Wine Blog

October 1, 2016

As we turn to October the 2016 vintage is looking good here in California and Bordeaux. As usual California enjoyed consistent weather, a bit cooler than normal summer but with a huge blast of heat to finish off the harvest on Sept 25-28. My boots on the ground, California winemakers report to me these comments.

Mike Kumelis- Owner/Winemaker at Mantra Wines…Hi Ralph, tomorrow 9-28 we will be all in! Light crop, good concentration, and great growing season. Looks like another very good year.Craig Becker- Winemaker at Somerston-Priest Ranch and Kelleher…We are good here, just staring into red harvest this Thursday 9-29. Looks like another good vintage, the warm weather recently has helped move things along!

Mike Lamborn has finished harvest on the top of Howell Mountain! Hi Ralph! September has been a busy month, but last Thursday we finished up the last of the 2016 harvest....

September 1, 2016

For many years people have asked me when is the best time to visit San Francisco and I always answer October; as the fog moves away from the coast leading to lovely fall days.  As I was playing golf last week in San Francisco very close to where I grew up, it was a very cool 65 degrees and the marine layer of fog was in full shroud and it has been this way for weeks. When I got home only 30 minutes away south it was 75 and nice but nowhere near the normal 20-25 degree difference am I used to. I wondered how this cool weather was affecting the grapes so I shot off this email to a couple of my good winegrowing friends… How are things looking in the vineyard? Living here in Redwood City for the past 13 years, the one thing I have noticed this year is that the summer has been much cooler, and without the usual spikes of drastic heat for a few days that we usually get. The temps a...

August 1, 2016

After a relatively cool growing season so far here in California thru June and half of July the summertime heat has finally been turned up to full blast.

Summertime at my house means a real vacation for my wife and me in Lake Tahoe and taking our son to a two week summer camp an hour north of Napa Valley.  On our way back we stopped at two of our favorite spots on earth.

Before we had a child, we stayed many times at Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga. Back then it was a quiet, rustic retreat featuring mud baths and one of the greatest pools in California.  Well things have of course changed; Calistoga is now a hopping tourist town all year round with fine restaurants and tasting bars. Indian Springs has expanded and upgraded all of its facilities and added a restaurant and bar called Sam’s Social Club and is now an extremely popular destination for people from all around t...

February 1, 2016

(Pictured above from left to right, front row, Gian, Stefan and Antony  

Back row, Ralph, Julie, Sherri, Alton, Kim, Jon and Captain Rick)


Where does a wine specialist go for a weekend getaway vacation to re charge his batteries and rejuvenate the soul after the busy holiday season? How about Napa Valley! That is exactly what I did with my wife Kim, son Alton and our family friends from Tampa Florida, Rick, Sherri and their 8 year old triplets Gian, Anthny and Stefan.

Napa in the winter is so beautiful, peaceful and quiet that you almost got the feeling that the valley was closed. But it’s not! It’s just winter!

While everyone here in California is fully embracing the wonderful set of winter storms that are bringing rain and snow to help fill our depleted reservoirs after 4 years of draught, the people working in the tasting rooms and restaurants of Napa are taking this time...

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...

August 1, 2015


Dear PrimeCellar members and friends, I hope you and your families are enjoying the warm summer weather. I have just returned from a two week vacation with my 11 year old son Alton, it was a father and son trip to get away from the rigors of busy city life, and spend some quality time together.

We had a wonderful time in the  majestic Mountains of Livingston, Montana and in the incredible Lake Tahoe National Forest here in California. As I return to the business of wine on this warm Sunday afternoon at 4pm, I realize it's the perfect time for a for glass a glass of Kelleher 2012 Sauvignon Blanc!

While my vacation was to avoid big crowds I can just imagine the thousands of vacationers pouring out of the wineries in the lovely Napa Valley after  day of tasting in 85 degree weather and looking for their next glass of wine. Most likely that wine will be white and chilled! A fantas...

January 5, 2015





Hoping for Peace; and a Great year for Wine in 2015!


Happy New year to you; all our Prime Cellar members and my esteemed colleagues from the west coast of California.


Unfortunately for most of us the year of 2014 will be remembered with a heavy heart and as the year of protests in Hong Kong and in America.


For the first time in five years I did not travel to Hong Kong due to the dramatic protests for democracy. Being an American who has a love for Hong Kong and its people this is very difficult to watch from afar, as well to understand and reveals the harsh reality that we take our freedom here in America for granted every day.


In America’s major cities, protesters are clashing with police over racial profiling and the shooting death of a young black teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri by white police officers and most recently the chocking death of another black...

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...

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Mr. Ralph Sands

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