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2014 GKG Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon


Reviewed by

Robert M. Parker

Issue Date: Dec. 30th 2016

Produced by GKG Cellars

From California’s North Coast, Napa Valley

Rating 94

Price $110

Drink 2016-2031


This blend of %90 Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec from the Lewelling Vineyard in St. Helena was made by photographer Greg Gorman. This wine, aged 17 months in new French oak is a beautiful, supple Cabernet Sauvignon, very much in keeping with this vintages hallmark lushness. Offering silky tannins, low acidity and oodles of ripe blue and black fruits, it is layered, full bodied, delicious and sexy. Drink it over the next 10-15 years. www.gkgcellar.com


Photo Finish
Celebrity photographer Greg Gorman sets his sights on the wine industry
Daniel Sogg
Issue: September 30, 2009

Ask Greg Gorman about any A-listers from the past four decades, and chances are he has photographed them. Brando? “Yeah, he was a real nice guy.” Bowie? “I shot four or five of his album covers.” U2? “No,” he says after a moment. “But they have been over for a couple of parties.”

Gorman, 60, is a preeminent celebrity photographer. He took his first picture in 1968, borrowing a friend’s camera for a Jimi Hendrix concert in Kansas City, Mo. He moved to California in 1970 to study cinematography at the University of Southern California, and has been in Los Angeles ever since.

At first, Gorman got by shooting headshots for $35 a day and doing design and layout for movie posters and press books. Then he got his big break in 1982, when he received the opportunity to photograph actor Maxwell Caulfield, who starred in Grease 2, for the cover of Interview, the magazine founded in 1969 by Andy Warhol. That gig paved the way for more high-profile jobs.

Gorman has since done scores of magazine covers, shot hundreds of celebrities and worked on the promotional photography for dozens of films. “I was fortunate to get some of those big jobs under my belt early,” he says.

People tend to warm to Gorman, who has an infectious affability. Despite his many Hollywood connections—and fees that hover around $20,000 a shoot—Gorman is ready for a change. “I’ve had a wonderful career in the movie business, and I feel like it has run its course,” he says. “My passion now is for wine.”

That passion has been growing since the mid-1970s, when Gorman first started sampling bottles from Greenblatt’s Delicatessen & Fine Wine Shop in West Hollywood. He bought his first case there, a Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva from the late ’60s. Another early favorite was Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1982, while shooting the ad art for Tootsie, Gorman spent about five weeks in New York, often dining with the late Sydney Pollack. Pollack enjoyed Italian food and wine, and he got Gorman hooked. “I fell in love with Tignanello,” he says, referring to the Sangiovese-based super Tuscan blend produced by Marchesi Antinori.

In 1992, American Photo profiled Gorman, who is also known for work in black and white and with nudes. The article included a shot of him with bottles of 1982 Silver Oak and 1982 Château Pétrus. Silver Oak ended up inviting him to its Oakville winery, a visit that started Gorman down the path of exploring Northern California wine regions. “I didn’t know to spit at first,” he says with a laugh.

In the late 1980s, Gorman began collecting. The first step was creating a cellar space in his home, applying insulation and refrigeration to what had been a storage room for negatives. Gorman now has about 3,500 bottles divided between his two homes, the original one in West Hollywood and his new house up the coast in Mendocino. Italy and California were the initial focus for his collection, especially Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons and the wines of Tuscany. Washington state Syrahs and California Pinot Noirs are a couple of his more recent interests. 

Gorman percolates with energy, like he just downed a double espresso. And no topic animates him like wine—ask him about his favorite producers, and names issue in a torrent that includes Napa brands Carter, Robert Foley and Schrader; Brunello estate Casanova di Neri; and California Pinot Noirs Aubert, MacPhail and Londer.

Some of the owners of these estates have become his friends, especially since 1998, when Gorman finished construction of his home in Mendocino. He spends as much time there as possible. “When I’m arriving in the plane to Santa Rosa and see the vineyards, I just relax,” he says. The lifestyle in Mendocino is slower and celebrity-free, but Gorman’s photography work helps open wine-industry doors. He shot an album cover in 2008 for Napa winemaker and musician Robert Foley.

In 2007, he made wine with the help of vintner Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift Cellars in Napa Valley. The two met through a local retailer who knew that Phinney was looking for a photographer for a new label. The standard fee was out of range, but Gorman accepted the job in exchange for wine—he loves, in particular, Orin Swift’s Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Mercury Head. 
Gorman’s work on the photo shoot made Phinney a fan. “He really brings over-the-top attention to detail,” Phinney says. “He took five hours, and the last shot was the one we used, but Greg would have kept shooting. He then worked on the [digital photo] for a week straight.” The finished product is a striking label, a close-up of the weathered hands of grower Vince Tofanelli, who produced the grapes for the Cabernet blend Papillon, at his vineyard in Calistoga.

Gorman has already made one wine this year with Phinney at Orin Swift and expects to make two more. The first was a barrel of a 2006 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot from Stanton Vineyards and the Lewelling Block of Taplin Vineyards, both in St. Helena. The others will be a barrel of 2007 and one of 2008. Initially, Gorman asked Phinney to put together a blend for him, but Phinney had other ideas. “I trust Greg’s palate so much, I told him to come in and make his own wine,” he says.

The 2006 was intended to be a trial run, and Gorman has not yet decided on the barrel lots to be used for the 2007 or the vineyard blocks for the 2008. He decided to call his label GKG Cellars, because “Gorman” had already been trademarked. The prospect of working the 2008 and 2009 vintages from start to finish especially excites Gorman, allowing him to trace the maturation of the grapes, to taste through potential vineyard blocks with Phinney, and then to follow the fermentation and development in barrel. “I know I’ve got a lot to learn,” he says. “It’s like photography. You can study textbooks, but nothing beats hands-on experience.”

At the beginning of his career, Gorman mostly photographed the talent, the people onscreen and the people onstage. But he’s grown more interested, both personally and professionally, in the people behind the product, the directors and producers. In the same vein, it’s now the people behind the wine—the growers and vintners—who most intrigue Gorman. He’s cutting back on the celebrity photography and hopes to buy a home in the north of Napa Valley, closer to the wineries and his own winemaking ventures.

But photography will always have a prominent role in his life. Gorman, who has published seven books of photography since 1990, has a new book, In Their Youth, coming out this fall. A collection of black-and-white photographs taken over several decades, the book presents portraits of young men—actors, musicians, chefs and others—at the beginning of their careers. Leonardo DiCaprio, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Costner and Charlie Sexton are among the famous subjects shot by Gorman in their late teens and early 20s.

Gorman teaches a six-day digital-photo workshop four times a year at his Mendocino home. He shifted from film to digital in 2002 and is recognized today as one of the gurus of the medium. The seminars always include wine tastings proctored by vintners, such as Phinney and Pete Seghesio, of Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg.

For Gorman, the processes and parameters of winemaking and photography are quite similar, and the transition from one to the other makes perfect sense. “You are only as good as the subject,” he says. “You can enhance the subject, but you can’t change them into a different person. Winemaking is the same.”




"The full-bodied 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (96% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec) exhibits lots 

of cedarwood, blackberries, blackcurrants, licorice and graphite characteristics. Primarily from two valley vineyards, Llewellyn and Morisoli, it can be enjoyed over the next 10-15 years." 

For over four decades, Greg Gorman has continued to master the art of photography. From celebrity portraits and advertising campaigns to magazine layouts and fine art work, Greg has developed and showcased a discriminating and unique style in his profession. Greg’s work documents that peculiar obsession of the 21st century celebrity. One day he received a call inquiring whether or not he might be interested in photographing a project with Dave Phinney of Orin Swift fame. Being a huge fan of Mercury Head, one of their extraordinary wines, Greg was anxious to meet the man behind the juice. He liked the concept for his new wine, Papillon, and from there the collaboration began. Greg and Dave completed the shoot photographing Vince Tofanelli's hands and than headed over to Dave's for dinner...you know that label! 

The following year Greg approached Dave in regards to helping Greg make his own wine. Dave not only agreed but was very encouraging. Dave also really pushed Greg by bringing in all the samples blind and tasting through the different varietals until Greg had found the various components to make his blend. It certainly was trial and error coming up with what worked for Greg's palette-but what a learning experience! 

Now, just before this wine was released, we heard from a few "insiders" that this was the best Cabernet Dave Phinney has ever produced. that's a pretty big statement, especially knowing all the wines that Dave has made over the years. So as soon as the wine landed, we opened up a bottle and had the entire attending wine staff taste it. We couldn't believe it...this is, in our honest opinion, the best Cabernet Sauvignon we have ever tasted from Dave Phinney and Orin Swift Cellars! 

A blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot, and 1% Malbec, the aromatics offer up a combination of black currant and espresso with an underlying hint of toasted oak. Full bodied with strong flavors of black fruit, currants and cherries flood your palette on entry with further hints of espresso, dark chocolate and plums playing on your mid palette-coating the roof of your mouth with elegant integrated flavors of blackberry and cassis. Great acidity and sweet firm tannins round out a long finish and certainly make this vintage very age worthy.  Only 268 cases were produced!

 © Greg Gorman Photography