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From HFWF14 – Colgin Cellars


Colgin Cellars is one of those elusive wineries in Napa Valley. A vineyard with history, a winemaker with passion, and limited supply. They produce just shy of 3000 cases a year, half of them sold to wine club members (there is a 3-year waiting list) and half of it sold to restaurants, including a handful of 2 and 3-Michelin-starred ones in France.

It is elusive and exclusive.

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At its helm is the formidable Ann Colgin who founded Colgin Cellars in 1992, and from the start created magnificent handcrafted Cabernet.

Ann, a former auctioneer house wine buyer, caught the wine bug while visiting vineyards. She began seeking a plot of land to buy. The history of the property that she eventually bought is really kind of cool as it was planted by the first female vintner in Napa Vally, Josephine Tychson. I love that it is now owned by another woman, pioneering her way through the traditionally male-dominated wine world.

The original site was planted in 1881. But then Prohibition happened, the small plot of land was forgotten, and it wasn't until Ann was researching for land to buy that she stumbled upon this hidden gem.

She eventually added a few other parcels including the one that Ann later married on. They are on an incline high above Lake Hennessey on a secluded mountaintop in the Pritchard Hill area of St. Helena. Her wedding occurred on September 9th, hence the naming of the property as IX Estate.

View of Lake Hennesy from Colgin Cellars on Pritchard Hill. Photo credit: Michael Butler
View of Lake Hennesy from Colgin Cellars on Pritchard Hill. Photo credit: Michael Butler

At Colgin Cellars they focus on ironclad precision, aromatic complexity, and thoughtful distribution. And when I saw there was an opportunity to try some of their wine at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, I jumped at the chance, even if the tasting did occur at 9:30 in the morning!

Colgin Cellars Tasting at Hawaii Food and Wine Festival
Ready to go!

To lead us through the tasting was Master Sommelier Paul Roberts of Colgin. He was joined by three additional Master Sommeliers: Joseph Spellman of Justin Vineyards; Richard Betts (author of The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert) and Roberto Viernes of American Wine & Spirits.

We started with the Tychson Hill tastings which included 2010, 2007, 2004, and 2002. The 2010 is their most current release and is an example of a classic cooler climate cab. The 2007 displays a middle-aged perfect richness (I might steal the moniker to describe me!). The 2004 shows heat, literally! There were two straight weeks of over 100-degree temperatures that year. And 2002 was described as the modern version of 2012.

By no means am I a wine connoisseur, generally speaking, Mr. Misadventures and I drink a lot of pinot noir as I find the cabs and merlots too strong, but the Tychson Hill cabs were extraordinary, and my favorite of the entire session was the 2004.

Most interesting to me was hearing what Paul Roberts would pair with the wines and for this particular one he suggested bird courses such as duck or quail, he said Thanksgiving turkey in his house is always accompanied by a Tychson Hill.

Colgin Cellars Master Sommelier Paul Roberts
Colgin Cellars Master Sommelier Paul Roberts

The next wines we tried were the Cariad. Cariad means love in Welsh and these wines are more opulent, with rounder finishes. They are half Cab, 30% Merlot, and 20% Cab-Franc. We tried the 2010, 2009, 2005 and 1999. All the sommeliers were head over heels in love with the 1999. Guess Prince was right on that being a good year (sorry, I had to go there)!

For this wine, when it came to food recommendations, the panelists all had very different ideas. Moderator, the local importer, and Master Sommelier Roberto Viernes wanted braised short ribs or osso bucco. Joseph Spellman shared the story of a once-in-a-lifetime lamb he had in the Caribbean cooked by Manresa chef David Kinch, he thought it would go well with that.

Paul recommended the Cariad with mole sauces as well as Indian tagines and curries. And Richard Betts thought it would be great with a good grilled cheese sandwich!


Last we tried the IX Estate cabs from 2010, 2007, 2006 and 2003. These are from a 20-acre parcel that had 85,000 tons of rocks removed before the planting! Their flavor goes all the way to the back of your palette and has more tannins, also they're more herbal.

They are robust and powerful. Paul told the story of the 2011 harvest, there had been issues with the vines, and the grapes were hand-sorted,  grape by grape, we weren't drinking 2011, but that type of dedication and quality assurance definitely comes through in Colgin's wines from any year.

All the wines retail for about $300 a bottle, but due to their limited quantities, they often auction for far more. It was a very rare and special pleasure to be able to taste these wines, in fact, it was Colgin Cellars first public tasting in Hawaii. More than that, to hear four Master Sommeliers discussing them was fascinating as well!

I can't thank Hawaiian Airlines enough for their generous sponsorship of my flight to Oahu this weekend to attend the festival. They hosted me along with The Modern Honolulu hotel and the Oahu Visitors Bureau.

How about you? Have you done wine tasting at a festival? Is there an elusive wine you'd like to try? What is your favorite thing to eat with a Cabernet? Do tell!

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  1. Katie @ Domestiphobia says:

    What an incredible experience!! Justin and I just watched Chef last night, so the part of your post about the grilled cheese made me laugh because there’s a pure cinema scene in Chef during which Jon Favreau creates a decadent grilled cheese sandwich for his kid — and there wasn’t a Kraft Singles slice anywhere in sight. I mean, just watching the preparation had me salivating. Upon tasting it, his son said, “It’s good.” And Jon goes, “You’re damn right, it’s good.” And THAT is a grilled cheese that would probably work with the Cariad. 😉

  2. Wow…I’m not a wine drinker but I’m so impressed! I had no idea there was so much to wine. What a great experience for you!

  3. What a great and fun experience! Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. laurie damrose says:

    I’m not a drinker at all but scenery is beautiful.