Saturday 2 February 2019

Le Grignolino est arrive

Heitz Cellar Grignolino from the Napa Valley, California USA is one of our favourite wines. There may be some equally good Grignolini from Monferrato or Asti (Trinchero comes to mind) but none is better than Heitz to our taste.

Justerini and Brooks are the importers for Heitz in the UK but they have not brought in the Grignolino to our knowledge. They import Heitz's 'benchmark' Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon but sadly that's it.

Heitz produce Cabernet Sauvignons from their other two Californian estates, a Rose from Grignolino, a Zinfandel, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay and a Port which is made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Sauzão, Tinta Cao, Tinta Bairrada,Tinta Madeira, Tinta Amarela and Bastardo. It;s not clear if these grapes are grown on their estates or bought in.

The original owner of the St. Helena vineyard was Leon Brendel whose only interest was in growing Grignolino.

To emphsize this fact he called his vineyard 'Only One'.

The Heitz family bought the vineyard in 1961 and subsequently transplanted the Grignolino vines to their winery vineyard where they now flourish on a sunny hillside.

Heitz are the only US producer to make a 100% Grignolino,

We pick up bottles whenever we can on our visits to America but the wish to have this Grignolino almosr as a house wine is always there.

The Heitz family with Harrison Heitz (centre) and winemaker Brittany Sherwood right.
So we wrote to Heitz Cellar and were touched to receive a friendly reply from none other than a Heitz family member, Harrison Heitz. As well as sending us the shots of the Only One label and the medal awarded to Leon Brendel for his 1953 vintage Grignolino Mr. Heitz offered to help by trying to persuade Justerini to take a case or two for us or else to ship a case directly. This he said would be prohbitive with around $200 shipping costs.

We agreed that this seemed a lot so left it at that. Soon we started to think maybe we should try to import the wine ourselves. Justerini had said they would see what could be done but it looked like taking time.

Our eye was caught one day by a company called MyUS who offered to facilitate anyone in the UK wanting to import stuff from the USA.

This looked promising so we thoought we would give it a go. The only problem was that it seemed impossible to estimate the total costs. The wine would have to be shipped first to an address in Florida and then to London. There would be a handling charge, two sets of shipping charges and possibly duty to be paid.

Prices in the US for Heitz Grignolino vary considerably starting at $15.26 and going up to $38.92 per bottle ex. Sales Tax! We thought this a bit odd until we took a look at prices for Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. In the UK you can pay between £133 including VAT and £168 before VAT.

We thought it best to find a merchant in Florida so the cost of shipping to MyUS would be reasonable and we would not get into difficulties crossing state lines. We found a friendly and efficient merchant in Miami called Your Wine Cellars and bought 12 bottles from them for $28.13 a bottle or $371.76 for 12 including shipping.

MyUS was equally friendly and efficient and forwarded the case of Grignolino to us in London for a charge of $116.66 (£95.96) plus Fedex charges of £97.30. That is how Harrison Heitz arrived at the ballpark figure of $200 we suppose. Actually this was higher.

So in Sterling we ended up paying a total of £493.95 or £41.16 per bottle. This is rather more than the Heitz ex-cellar price of $22.50.

There was one further point to add to the account: the wine was rather closed up after its journey. Not something amateurs like us think of but wine is alive and needs time to get over handling by multiple people and jet lag. We will return to it in the summer, perhaps.