One-stop for finest

By Aubrey Buckingham (Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-11 10:15

The Napa Vally in California is a tightly knit community of vignerons and most of the winegrowers are very small so bringing the best of their wines to Shanghai required careful planning. 

Californian wine lovers can now enjoy a much greater selection of drops from the Golden State with the grand opening of new store Napa Reserve last Monday.

Run by Rutherford Bench, it's a company established to share the joy of Californian wines locally, the beautifully-designed Weihai Road store offers a vast and impressive selection.

Rutherford's Chairman Peter Chow is an avid wine buff. Falling in love with the region since he first visited in 1985, the logistics guru eventually took up residence in St Helena.

In 2005, the company purchased Howell Mountain Vineyards from Mike Beatty, Jerre Sears and Joyce Black Sears and continue to produce hand-crafted cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel.

The wines are produced by Orin Swift Cellar proprietor David Phinney.

Also available at the store are offerings from cult and super premium producers. Many of these labels, such as the extremely rare Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle, are being distributed in China's mainland for the very first time.

Such an operation would typically be a logistical nightmare.

Chow, however, has built a career for himself with his expertise in moving things from point A to point B, and has managed to gather these products without a middleman or negocient.

"Napa is a very small grape growing community. Most of the producers are very small; therefore the relationships are very important," he said. "We've been there for more than 15 years and we know almost everybody - winemakers, producers and even restaurant chefs. All these small and medium wineries have always wanted to come to China but have not known how.

"With this consolidated buying power, all of these small regions join together and because of our relationships and our product knowledge, we can bring these small and medium winery products to China with the greatest cost efficiency."

Managing Director Diana Dai, who brings a wealth of experience in investment banking to the table, is just as passionate about fine wines as anyone.

The WSET-trained lady, who is also able to conduct tastings or simple lessons for novices, is hoping that local consumers can see the investment potential of a quality bottle of rare wine.

The two-story store, which features a stone facade and hand-crafted Californain red-oak cellars, is done in the style of a classic cellar found in the Napa region.

Customers can browse the downstairs shelves for affordable entry-level fine wines, or request to view the climate-controlled rooms for more exotic drops.

While most local consumers prefer French labels at present, the store looks to change this mindset with its selection that can be paired with local cuisine.

Old vine zinfandel, for example, with its deep cherry palate and spicy finish, can be quite an accompaniment to braised meat.

While local connoisseurs have been able to source Californian wines produced by big brands from other distributors with relative ease, Rutherford Bench is the first and only exclusive supplier of Californian wine on the Chinese mainland.

The company plans to open another Napa Reserve store in the city and then expand beyond Shanghai in the near future.

Napa Reserve
Address: 383 Weihai Rd
Tel: 021-63400493


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