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Bell Wine Cellars - Big Guy Wine - Yountville

Esteemed Napa Valley winemaker Anthony Bell shares a new high value wine label named for his family’s beloved four-legged friend, ‘Big Guy.’

Anthony Bell is easily one of the most reputable winemakers in California. His namesake winery, Bell Wine Cellars, is one of Napa Valley’s most beloved boutique wineries with an unwavering track record of excellence – highly rated wines, hoards of Gold Medals, and reviews from all of the top industry periodicals. His winemaking style exudes elegance, and it comes through in each of his handcrafted wines. It is because of this rather sophisticated background that Bell was slightly caught off guard when his wife asked him to name a new wine label after their dog, Ty.

“I thought, well, that’s kind of a crazy idea,” Bell recently offered. “Ty was a soft-coated, Wheaton Terrior and he would come to work with us everyday at the winery. He was always my wife Sandra’s companion – she took him everywhere with her – but he was loved very much by both of us. I always called him ‘Big Guy,’ and that’s where the name of our new wine label stemmed from.”

The start of the Big Guy Wines brand happened unexpectedly in 1999, when Bell miscalculated the ratio of bottles to barrels and ended up with a substantial amount of Syrah leftover in barrel. It was high quality fruit from the Sierra Foothills’ Canterbury Vineyard, initially intended for that harvest’s premium Syrah bottling.

“Sandra kept asking me what I intended to do with the barreled wine, and she ultimately suggested I start a new wine label. We’d had wines named after me (Bell), and a wine called Talianna, which was named for our daughters, Talia and Anna, so she proposed that this one be named after her favorite companion, Ty. I just couldn’t say no,” Bell stated flatly.

Bell decided to blend the Syrah with a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and was thrilled with the result of the red blend. To complement it, he crafted a white blend of Napa Valley Chardonnay with Viognier and Marsanne from Santa Cruz to make a Big Guy White Wine. 1999 marked the first vintage for Big Guy Wines, and Bell hasn’t looked back since.

“We really didn’t know what to expect with the Big Guy wines,” Bell started. “But it has become such an important brand to us and it’s been an incredibly successful addition to Bell Wine Cellars. Visitors to the Tasting Room love the wine and, after purchasing it, would insist on taking pictures with Ty on their way out. It was a much bigger hit than we could have anticipated.”

It’s also important to note that the wines blended into the Big Guy wines come from the same lots as Bell’s high-end estate selections for which the winery’s reputation has been built on.

“We treat the Big Guy wines in the same manner that we treat our top of the line wines. Because of that, the cost of goods for these wines is very high and it offers an incredible value to our customers,” Bell explained.

“With Big Guy, we also get to be flexible and select what we really want to work with each year. By having access to fruit from each of our estate vineyards, we have the opportunity to cherry pick from the best lots and come up with the best blends possible for each vintage.”

Currently, the Big Guy Wines’ overall case production rests at a comfortable level of 2,500 cases per year, but Anthony Bell does plan for its future growth.

“I would very much like to see Big Guy grow and become a big part of the business. It has the potential, especially with the recent trend of red blends in the market. As it’s been, we’ve let the demand dictate our growth, and we’ve been very pleased with how well the wines have been received.”

Sadly, Ty passed away in 2010 at the ripe age of 12 ½, and the brand now offers a sense of remembrance for Anthony Bell and his wife Sandra. Big Guys Wines is certainly a proud addition to the Bell Wine Cellars family and its charming blends offer a fresh addition to the Napa Valley entity.

  1. Bell
    2010 Proprietary Red Blend
    Big Guy Red
    Napa Valley


    Special Selection
    id: 1259
  2. Bell
    2010 Proprietary White Blend
    Big Guy White
    Napa Valley


    Special Selection
    id: 1260

Bell and Conversano shared the role of winemaker

It’s a joint effort in crafting the Big Guy wines, with Anthony Bell and Michael Conversano sharing the role of winemaker.

Conversano brings an extensive background in food preparation to his winemaking role with Bell. After spending years a chef, he undertook a very methodical approach to learning and understanding the winemaking process, working at various wineries prior to graduating from UC Davis in 2008 with a Master’s in Viticulture and Enology.

Michael joined Bell Wine Cellars and Big Guy Wines in 2010 and has since worked very closely with Anthony Bell to produce small quantities of vineyard expressive wines.

Anthony Bell - Owner

Anthony Bell has been making wine in the Napa Valley for over three decades and he is well known in the wine industry for his incredible Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux style blends. From the late 1970s through the early 1990s before breaking out on his own, Anthony Bell was responsible for BV’s (Beaulieu Vineyards) now legendary Private Reserves.

Bell’s Cabernet Sauvignons are the culmination of meticulous experimentation and groundbreaking clonal research performed over the last thirty years. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bell collected and planted 14 different selections of Cabernet Sauvignon. They tracked down one particular vine selection in an old, overgrown, abandoned vineyard located near Jackson, California, in the northern Sacramento River Valley. Based on the area’s history, the vine cutting they brought back is thought to have originated in Bordeaux and imported in the late 1800s by California wine pioneer Paul Masson. The vine cutting proved to be ‘Clone 6,” from which Anthony Bell now produces his signature Cabernet Sauvignons (the Big Guy Red Blend includes some of this famed Cabernet as well!).

Born in South Africa, Bell grew up living on a vineyard and winery that his dad managed. ‘Even as a young boy, I distinctly remember I wanted to do the same sort of thing my dad was doing,” Anthony says. To broaden his life experience, after high school he traveled and worked at wineries in both Spain and France, and then spent a year’s duty in the South African Navy. In the early 1970s he entered Stellenbosch University in South Africa to follow through on his study of enology and winemaking.

After graduating, Bell came to the United States to earn his Masters degree in winemaking at the University of California Davis in northern California. His wine career began with a short stint at LaMont Winery in Bakersfield where he was hired in 1978 as quality control manager. The following year, with the help of one of his college professors, he found himself at Beaulieu Vineyards, hired on as their assistant winemaker. This move proved to be key for Bell, for it was at Beaulieu that his wine career began to flourish.

At Beaulieu Vineyards, Bell held a variety of positions on his way up the corporate vine. Over the years, his escalating responsibilities included Operations Manager, Director of Operations and Winemaking, Vice President of Production, and General Manager. As V.P. of Operations, he was in charge of winemaking, production and viticulture operations at Heublein’s Inglenook-Napa Valley, as well as, The Gustave Neibaum Collection, Christian Brothers and Rutherford Estate Cellars. And for Beaulieu Vineyards, Bell was responsible for the many great Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernets for which the winery is widely known. His vast accomplishments are well documented and respected in the wine industry.

In 1991, winemaker Anthony Bell and winegrower John Baritelle founded Bell Wine Cellars. John Baritelle is a long time friend of Anthony and for decades has supplied grapes for Beaulieu Vineyards. It is his vineyard that has provided all the elements and laid the foundation for the Bell Cabernets.

In July 2002, Ron Berberian, a former California wine wholesaler, along with Alex Spanos and his family, real estate developers and owners of the San Diego Chargers, acquired the wine company and formed a new partnership with Anthony Bell. With their support and vision, Bell Wine Cellars has grown from the original 500 cases to 14,500 cases.

Today, Anthony Bell is known around the world for his accomplishments and dedication to the wine industry and we are proud to offer his latest achievements to our Gold Series members.

About The Region

When crafting the Big Guy Wines, Anthony Bell takes the opportunity to select fruit from multiple estate vineyard sites, located in a number of different California winemaking appellations. The Big Guy Red typically includes Syrah from Bell’s Sierra Foothills Canterbury Vineyard, blended with smaller amounts of Yountville, Napa Valley Merlot, Rutherford, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and depending on the vintage, either Petit Verdot or Sangiovese from the home vineyard site in Napa Valley. The Big Guy White utilizes Chardonnay from Napa Valley and Marsanne and Viognier from Santa Cruz.

Anthony Bell couldn’t be happier with the wide selection of premium fruit he has to choose from and he enjoys the flexibility in altering the composition of the wines as he sees fit. By selecting varietals from their best-suited appellations, and blending multiple appellations’ fruit together, Bell is able to craft wines that are truly unique and deeply complex with layers of concentrated fruit flavors. His ongoing goal is to craft expressive, elegantly structured wines and he certainly achieves that with the Big Guy Wines brand.

Crab Cakes Maryland


¼ cup mayonnaise
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, wedges for garnish
1 ½ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
½ jalapeno, seeded, finely chopped
1 lb. lump crab meat, picked over
1 ¼ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 Tbs. thinly sliced chives
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 head Bibb lettuce
2 Tbs. vegetable oil


Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add crab; fold to blend. Stir in ¾ cup panko, chives, salt and pepper. Divide into 6 equal portions. Form each into 1-inch thick patties. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Line a platter with lettuce leaves. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place remaining ½ cup panko on a plate. Coat cakes with panko. Fry until golden brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes per side. Arrange atop lettuce; serve with lemon wedges. Serves 6.

German Bratwurst Salad


Brat Salad:
½ head red cabbage, shredded
½ head green cabbage, shredded
4 German Bratwurst
1 red onion, sliced into ¼ inch rings
4 slices rye bread, 1 inch thick

Beer-Horseradish Vinaigrette:
¾ cup bock beer, such as Shiner Bock
4 Tbs. prepared horseradish
2 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
½ tsp. kosher salt


For the Vinaigrette:
Whisk together beer, horseradish, Dijon, vinegar and salt in a bowl until combined.

For the Brat Salad:
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, then brush the grill grate with oil. Place the cabbage in a disposable roasting pan. Drizzle 1-2 Tbs. of vinaigrette onto the cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and place the brats in a single layer on top of the cabbage. Wrap the roasting pan tightly with foil.

Place roasting pan in center of grill, cover grill, and cook 15 minutes. Move pan to one side of grill and carefully remove foil cover. Using tongs, place sausages directly on grate. Grill sausages, with grill lid down, turning every 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer sausages to platter and loosely tent with foil.

While the cabbage and brats are cooking, brush the onions and the bread with oil on both sides. Grill onion until softened, turning once, 7 minutes. Grill bread until toasted on both sides, 3 minutes.

Chop cabbage, brats, onion, and bread into bite-sized pieces, then toss with the remaining vinaigrette in a large bowl to combine.