The Somm Set by Benchmark Wine Group


Welcome to The Somm Set. Each month we’ll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves!

This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Chris Blanchard, Master Sommelier. Join us as we explore everything from his love of Syrah to his passion for the perfect musical wine pairings.

Vine Hill Ranch
Truffle & Wine Pairings
La Toque 39th Annual Truffle Fest
For The Love Of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Read Our Interview With Chris Blanchard
The Somm Set Home

This week from Chris Blanchard:

Every now and then, the discussion comes up about who might make it in the shortlist of Grand Cru vineyards, or as a First Growth, if the Napa Valley ever created a classification similar to Bordeaux in 1855.  I would certainly consider the historic Vine Hill Ranch vineyard in Oakville as one of those, given the legendary bottlings that the vineyard has contributed fruit to over the last 60+ years.  From the BV Georges de la Tour Cabernet made by pioneering winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff in the late ’60s and early ’70s, to the Mondavi Oakville Reserve and Cakebread Vine Hill Ranch bottlings, to the Bond Vecina single vineyard release, Lail J. Daniel Cuvee, Araujo, and Etude, to name just a few of the very select group of wineries who have been able to source the fruit.

In 2004, owner Bob Phillips and his son Bruce walked the vineyard and talked about the accolades that were being bestowed by publications handing out high scores to particular wines that were using fruit from Vine Hill Ranch.  Bob’s father had bought the property in 1958 to create a ranch, and they had farmed the land at that point for nearly 50 years.  As Bob and Bruce walked and reminisced about the past, Bruce graciously brought up the idea of using some of the fruit to produce their own wine in small quantities each year.  This wasn’t the first time that Bruce had brought up the idea, but this time his father agreed, and the project began to bloom.

Each vine is looked over by vineyard manager Michael Wolf, who has worked with the vineyard for decades and is intimately familiar with the land and the quality of fruit it can produce.  Bruce, his father Bob, and Mike Wolf constantly brainstormed about what blocks they could use, what to call the new wine, and whom they might want to work with to craft the wine.  Just one name came up; Francoise Peschon.  She had been working at Araujo as the winemaker for many years using Vine Hill Ranch vineyard fruit, and Bruce and Mike knew her well.  VHR, the wine, was finally released for the first time in 2008 and received incredible scores from the critics.

Francoise has the daunting task of creating a benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon using 7 main blocks on the property, each with a different character that contributes to the whole of the blend she deftly brings together. There is certainly something magical about these vineyards, located on the southwest corner of the Oakville appellation, and it clearly shows in the wines produced here.  They are soulful wines.  Cabernet produced here has an ethereal perfumed nose, more floral at first, then brooding and deep, lush and powerful.  The label features detailed information for each vintage, with each of the 7 vineyard blocks listed, and depending on the vintage, individual block numbers are hole punched indicating what fruit was used that year, as well as info on harvest dates, vine count, and yield.  

I am so proud to have worked with VHR and the Vine Hill Ranch Vineyard since the beginning. I love to tell the story to consumers, sommeliers, wine directors, and lovers of Napa Valley Cabernet across the country.  I’m also thrilled to be able to offer to Benchmark a few bottles of our 2014 release, which in my opinion, is tasting incredible right now and certainly one of my favorites!  Antonio Galloni said this about the 2014 vintage with a 97+ score, “in a word: magnificent,” “from one of the finest sites in the Napa Valley,” and “a wine of regal purity and finesse, that exudes pedigree from the very first taste.”  I certainly agree.  Benchmark also has a limited number of VHR bottles from the 2017 vintage, which Galloni called “one of the wines of the vintage” “exceptionally polished and sensual” “the 2017 is unbelievably beautiful Cabernet with tons of potential”.  If you are unfamiliar with this vineyard and the VHR wine, here’s a great opportunity for you to discover what will undoubtedly be a new favorite. Thanks for reading, and happy drinking!

Featured Wines:

Vine Hill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Vine Hill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Check out this week's wine selection below!


Vine Hill Ranch
36 In Stock
1 In Stock
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Benchmark Wine Group

445 Devlin Road
Napa, CA 94558

Phone: 707.255.3500
Fax: 707.255.3503
SMS: 707.200.4049


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