Colgin, simply put, is one of the most impressive wineries in the valley — a “Grand Cru” Napa estate. It sits high in the Vaca Mountains, just down the road from David Arthur Winery, in the area known as Pritchard Hill. From one look around, it’s clear that there is nothing that hasn’t been carefully thought out. The winery’s beautifully decorated rooms, immaculate and efficient winemaking facility, and impeccably maintained vineyards all reflect an amazing attention to detail. If you’ve been lucky enough to pop one of these corks, you know what I mean.
The founder and proprietor of the winery is Ann Colgin. She began her career a world away, working in the art department of Christie’s Auction House in London. While at Christie’s, her interest in wine developed daily, mostly because of all fun the folks in the wine department seemed to be having! Eventually tiring of her role in art, Ann switched sides and joined the wine team. She quickly discovered that she had an excellent palate, and was much more suited to working with wine. Not long after, she was hired by Serena Sutcliffe, the head of Sotheby’s, to oversee the newly established West Coast wine department in Los Angeles. Aside from the day-to-day responsibilities of expanding and developing the auction market, Ann began spending time in Napa Valley. She met and became friends with John Wetlaufer, who educated her on the nuances of Napa and tasted her on wines from various appellations and terroirs. Finally, in 1992, with her feet firmly on the Napa ground, Ann decided to make wine herself.
Having tasted some of the very best wines in the valley (and in the world, at Sotheby’s), Ann knew what she was looking for. She wanted a great site that wasn’t full-on mountain terroir, but not valley floor either — she wanted a location that had elements of each. In 1995, she found it in the Herb Lamb Vineyard. Sitting just under the Howell Mountain elevation line, it was exactly the right spot. Ann made her first vintage that year, from a 2-acre block at the vineyard’s highest point. The winemaker was none other than super-star Helen Turley. She made enough wine for only 450 cases, but when Robert Parker reviewed it, along with the following vintage, he was totally struck. He marveled, “I realize perfection in wine, like perfection in anything, is in the eyes of the beholder, and there are those who believe perfection is simply unobtainable. But in my mind, the 1996 and 1995 come close to perfection.” As you might imagine, with that endorsement, Colgin was off to the races.
In the following years, Ann and her husband, Joe Wender, built rapidly on their initial success. They purchased the historic Tychson Hill Vineyard in Saint Helena in 1997, and later secured a multi-year contract with David Abreu for fruit from his superb Madrona Ranch, Thorevilos, and Howell Mountain vineyards. The last, and possibly most significant property that Ann and Joe acquired was the IX Estate, a stunning but undeveloped 125-acre tract owned by the Long family (David Arthur Winery). The Long’s called it “parcel number nine,” which is in part how the estate got its name. The 20-acre vineyard at IX is planted with 16 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties, and 4 acres of Syrah.
In all, Colgin owns or controls 35 acres of vines and produces four wines. They are the IX Estate Proprietary Red, the IX Estate Syrah, the Cariad Proprietary Red, made from David Abreu’s fruit, and the Tychson Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Vinification originally took place at the Napa Wine Company, but was later moved to Laird Estate. In 2002, a new winery was completed at IX Estate, where all wines have been made since.
Allison Tauziet is the current winemaker at Colgin. Her background in the trade dates to her days at UC Davis, where she majored in fermentation science and French. After graduating, she interned at Domaine Chandon in Yountville and then at the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux. She returned to Napa to work as an enologist at Farniente, where she stayed until 2005, rising to the position of assistant winemaker. She was hired to be the estate manager/assistant winemaker at Colgin, but it didn’t take her long to earn a promotion to head winemaker.
Allison’s wines are built around terroir, expressed in the classic Colgin style — elegant, powerful, and precise. For those who can afford them (they are like Grand Cru in more ways than their world class quality!), these are some of the very best made in Napa, year in and year out.