Goosecross Cellars is a small winery, and despite only a few minutes drive from Yountville, feels very much off the beaten path. The winery was founded by two couples in 1985, David & Colleen Topper and winemaker Geoff Gorsuch and his wife Karen. They operated Goosecross Cellars until the Spring of 2013 when they sold the winery and surrounding vineyard to Golden Equity Investments, a Colorado-based investment firm. Today the winery is run by Christi Coors Ficeli, the great great granddaughter of Adolph Coors. Adolph immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1868 – with his first stop in New York (as was the case for many immigrants during those years). Eventually he ended up in Denver, Colorado where he setup the Adolph Coors Company, today known as Coors Brewing Company.
Christi (a graduate of Santa Clara University) worked in the beer industry for some 14 years before getting the urge to make wine,although she did previously work for Gallo Family Winery for 2+ years in sales and marketing.
But back to the original founders of Goosecross. Geoff (David’s roommate at San Diego State – go Aztecs!) was their winemaker until 2013. His family originally planted the site (State Lane Estate) with vineyards in 1978 and were growers for a number of years selling their fruit to premium wineries including Far Niente and Burgess Cellars.
Wondering how they arrived at the name of the winery? Geoff’s last name of Gorsuch literally translates to “where the goose crossed the stream” in middle-age English. And over the years, Canadian Geese have lived on the property. As a result, images of geese are branded onto their wine labels and other marketing literature. Visits to Goosecross define the words fun and approachable; we have visited the winery a number of times over the years and besides the quality of wines, the one constant is always the very friendly & hospitable tasting staff and easy going intimate on-premise atmosphere. Strong hospitality and customer relations dates back to David Topper – we found a quote from an article in the Napa Register years ago which sums this up nicely, “wine is my product and if I fall in love with my product, I’m in trouble. I need to fall in love with my customer’s needs”.
A visit here is for those who want to explore beyond the Napa Valley “wine strip”, a section of the Napa Valley between Yountville and St. Helena along Highway 29 featuring a number of prominent and iconic Napa Valley wineries. Harvest is always a good time to visit any small winery and its no different at Goosecross; if grapes are being processed, one might even be put to work with a pitch fork or given a hose to wash down extra barrels 🙂
The old house built in 1978 and the previous winery were torn down in late summer 2014. A new winery opened in time for the 2015 harvest and was built on the footprint of what used to be the gravel parking lot. In addition, a small hospitality center was built and opened in September 2015. This modern tasting room is inviting with nice views to the west overlooking their vineyards from a small patio located outside (weather permitting, is where seated tastings are hosted).
Guests who remember visiting the old Goosecross tasting room and winery, will wonder if they are on the same property – based on all the changes that have since been made with the transition in ownership.
While their focus was originally and for a number of years on Chardonnay – at one point Goosecross produced more then 25 different wines. Today the number of wines produced has been scaled down considerably since the transition in ownership. Wines are made from their estate property; the State Lane Vineyard is planted to 10 of the 12 total acres including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Wines are also made from grapes sourced from premium other vineyards in the Napa Valley – including Howell Mountain and Rutherford.
The 2018 Gooscross Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from a nearby vineyard near Yount Mill Road – still in the Yountville sub appellation. Straw color in the glass shows pretty aromatics including citrus blossom, goose berry, grapefruit, and a minerality nuance. Rounded across the palate, slightly creamy with a sweet note of fruit on the finish complemented nicely by excellent acidity. The flinty or mineral note on the bouquet also lingers on the finish. This is a very balanced showing that is not green nor grassy.
2011 is an excellent glimpse into a vintage that was more challenging then normal due to late rains into June and early rains during September as well as cooler overall growing conditions. As a result, vineyards in parts of the valley had a hard time ripening to optimum maturity. It was a vintage in the Napa Valley that was generally panned by critics but a vintage where individual sites played an extremely important role along with winemaker skill including their ability to carefully sort the fruit prior to fermentation.
The 2011 Goosecross Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon was only 13.3% alcohol. Offers darker fruit aromatics including plum along with a hint of tobacco leaf, jalapeno pepper, cigar smoke and other darker spices. This is a wine that one can smell the vintage. Lighter in body – shows more higher toned red fruit flavors then darker fruit including red cherry and rhubarb. Offers a bright acidity with a cranberry tartness that lingers on the finish along with hints of chocolate. The tannins are so soft and finely integrated into the finish, one barely notices their gentle kiss.
The 2006 Goosecross Cellars Chardonnay features a pretty bouquet showing vanilla and notes of red apple along with some intriguing baking spices. The palate is rich and somewhat creamy, in part from the sur-lie aging in barrel.
The Goosecross Viognier is worth seeking out along with a not often Napa Valley produced Tempranillo (a Spanish variety). An unusual wine for the Napa Valley is the V AmerItal – a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The 2005 Goosecross Cellars Syrah is well balanced with a supple and rounded texture. While tasting this wine one of the hosts may present small pieces of chocolate. Chocolate complements this wine nicely. This is a juicy wine with flavors of currant along with a kiss of spice – more subdued rather than exhibiting the characteristics more common in a peppery and spicy Syrah.
The 2005 Goosecross Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon features an intensity of fruit on the palate complemented by just a hint of toasted oak and delicate tannins which linger softly on the finish. The 2004 Goosecross Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet is a bigger wine with flavors of dark cherry with balanced but structured tannins anchoring the long finish. Both Cabernet Sauvignon wines are built to be enjoyed with food.
During very select years where the quality of grapes are exceptional, Goosecross creates a very limited production wine called ÆROS (both vineyard blocks and a barrel selection). The 2015 Goosecross Cellars ÆROS Bordeaux Blend is dark red with purplish tinges on the rim – showcases a diversity of aromatics most prominently the fruit with notes of blackberry and a hint of red licorice. Also includes darker spices – cloves, cedar, toasted oak along with chocolate. Well layered across the palate this wine shows both simultaneous depth, structural power (chewy tannins) along with good acidity. Darker spices linger on the finish including crushed black pepper.
Goosecross Cellars offers a current release tasting either outside on the patio with bucolic views overlooking their vineyards (weather permitting) or indoors at the circular wine bar. Tastings typically include an older vintage or two and are by appointment only; during slower off-peak times, same day appointments can usually be arranged. Goosecross used to offer a seasonal “wine basics” class which was geared towards wine novices highlighting tasting techniques, evaluating a wine’s structure, wine storage practices and much more.
During our initial visits many years ago, we recall visitors were given a short questionnaire sheet by one of the staff – one of the questions was “how did you find us”? We always noticed the most common answer given was “online”. The reason for this was during the early years of the Internet, Goosecross was one of the Napa Valley pioneer wineries in the world of online marketing. They were also the first Napa Valley winery to start their own Podcast feeds through their show, Napa Valley Wine Radio.
And similar to only a handful of wineries in the Napa Valley who see visitors for tastings, Goosecross Cellars has no distribution and sells all of their wines direct to consumer (most often to guests who have visited the winery but also through their online store). Total annual production is around 5,000 cases per year. For more information, to schedule a tasting or to join one of their wine clubs, visit: www.goosecross.com
State Lane Vineyard