Bell Wine Cellars was co-founded in 1991 by Anthony Bell and a local Napa Valley grower. Anthony Bell originally hails from the famed wine region Stellenbosch in South Africa. He grew up in a wine family there and had vineyards in his back yard instead of a swing set. Needless to say Anthony developed a passion for wine and in particular viticulture at a very young age. He went on to get his undergraduate degree in Viticulture from Stellenbosch University and immediately left for Bordeaux France to gain his hands on experience–and there was no better place to learn about Cabernet Sauvignon. Working in Bordeaux Anthony learned that the terroir or sense of place where the grapes are grown is the most important aspect of wine. This is the reason that European countries name its wines after the region they are grown rather than by the varietal.
After spending (and absolutely adoring) his time in Bordeaux he wanted to pursue his Masters Degree in Enology–or winemaking–and where else does one do this but at UC Davis in California. Arriving to the Napa Valley in 1979 (an important time in its premium wine revolution) Anthony came in as a leader in the valley almost immediately. He landed a dream job at the famed Beaulieu Vineyard as Assistant Winemaker and Viticulturist — one of the few viticulturists in the valley at that time. He spent 15 vintages at BV where he revolutionized the wine world one project at a time. If you are a winemaker in the valley today making high priced premium wines then think of Anthony as the professor. He was part of ground breaking research on Cabernet Sauvignon Clones, spearheaded the outlining and defining the AVA’s we have today such as Carneros, Rutherford and Oakville. He knew that all great wine was made in the vineyard and started the first grower relations program and shared with growers ideas on how to improve the quality of the grapes. There’s too much that he did to write about in this short article but you get the idea of who this legendary figure is.
A very special selection of Cabernet Sauvignon called Clone 6 or the Jackson Clone that Anthony rescued from an abandoned vineyard in Amador county and neglected for 100 years, inspired him to create his one of a kind Cabernet so he left BV in 1994 to start his own winery Bell Wine Cellars. This specific clone of Cabernet was the “belle of the ball” if you will during his tenure at BV and inspired him to make a single clone single vineyard Rutherford Cabernet (first of its kind of course) and the rest is history. This specific Cabernet Clone 6 plant produces only a partial cluster and the production is extremely low. It’s planted in the Beckstoffer ToKalon and Georges III vineyards in Rutherford so if you think of vineyards like real estate, these vineyards would be most prime places to grow your grapes in the Napa Valley.
This Cabernet is the king of Bell Wine Cellars and in my humble opinion one of the top Cabernets being made in the Napa Valley. This Cabernet Sauvignon defines purity. It’s one single selection or clone of Cabernet, it’s 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon (nothing blended, nothing else needed), one historic vineyard in Rutherford Napa Valley and it’s 100 percent Anthony Bell. More European in style this compares to very fine Bordeaux. If you prefer refined, elegant, balanced, complex Cabernet that isn’t screaming at you but seducing you at each sip then this is your kind of Cabernet. Although this Cabernet Sauvignon is the flagship wine, you can expect elegance, balance and a true unadulterated expression of terroir in all his wines.
You won’t be able to find these small production wines at every store but you can go to the website www.bellwine.com to purchase directly. Great chefs love his wines so also look for his wines on fine wine lists across the country but again they are only made in limited quantity so difficult to find. If you are planning a visit to the Napa Valley this winery is well worth your time to stop by for a grape to glass tour or wine and cheese tasting.