Wine & Spirits

11 Jan 2019

Diamond Creek

Diamond Creek

Author: Vintage Wine  /  Categories: Wine  /  Rate this article:
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Diamond Creek was established in 1968 by Al and Boots Brounstein.  In 1968 things were very different in Napa Valley than they are now.  Much of Napa was still cattle land or orchards and there were only a dozen or so serious wineries like Heitz, Mondavi and BV.  High end Cabernet was the furthest thing from anybody’s radar.  Winery owners like the Brounsteins had to go door to door to restaurants and retailers to try to sell their wines.  The restaurants weren’t interested in California wine…they only wanted European.  Once legendary wine consultant Andre Tchelistchef gave his approval of the site, Brounstein established his vineyard and  always believed in Napa and in Diamond Mountain. He always thought Diamond Creek wines were worth the price tag.  In 1972 his wine was priced at $12.50 per bottle which sounds modest by today’s standards but in the ‘70s that was very expensive.  It was a different time, but through it all Diamond Creek has achieved many landmarks.


•  First all Cabernet vineyard in California.

•  First California vintner to sell a bottle of wine for $100 in 1982

•  First California winery to bottle three different vineyards

•  First California winery on a hilltop.


The vineyards are planted from cuttings of three of the five first growths of Bordeaux that Brounstein smuggled in from Mexico on his plane.  The early versions included less oak and more stem inclusion than recent vintages.  At 800’ elevation the vineyards are above the fog line so they get full sunlight, but because of the high elevation the vineyards also receive cool weather in the evenings.  The huge diurnal temperature swings on the mountain top develop more acidity than valley floor vineyards which adds to Diamond Creek’s balance and longevity.  


We’ve tasted Diamond Creek wines with 2nd generation owner Phil Ross consistently for the last handful of years, and the wines are breathtaking.  In the last tasting featuring 2015s and 2016s, the wines had a combination of expressive aroma, purity of fruit, concentration, balance, elegance.  Only the very best of the best possess these qualities.   In terms of quality Diamond Creek is right up there with Napa’s elite such as Opus One, Phelps Insignia, Shafer Hillside Collect as well as the cult wines such as Harlan, Colgin and Screamining Eagle.   Diamond Creek was Napa’s cult wine before cult wines even existed. Once Napa’s most expensive wine, it has been surpassed by many in price and is actually a good deal relative to its peers.  


The wines are a joy to drink now and they will age for a very long time.  A recent tasting of 1978 Volcanic Hill showed the wine was still very young for its age.  


What is the difference between the three different vineyards?  Gravelly Meadow is the coolest vineyard and Volcanic Hill is the warmest with Red Rock Terrace being in between so each has its own microclimate and personality.  There generally isn’t a consensus of which one of the vineyards is the best.  It can vary from vintage to vintage.  It can vary depending on when you drink them.  One of the best way to enjoy them is all three side by side so you can see the different personalities and nuances.



The 2015 Diamond Creek wines are showy wines right now.  They have a rare blend of power and elegance.  Supremely balanced wines.  In a normal vintage Diamond Creek makes about 2,000 cases combined from all the bottling, but 2015 is an extremely small vintage so there is much less than normal.  2012-2016 are all great vintages from Napa, and 2015 might be the prettiest of the quintet.

2015 Gravelly Meadow $221.00

Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Gravelly Meadow opens with a lovely floral perfume of violets and rose hip tea with a core of chocolate-covered cherries, mulberries, blueberry compote and plum preserves plus hints of wood smoke, tobacco and menthol. Full-bodied and firmly framed with grainy tannins and background freshness, it has gorgeous earthy layers and a mineral-tinged finish.”  ~ Wine Advocate, 97 points

2015 Red Rock Terrace $221.00

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace is deep garnet-purple colored with a drop-dead gorgeous nose of crème de cassis, warm plums and blueberry compote with touches of chocolate box, licorice, vanilla pod and coffee beans plus wafts of cedar and cinnamon toast. Full-bodied and rich with gorgeous super ripe, fine-grained tannins and seamless freshness, it finishes very long and very spicy.”  ~ Wine Advocate, 99 points

2015 Volcanic Hill $221.00

Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill opens with dusty soil, cloves and fragrant earth scents with a core of red and black cherry preserves, plum pudding, blackcurrant cordial and mocha with touches of cedar chest and potpourri. Very big, rich and decadently fruited, it fills the mouth with powerful fruit and a taut frame of fine-grained tannins plus great freshness, finishing long and perfumed. ” ~ Wine Advocate, 96+ points



The 2016 Diamond Creek wines are basically the 2015s, but with amped up concentration.  The wines are dark and expressive.  A wonderful vintage.

2016 Gravelly Meadow $245.00


2016 Red Rock Terrace $245.00


2016 Volcanic Hill $245.00


2013 Lake Vineyard $600.00

Lake has only been made in 17 times in 51 vintages - basically on average 3 times every decade -  the most recent being 2016, 2013 and 2010.  it is Diamond Creek’s coolest vineyard and smallest at just 3/4 of an acre.  This is a rarity and we don’t have tasting notes on it.  


All these wines are rare - in the case of Lake Vineyard, super rare.  



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