The Kapcsandy (pronounced cap-chandee) family purchased the historic State Lane vineyards in
2000 after phylloxera destroyed the vines in 1999. Up until then, the State Lane grapes
remained the cornerstone of Beringer Estate’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. From 2001
until 2005, the grande dame of Napa Valley winemakers; Helen Turley along with her
viticulturist husband, John Wetlaufer produced the Kapcsandy Family wines. Starting in 2005,
Dennis Malbec (no relation to the Malbec grape) of Chateau Latour fame along with Rob
Lawson took over winemaking responsibilities. In just seven short years, the Kapcsandy Family
wines have vaulted from newbie to cult status among wine lovers nationwide.

Dinner with Lou Kapcsandy

We recently attended a wine dinner at 3660 on the Rise restaurant featuring all three of
Kapcsandy Family’s 2005 wines along with a horizontal tasting comparing the 2004 Kapcsandy
Family Estate Cuvee with 2004 Chateau Margaux, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Joseph Phelps
Insignia and Opus One. Heavy hitters indeed. If you can hold your own again company like this,
you deserve to be considered a cult wine classic!


The evening started with a champagne reception for Lou and Roberta Kapcsandy with a Charles
Ellner Carte d’Or NV bubbly. It was the perfect aperitif for the anticipation of tasting Napa
Valley’s latest golden (red) child next to first growth Bordeaux. The Kapcsandys were very
cordial with Lou explaining every question in detail; harvesting the grapes, punching,
fermenting, barreling, etc – maybe not the first questions that come to your mind but certainly
important questions for a wine geek like yours truly.

Blind Tasting

To make the tasting interesting (and as objective as possible), Marvin Chang of R. Fields Wine
Company had us taste the wines “blinded”. In other words, each taster simply had five glasses of
wine in front of them without knowing which wine was in each glass. We had 10 to 15 minutes
to sample the wines then a simple vote was taken to decide which wine each taster preferred.
After the votes were tallied, the crowd favorite was... drum roll please… 2004 Kapcsandy Family
Estate Cuvee.
Yours truly (as well as the Mrs) voted with the Kapcsandy majority. It had currant and red fruit
on the nose with lots of sweet fruit on the palate and a nice rich mouth feel. It also had touches
of spice and balancing tannins with a very long finish. For the record, I had the 2004 Opus One
a close 2nd and the 2004 Joseph Phelps Insignia a solid 3rd. Unfortunately, the two illustrious
first growth Bordeaux were tied for last. In all fairness, 2004 was an excellent vintage for
California Cabernet and simply a good vintage in Bordeaux. French Bordeaux also takes more
bottle time to fully develop (think Hilton younger generation which peaks in popularity now
versus Deneuve which is peaking in her 6th decade).

What’s for Dinner?

The 2005 Kapcsandy Family Estate Cuvee was paired with Braised Short Ribs and Foie Gras
Ravioli and Mushroom Jus. The 2005 Kapcsandy Family Roberta’s Reserve was paired with a Fire
Roasted Duck Breast with Wild Mushroom Sauce and the 2005 Kapcsandy Family Cabernet
Sauvignon was paired with Pan Seared Tenderloin of Beef with Caramelized Shallot Sauce. For
dessert, a 2000 Gros Degenfield Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos was paired with Red Wine Poached
Pears with Blue Cheese and Toasted Pecans.

What about the Kapcsandy 2005 Wines?

The 2005 Kapcsandy Family Estate Cuvee which is a Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Merlot (40%)
and Cabernet Franc (4%) blend, was a little earthier and a little tighter than the 2004 version
but was still very good. It did provide a nice balance to the short rib and foie gras ravioli though
a full bodied Burgundy or Pinot Noir may have been a better pairing.
The 2005 Roberta’s Reserve (91% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc) which is Kapcsandy’s attempt to
mimic the great wines of Pomerol and St Emilion in Bordeaux but it was a little tight on the
nose but did provide a lot of rich mocha and chocolate flavors on the palate though I would
cellar it for another 3 to 5 years before uncorking. The fire roasted duck breast that it was paired
with was magnificent (it was almost like perfectly roasted pork tenderloin) and was my favorite
course of the evening.
The final pairing was the 2005 Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Vin with pan seared
tenderloin of beef. This was my favorite 2005 Kapcsandy wine of the evening. Loads of currant
on the nose with a touch of vanilla without being too oaky. It also had a very rich mouth feel
with a very long finish. It almost made me forget about the beef tenderloin. Almost but not
quite. If you want a wine to stash for your 10th or 20th anniversary, this would be a worthy

Sweets Anyone?

Though the Kapcsandy Family doesn’t produce any dessert wines, they did import those luscious
Hungarian dessert wines, Tokaji in a previous life so a 2000 5 Puttonyos Gros Degenfield was
served with red wine poached pears and bleu cheese and toasted pecans. The richness of the wine
was the perfect background for silky, sweet pears, tangy bleu cheese and crunchy nuts. A great
way to end a grand wine tasting dinner!

What about the Cost?

As you may have guessed, once a wine attains cult wine status or Robert Parker has anointed it
with 95 plus points, it doesn’t come cheap. All three of the red Kapcsandy wines are more than
$100 per bottle. As such, it does make a great Valentine’s Day dinner for your significant other.
Which I did plan to do. Until the Mrs paid for the dinner when I was preoccupied looking for
future wine purchases. Oh well, she’ll have to make to make do with clothes or jewelry of my
choosing today…
The Next Cult California Wine