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Ancillary Cellars

Sonoma County region

A new boutique winery from the Sonoma Coast

The adjective ancillary is described as providing necessary support to the primary activities or operation of an organization, institution, industry, or system.

In the case of our Platinum Wine Club selection 2014 Ancillary Cellars Pinot Noir Sun Chase Vineyard, the term ancillary refers to two other noted wineries, Carter Cellars and Myriad Cellars. The respective owners, Mark Carter and Mike Smith, have bonded together to produce an exciting Pinot Noir project that has turned heads throughout California and the entire country.

Carter and Smith have a great history together. Smith is the winemaker for several noted wineries including Myriad Cellars, Patiné Cellars, 12C Wines and Becklyn Cellars. He is also the artisan for Carter Cellars’ award-winning wine portfolio. For the record, Carter Cellars is the possessor of one of the rare 100 Point scores given a wine.

When Carter and Smith first joined forces, the principal arena for their efforts was mostly the revered Cabernet Sauvignon. After several years, the awards and medals garnered by the great Bordeaux varietal under their hands are many and varied. Their Cabernets were also listed in the Best Cabernets in California section that the Wine Spectator published in 2012.

Several years ago the pair discovered a mutual love for another varietal, the elusive but much revered Pinot Noir. They agreed that the suddenly prevalent Burgundian grape deserved their attention and on that premise Ancillary Cellars became a reality. They chose the cool climate of the Sonoma Coast AVA, an area that Smith says, “contains climate subtlety that allows us to craft a wine that evokes the layers, complexity and delicacy of Pinot Noir.” He also considers the Sonoma Coast (and the Petaluma Gap) the best possible location for growing Pinot Noir in the entire country.

Mark Carter’s business career involved restoring Victorian homes in his Northern California home city of Eureka. He became friends with Fred Schrader (Schrader Cellars) and eventually started Carter Cellars in the 1980’s as a maker of high quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Mike Smith joined Carter Cellars as winemaker in 2009. Smith was associated with Schrader Cellars under the tutelage of noted winemaker Thomas Brown for seven years.

Carter and Smith are partners in this Ancillary Cellars venture. The fact that their initial Pinot Noir releases garnered incredibly high numbers and ratings came as no surprise to the pair. They pointed to the fact that their vineyard choices could be considered among the finest in California. When Ancillary Cellars was established its owners stated that it was their aim to produce small amounts of terroir-driven Pinot Noir from outstanding vineyards and to explore new viticultural areas that could possibly prove to be great growing potential sites.

“The great appellation that is the Sonoma Coast contains some superb vineyards,” reflected Mike Smith. “The Sun Chase Vineyard (for this Platinum Wine Club Selection) is a high elevation, rock-laden vineyard located in the Petaluma Gap in the hills just above Sonoma Valley. The blocks for the 2013 Ancillary Cellars Pinot Noir are located between 900 and 1400 feet in elevation. This is an almost perfect growing environment for Pinot Noir.”

Mike Smith’s simple philosophy involves a classical approach to winemaking. "I like to create the most natural and expressive wines California can offer. I believe in allowing the fruit to fully reveal itself in the wines, encouraging the personality and terroir of the vineyards, while showcasing itself to the fullest extent. This allows the wines to be true to their nature and brings harmony in the bottle."  

Smith also considers himself a product guy, where the finished product speaks for itself. Such a candid approach is almost novel for a winemaker, particularly one of Smith’s caliber and statue. He decries the tendency to compare California’s growing areas for Pinot Noir to those of Burgundy. “The two are totally different and provide different aspects to their wines. They should be eaten with different foods (Burgundies with heavier meats and game, California Pinot Noirs with salmon, chicken or pork) and enjoyed for just what they are. To prove my point, it is a fact that some consumers who drink only white will try the Pinot Noir from California. This isn’t the case with a good red Burgundy.”

Enjoy this fine release from Ancillary Cellars!

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Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> Members,

Thank you for supporting the Gold Medal Wine Club and for giving us the opportunity to share our 2014 ancillary cellars Pinot Noir from the Sun Chase Vineyard. While we have spent the last 15 years making powerful and high scoring Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, we are relative new comers to the winemaking world of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, having only started the project in 2012. That is not that to say that we are unfamiliar with the varietals, as they have always been some of our go to choices when we pulled wines for ourselves from our cellars. When the opportunity to make wine out of this world class cool climate vineyard on the Sonoma Coast arose, it was with this spirit and love of all wines that made us launch this endeavor and we have been fortunate to receive high praise from both fans and critics alike.

Located 1400 feet above sea level on the western slopes of Sonoma Mountain, the Sun Chase Vineyard is one of the first to emerge from the daily intrusion of fog in the Petaluma Gap, which allowed it to capture ample sunlight throughout the 2014 growing season. Known for its structured yet flamboyant nature, this vineyard delivered only the best to the bottle. Strikingly complex, rich and fruity, this beautifully proportioned Pinot Noir delivers an initial burst of red berry fruit with notes of red and black licorice. From there the wine quickly gains traction and depth, with firm, layered tannins that give the spicy berry flavors a perfect foundation. A beautiful fruit forward entrance, gives way to lively acidity lifting the mid palate and showcasing the strawberry field aromatics. The wine is drinking wonderfully right now, but an additional year or two in the cellar will bring out further complexities.

Again we appreciate your support and it is our sincere pleasure to share this wine with you.


Mike Smith and Mark Carter

Mike Smith - Winemaker

Picture of Mike Smith - Winemaker

Ancillary Cellars’ winemaker is Mike Smith, a veteran Napa Valley winemaker who has produced some of the highest rated wines in California. Mike began his career in 2001, working for Thomas Brown at Schraeder Winery. At the time, Mike was living in Portland, Oregon, and flew down to Napa Valley on the weekends to help out in the cellar. Three harvests later, Mike was offered a full time position at the winery and moved his family down to St. Helena. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Mike makes wine for a number of different labels (Carter Cellars, Myriad, Quivet, 12c, and Scarlett), many of which have earned serious recognition in industry periodicals. He brings this incredible talent, drive, and experience to his newest venture - Ancillary Cellars.