California Cult Classics – a world-class winery and wine club in North Vancouver
We don’t get over to the North Shore as much as we’d like to, so luckily for us, local North Shorer, Les Jickling, is our newest contributor to GLV. Here he weighs in on one of his favourite subjects, wine, with a profile on California Cult Classics. – GLV
We may not have the climate, the soil or the intense sunlight needed to grow grapes to produce award-winning wines in North Vancouver, but we do have a world-class winery and winemaker. That winemaker is Frank Gigliotti. Gigliotti, who founded California Cult Classics in 2005, operates from a winery located in the Hamilton district of North Vancouver. From here, he turns out some of the best wines north of Napa. In partnership with his clients, and operating in a licensed private club operation, this enterprising entrepreneur has found a way to make world-class wines using the very best grapes grown in the Napa Valley.
“Our ‘no compromise’ motto is why we source the finest grapes from Napa Valley,” explains Gigliotti, “Beckstoffer and stagecoach vineyards produce grapes that are generally found in the finest wines made in America. We start with the finest and incorporate the finest winemaking materials.”
Using a combination of old-world techniques, patience and cutting-edge technology, no expense is spared. Even the oak barrels are only used once before they are sold, recycled and replaced with 100% new barrels. The result is a selection of varietals that rival the best award-winning California wines.
Visiting his partner growers in the Napa Valley, Gigliotti personally selects the best grapes, has them picked at 3am at their absolute peak and transported by refrigerator truck directly to his winery. From the moment the grapes arrive he painstakingly applies his craft. Large stainless tanks where the grapes are crushed and fermented use a “pump-over” method that is expensive but reduces sediment. The wines are then aged in new oak barrels because Frank believes the first aging is always the best. A great deal of patience follows, waiting for exactly the right time to bottle which is normally twenty-four months later but can sometimes be as long as twenty-eight. Relying on his own palate, rather than an instrument, Gigliotti tests the tap until exactly the right moment when the wines are ready for bottling.
Bottling of the wines is perhaps the most impressive and essential element in California Cult Classics process. Relying on a piece of advanced technology specially ordered and manufactured in Italy his process injects Nitrogen through the wines to preserve them without using any sulphites. While fine red wines often use sulphites, they tend to impair flavour and cause those notorious red wine hangovers.
“Winemakers use sulphites because they are cheap and do the job,” says Gigliotti, “We use Nitrogen to preserve the wines indefinitely.”
Business is booming for the best kept secret on the North Shore. In the last year, a time when COVID-19 has driven triple-digit growth in online wines sales, California Cult Classics has experienced dramatic growth and a continued mission to achieve the perfect bottle.
“Perfection is not an accident; we work very hard to make wines that can compete with the finest in the world. I come to work every day knowing that I haven’t yet made my finest wine.”