handful of restaurants in the US, Europe and Asia.

Colgin is just one of the estates to have achieved cult status among Californian wines. Others in the same league include Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle and the Bryant Family.

The winery produces four wines: one Syrah; and three Cabernet Sauvignon, which are blended with combinations of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot varietals.

Although its Cabernet Sauvignons are popular, it is the Syrah, Ms Colgin says, which tends to resonate well with buyers in Asia.

"There is a synergy between the cuisine in Asia and Syrah. The spiciness in the wine and its smoky grape flavours, for example, go well with dishes such as Peking duck," she adds.

She is married to Mr Joseph Wender, 69, a senior consultant to an American investment bank and they live at their Tychson Hill vineyard in St Helena.

Ms Colgin, who has been producing wines since the early 1990s, acquired Tychson Hill, her first vineyard, in the mid- 1990s. She and Mr Wender now also own IX Estate, which they purchased in 1998. They later tied the knot on that vineyard in 2000.

Ms Colgin, who has a degree in art history and has worked in the auctioning business, says she fell in love with wine more than 20 years ago, when she was studying in London at auction house Sotheby's.

It was after she had drunk a 1961 Latour, she says, that "a light bulb went off" in her.

She was taken by the wine's depth and finesse, which later spurred her on to make wines that would be "the best of the best, true to their varietal, and with a sense of balance, personality and place".

Although she moved from working in the art world to pursuing a career in wine, she is still very much in tune with the arts.

She is currently an executive committee member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou Foundation, an America-based not-for-profit foundation dedicated to supporting the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France, and also juggles her time between her winery and working as a consultant to Sotheby's wine department.

She works with a team that includes winemaker Allison Tauziet and vineyard manager David Abreu, and says she is focused on producing top quality wines.

Asked if she subscribes to biodynamic or organic farming practices or beliefs, she says: "I think everybody has to make his own choices.

"The land is our greatest asset, so of course, we are sustainable. But we're not looking for a label to put on to our bottles. We don't feel that that's important to us. We take very, very good care of each of our vineyard's resources because that is the basis of our livelihood. You can't make great wines without great grapes, and that's what it's all about."

This article was first published on May 25, 2014.
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