Friday, February 22, 2008

Napa News: Gemstone Brand Sold

Paul and Suzie Frank, who launched the Gemstone brand in 1997, have sold the vineyard and the brand to Michael and Carol Marks. Paul and Suzie, who grew a little overwhelmed with running the business themselves, will continue to manage and consult for the next three years. Current winemaker, Philippe Melka, is still committed to the project.

Winemonkey and I have discovered a lot of Napa treasures over the last few years, but Gemstone is probably one of our favorites. Although Gemstone can be considered a cult wine, it is in fact not an overly precious wine but a no-holds-barred, big, juicy California red. Gemstone is just what you should expect from a wine made by Philippe Melka from mostly Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a vineyard right off the Silverado Trail in sunny Napa Valley. Lots of fruit, powerful flavors, great balance.

The wine is very small production, under 500 cases in 2004, and sells for nearly $200 at retail. Gemstone also makes a second wine, called Facets, which sells for about half that and includes Cabernet Sauvignon as well as portions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Both wines have received high scores from critics from the very beginning (Facets was launched in 2001) and continue to be given acclaim for the 2005 and 2006 vintages.

New owner Michael Marks is an entrepreneur and part owner of the Golden State Warriors, a pretty hot team of late -- if you are into the NBA anyway. Hopefully Marks will not jump through hoops (sorry, sorry!) to increase production and will not lose site of Gemstone’s position amongst the ranks of great Napa reds.

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