Gallica is an artisanal Napa producer focusing on limited production hand crafted wines, created by long time Napa Valley winemaker, Rosemary Cakebread. Rosemary did not grow up in a winemaking family – rather she was introduced to wine later. Because of her father’s work as a commercial pilot, Rosemary’s family moved locations fairly often. She attended school in Tokyo, Japan but then right before high school, her family moved from this thriving metropolis to “sleepy small town” USA, Petaluma.
Early on, she had a strong interest in science – but at the same time, she has always also been interested in the creative outlet that being an artist offers. Winemaking certainly combines both art and science.
Fortuitously she was introduced to the Sebastiani Family (long time Sonoma County producers) and her first introduction to the wine industry was working on a bottling line for Sebastiani Family Winery while in high school. Intrigued with the wine business she enrolled at the University of California, Davis. Upon graduating in 1979 with a degree in Viticulture and Enology, she took her first position in Napa – at Inglenook. This was a special time in the Napa Valley – a number of now well regarded winemakers graduated from UC Davis in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and were just starting their careers in Napa including Heidi Peterson, Lee Hudson and John Kongsgaard, among others.
After working at Inglenook, through an introduction to the Novak family at Spottswoode from winemaker Tony Soter, Rosemary spent the next 16 years hand crafting wines for Spottswoode Winery. That is where we first discovered her wines many years ago; invariably when we are asked to recommend some of our favorite red wines in the Napa Valley, Spottswoode is always included in our recommendations.
Especially appealing about her winemaking style is Rosemary has always made wines with restraint, focusing on wines with excellent acidity, lower alcohol – all of which is important but sourcing from exceptional vineyards that have delicious flavor profiles. One of her goals with winemaking is to make wines that taste like the variety inherent in its DNA – rather than manipulating or masking variety qualities.
She is extremely involved in the vineyard side of winemaking; she works closely with vineyard managers and spends a fair amount of time in the specific vineyards where she sources fruit from. All fruit for her wine comes from the same vineyard blocks every year. The first vintage of Gallica was from 2007.
Rosemary is not tied to producing wines just from the Napa Valley – she enjoys the creative challenges of working with other regions and other varieties. Gallica currently focuses on two distinct wines – the Suzuri Red Wine Series and a Cabernet Sauvignon. With good fruit sources in the Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County) for Syrah, Gallica produces a wine from this variety – as well as a wine from a small heritage vineyard in St. Helena.
Rosemary has worked closely with noted viticulturist Ann Kraemer who manages the Shake Ridge Vineyard (about 1600 feet above sea level) near Sutter Creek (Amador County). This vineyard is planted to a number of varieties and Rosemary has sourced in the past, Grenache, Syrah, Viogner and Mourvedre for her red wine series.
Napa Valley tends to produce robust Cabernet Sauvignon and Rosemary has certainly spent significant time working with this variety over the years. However, she is also interested in working with different varieties, from non Napa terroir and creating other styles of wine. The “Red Wine Series” is made in a Burgundian style – everything is made by hand. Hand punchdowns, the Viognier and Syrah are co-fermented while the other varieties are fermented separately and then blended together before bottling. With delicate varieties, Rosemary is careful with how much oak is used – aging in older and neutral barrels as well as using a larger puncheon. This wine only sees 14 months in oak before being bottled.
With a nod to her time spent in Japan, she named her red wine, “Suzuri”. Suzuri in Japanese is a tool for writing calligraphy. The 2011 Suzuri Red Wine shows darker, seductive aromas – with an earthy component. Higher toned fruit including red currant shows – the nose is bright and lively and the aromatics “jump” from the glass. The entry is rounded and soft with a delicate mouth feel – but with good acidity. The finish has lingering kiss of soft tannins.
The Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the same vineyard blocks each year – their “home” vineyard in St. Helena as well as a well regarded vineyard in the Vaca Mountains, directly above Oakville. 2010 was a cool vintage. With such a small annual production, and sourcing from the same vineyard blocks each year, each vintage certainly varies based on that years specific growing conditions.
The 2010 Gallica shows dark ruby in the glass; aromatically it shows appealing dark fruit and an underlying very subtle herbal component – dried herbs, a dried bay leaf quality. Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot were blended with the Cabernet Sauvignon – the Petit Verdot lends a somewhat juicy component to the palate. The palate is refined, elegant and soft but with serious flavor. The earthy tannins are well integrated into the finish.
The name Gallica is named after a European rose – often having pink, red or crimson flowers. Oil can be produced from its flowers which are then used in perfumes.
Several years ago, Gallica acquired a neighboring vineyard next door to where Rosemary lives in St. Helena. Working with Cabernet Sauvignon for all of her professional career, her first impulse was to replant this vineyard with that variety, like what is planted in a number of the neighboring vineyards. But then reflecting on history, she decided to incorporate the old head pruned Petite Sirah and Carignan vines into a new wine. This is a remnant block of vines probably dating from when the nearby Hayne vineyard was planted – well over 100 years ago.
Gallica only produces about 1,000 cases a year of all the wines – and the wine sells out quickly with release to the mailing list. For more information and to join the mailing list, please visit: www.gallicawine.com