Wine Blog

April 1, 2016

The wine world lost one of its greatest ambassadors this week with the passing of Paul Pontallier the passionate managing director of Ch. Margaux. For the full obituary on Mr. Pontallier see


Just this last Saturday right before leaving work I emailed Paul to ask him, for about the hundredth time, to request a visit to Ch. Margaux for a special customer of mine on his first trip to Bordeaux for his 50th birthday. At the end of that request I wrote…Thank you as always for your consideration. I look very much forward to see you on April 5th at 3:30 to shake your hand and hear you speak about the wine which is always a great pleasure… while I get to taste it!


That is so true! I first met Paul in early April of 1990 on my first visit ever to France and then Bordeaux to evaluate the 1989 vintage for K&L Wine Merchants. To say I was excited is the understatement of the...

December 1, 2015

It has been two long years since my last trip to Asia for PrimeCellar so I was even more excited than usual. My trip started with a midnight flight Monday on China Air direct to Taipei; it was a rough


flight with lots of turbulence so sleeping was difficult. After a transfer to Hong Kong I arrive Tuesday at the Regal Hotel in HK and my room of course is not ready. So I head out in the heat of the day with wobbling legs up Hennessy Rd. for a few hours of window shopping from Causeway Bay to Central and back.

I finally get in my room, grab a quick workout and I’m off to “Under the Bridge” for some famous Spicy Crab. No rest for the wicked on Wednesday as PrimeCellar welcomed members of the Hong Kong Sommelier Association for a “Taste of California” at the fine Yee Tung Heen located in the Excelsior Hotel. We are now our 8th year of business in Hong Kong and after greeting ever...

November 1, 2015

Wine lovers around the world will be very pleased with the 2015 vintage from California and Bordeaux. It does not happen often that the more difficult growing season occurred in California, but that was the case in 2015 with both regions reporting outstanding quality. Below are the candid comments from my friends, the winemakers and growers that lived thru the entire vintage and we will start in California.


Mike Lamborn from Lamborn Family reports from Howell Mountain 1600 feet above the Napa Valley floor: Howdy Ralph. I call 2015 a "quirky" growing year. Early bud break, cool LONG bloom, and fruit set was awful (75% loss for some) for many. We were off 10-15% tonnage wise with the Zinfandel, but the Cabernet Sauvignon had no shatter and was average in tonnage.

From a growers perspective the fruit was good, however it's the chemistry which will matter in the final analysis...

September 1, 2015


Customers have asked me this question over and over again for a few decades now; if you could choose just one wine to drink on your last day of life and last dinner what would it be? My answer is any vintage of Ch. Latour.




During my almost 40 years in the wine business I have been blessed to visit, taste and enjoy many of the world’s greatest wines. Some of my most memorable have been 1982 Cheval Blanc, 1982 and 1986 Mouton Rothschild, 1986 Ch. Margaux, 1982 Pichon Comtesse de Lalande  and the entire line of 1985 DRC wines. These are all legendary wines that I would love to drink on my last day, but because of my experience with the great wines of Ch. Latour, Latour trumps them all. At a Ch. Latour dinner in San Francisco in one evening we enjoyed 1985, 82, 70, 61, 59, 58 and 1945. That tasting alone is a life changer!


We have a close relationship with Ch. Latour and its p...

July 1, 2015

I often refer to the weather in Bordeaux as turbulent and erratic and this always seems to surprise people. The famous worldwide reputation this region has earned leads people to believe that the weather is always great. The reality is that Bordeaux deals with weather adversity almost every year; this can come in the form of early season frost’s that can kill vines, uneven flowering from rain and wind, blistering and unrelenting summer heat (remember you can’t water your vines in France!), thunder storms and hail that can badly injure vines and rain in September and October that can swell and compromise quality. On the other side of the pond here in California these conditions almost never happen.


2011, 2012 and 2013 all experienced different combinations of these challenging conditions. 2014 started great but a gloomy July and a cold August was cause for great worry; in almo...

December 5, 2014



Warm holiday seasons greeting to all you from rainy California! As we move into December everyone has a smile on their face as our first real rain storms of 2014 move into our parched state.


The weather in the last three years has produced outstanding vintages in 2012, 2013 and 2014 but it is also the driest period ever recorded. A fourth year of drought could bring serious consequences to all aspects of California living as well as grape production. Please keep your fingers crossed in hope for a very wet and snowy winter here in California!


The old proverb “the greatest Christmas gift of all is spending time with someone you love” is a perfect thought, but I might add… “But even better with a fine glass of red wine in your hand”!


The holiday season is the time to bring out your best wines for your special people and enjoy life to its fullest; at PrimeCellar we have some sp...

November 5, 2014

​​2014 Bordeaux: Just What the Doctor Ordered!


You can rest assured that everyone in the business of wine in Bordeaux France today is breathing a deep sigh of relief and have wide smiles on their faces. The reason is that the 2014 vintage has been harvested in perfect condition and is heading for the fermentation vats.


The 2014 vintage will forever be remembered for being just what the doctor ordered, after the three extremely difficult and small crop weather vintages in 2011, 2012 (no question the best of the 3) and 2013, Bordeaux not only needed a good vintage but an abundant vintage, and 2014 has thankfully delivered on both counts.


The long story short on the weather conditions that framed 2014 is that for the first time in 3 years there was nice spring weather and budburst and flowering were early and the flowering was even and abundant. July and August had below average...

July 5, 2014


As we move into the month of July one of the most critical aspects of the 2014 vintage has just occurred in the vineyards and that is the flowering of the vines. The little white flowers that will eventually become the grapes have opened up in fine weather conditions in both California and Bordeaux this June and that is fantastic news. Both quality and quantity can be judged by the “grape set” and flowering in cold and wet conditions as well as heavy wind can greatly compromise the vintage and is a huge worry to vineyard managers around the world. After a good flowering and grape set the harvest is under 100 days away and the wineries can relax a bit.


In Bordeaux where the weather is far more turbulent and inconsistent than California the flowering is met with great celebration. The bi yearly VinExpo trade fair brings the world to Bordeaux for a week of exquisite and exclusi...

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Mr. Ralph Sands

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