The typical California winery story: a retired, semi-successful dentist buys a small plot of land and moves there with his wife with the aim of becoming a “gentleman farmer”.
The not so typical California winery story: a billionaire buys a prime plot of land, constructs a state-of-the-art winery and begins producing expensive, world-class wine. He doesn’t move there.
Two of this elite second group are T. J. Rodgers and Alejandro Bulgheroni. Mr. Rodgers, the founder and owner, until recently, of Cypress Semiconductor as well as the principle of several other Silicon Valley operations, began growing Pinot Noir in the one-acre vineyard surrounding has home in the Santa Cruz area. The wine made there, called Clos de la Tech, is so good, he bought more vineyard land. Each bottle of this rather remarkable wine bears a working computer chip on its neck.
Alejandro Bulgheroni owns the second largest oil and gas company in Argentina. He owns 13 winery properties in Argentina, Australia, Italy, Uruguay and California, the biggest of which is Garzon, a 10,000-acre paradise in Uruguay featuring cattle raising and wine-making. (I visited this showplace several years ago.) In California, winemaking is overseen by Philippe Melka and Michel Rolland.
We start with a surprising vertical of T. J, Rodgers’ best wine:
2003 Pinot Noir, Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers, San Francisco Bay ($250)
97 – Amazing, lush, deep, and velvety, intense, and seamless, rich, and layered, generous, elegant and youthful; long and balanced; remarkable for a 17-year-old wine.
2006 Pinot Noir, Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers, San Francisco Bay ($225)
95 – Brickish color, mint, and herbs in the nose, smooth; lush and juicy, long, and rich.
2008 Pinot Noir, Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers, San Francisco Bay ($225)
96 – Lush, smooth, and ripe, mint, spice, and rich dried cherries, elegant and long.
2010 Pinot Noir, Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers, San Francisco Bay ($225)
95 – Lush, rich, and smooth, bright raspberry and warm red fruits, tangy acidity, spice and a long finish.
2012 Pinot Noir, Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers, San Francisco Bay ($120)
96 – Smooth and luscious, bright cherry and notes of blackberry and spice, mint, and clove; seamless, lovely.
2015 Pinot Noir, Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers, San Francisco Bay ($150)
96 – Floral, berry nose, smooth juicy and tangy with a hint of cloves, rich cherry fruit, tangy acid structure, long and delicious.
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lithology, Napa Valley ($166)
96 – Deeply colored, smooth vanilla-inflected nose, silky-textured, lush plum, and blackberry fruit, notes of earth and spice, complex and layered with juicy, rich fruit and bright hints of vanilla new oak; not bad for an “entry level” wine.
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lithology, Beckstoffer, Dr. Crane Vineyard, Napa Valley ($295)
98 – Originally planted in 1858 and replanted by Andy Beckstoffer in 1998 this vineyard has yielded a glowing garnet colored wine with a plum nose and showing crisp acidity, ripe blackberry, cherry and plum fruit, and nuances of vanilla, spice, and licorice; the most immediate of the three vineyard designated wines, very long and generous.
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lithology, Beckstoffer, Las Piedras Vineyard, Napa Valley ($295)
98 – Opaque garnet color, lovely plum, and blueberry nose, smooth and luscious with hints of mocha, black olives, and chocolate; elegant and softly beautiful, revealing itself slowly but dramatically, juicy and complex, long and graceful.
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lithology, Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley ($295)
98 – Richly colored, vanilla and herb nose, velvety texture, lush and juicy with notes of graphite, vanilla, tangy plum and berry fruit; soft herbs and spices plus deep and rich fruit – everything is in its rightful place – nothing overshadows anything; a remarkably balanced wine from this historic vineyard.
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($395)
99 – Deep and dark, this is a wine that stays with you, the finish lasts for what seems like hours; before that comes ripe plum, blueberry, and cassis; then fresh herbs, smooth vanilla, new oak and multiple spices; creamy, juicy and balanced, miraculous!
By Anthony Dias Blue