A look at the wines created by Joel Gott.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers July 18, 2007
Joel Gott comes honestly to the business of winemaking. He’s the grandson of the president of Inglenook Winery, whose mother created Montevina Winery and whose father started in the cellar at Sterling Vineyards (eventually becoming CEO).
Gott himself is a partner in the Three Thieves wine brand and owns a piece of a Napa Valley custom winemaking facility. A fifth-generation farmer, Gott and his brother own the gourmet burger restaurants Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in St. Helena and San Francisco (with another on the way in Napa). The father of three young children, he is married to wine consultant Sarah Gott and runs their family winemaking business.
Despite initially believing that winemaking was a ‘‘too difficult way to make a living,” Sarah and Joel Gott decided to make their own wines in the mid-1990s. At that time, Sarah was working at Joseph Phelps Vineyards so they put Joel’s name on the label, which he notes was ‘‘a better idea than putting my picture on the bottle.” Starting with five tons of Zinfandel grapes purchased from a farm where he played as a youngster, they produced their first vintage in 1996; wine critics and consumers applauded.
During the decade that followed, their portfolio expanded to include Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, each reasonably priced and created with a purity of flavors and balance that expresses the best characteristics of California wines. Joel Gott credits his wife’s winemaking skills and ‘‘the good people I have around me,” including their current winemaker Lisa Jacobson, as the keys to the winery’s success. The goal, he says, ‘‘is to consistently over-deliver,” by obtaining outstanding fruit and keeping costs down.
From the beginning, Gott has been sensitive to pricing. His first retail venture was Calistoga’s upscale Palisades Market where he noticed that ‘‘wines that sold out one year for $15 did not sell the next year if their price jumped to $20.” That experience taught him that he ‘‘could compete at a specific price point if we can exceed expectations. We want to give people a reason to buy our wines.”
Gott has succeeded, with wines that a marvel of consistency and affordability. The Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($11), which he says ‘‘always sells out way too fast,” has grapefruit and tropical aromas along with bright gooseberry and subtle grassy flavors, nice acidity and a lingering finish.
Gott has several iterations of Zinfandel, including the Joel Gott Zinfandel 2005 ($17), a blend of grapes from Napa, Lodi, Amador and Sonoma that includes 4 percent Petite Sirah. It has a slight smokiness along with big black cherry, plum and spice flavors with a touch of anise at the end. Produced from 50- to 80-year-old vines, the Joel Gott Zinfandel Lodi Mohr-Fry Ranches 2005 ($20) has softer tannins, a mild oakiness and spicy, jammy black cherry, cassis and coffee notes.
Named in honor of their oldest daughter who was born right before harvest, the Joel Gott Blend Number 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($17) is sourced from Napa, Lodi and Lake County. Gorgeous red berry, plum and cassis flavors are well integrated with vanilla oak and coffee/cola, producing a remarkably elegant wine and an excellent value.
Not surprisingly, Gott is busy with new projects. These include expanding Sauvignon Blanc production along with plans to release a $40 Cabernet Sauvignon with a label that simply says ‘‘Gott” and ‘‘tastes like a California Cab costing two to three times as much.”