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LVMH buys majority stake in Napa Valley’s Colgin Cellars

French luxury goods company LVMH Group, whose brands include Louis Vuitton and Dom Perignon, has made another play in Napa Valley fine wine with the acquisition of a majority stake in Colgin Cellars.

Ann Colgin and her husband, Joe Wender, sold 60 percent equity in the St. Helena winery she started in 1992, Paris-based LVMH announced Nov. 21. The couple will keep 40 percent ownership and retain leadership of the operation. Chief Operating Officer Paul Roberts and winemaker Allison Tauziet also will remain in place.

“After a social introduction to Mr. Arnault several months ago and discussions with the LVMH team, I realized that I could not find a better partner for Colgin Cellars to preserve our founding spirit and our exquisitely handcrafted red wines, into the future,” Colgin said in a statement, referring to LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault. “We are happy to join the LVMH Group to continue to offer our loyal customers the unique and high-end experiences we’ve been creating for them, for over a quarter of a century.”


LVMH made a point to note that the winery, located at the north end of the IX Estate vineyard property in the Pritchard Hill area of the valley, wasn’t touched by the massive October wildfires.

Colgin Cellars’s four wines are Tychson Hill cabernet sauvignon, Cariad Napa Valley red wine, IX Estate Napa Valley red wine and IX Estate syrah. They are sold by mailing list to consumers and distributed to high-end restaurants and retailers in the U.S. and more than 30 other countries.


“We share with Colgin Cellars the same desire to offer the very best quality products,” Arnault said in a statement. “I am therefore delighted to welcome Colgin’s unique heritage into LVMH, reaffirming our strategy of selective acquisition of the best existing terroirs, and enriching our collection of iconic wines such as Château Cheval Blanc, Château d’Yquem or Domaine du Clos des Lambrays.”

LVMH Group formed with the merger of Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton. Its 70 brands span hundreds of years of production, from Le Clos des Lambrays started in 1365 to Edun, a fashion brand started in 2005 and acquired in 2009. Revenue in 2016 was 37.6 billion euros, up 5 percent from 2015.

Wine & Spirits business unit revenue was 4.84 billion euros last year, up 5 percent.




Ann Colgin's rocky east-facing Tychson Hill vineyard, just north of St. Helena on the west side of Napa Valley, has a long and celebrated history. It derived its name in 1881, when it was purchased and planted by Josephine and Joseph Tychson. Not long before that the land had been owned by Charles Krug, one of the pioneer winemakers of Napa Valley and founder of the eponymous winery. Following the suicide of her husband, who had suffered from tuberculosis, Josephine Tychson constructed a small winery in 1886 (she was the first woman in Napa Valley to build a winery, as well as one of the first female vintners). But her venture was short-lived, owing to the phylloxera epidemic that became established in Napa Valley in 1893 and led to a plunge in grape and wine prices. The vines were eventually pulled out during Prohibition and the property was sold off in parcels, with Tychson's son and daughter-in-law moving into the original house following her death in 1939.


Modern-Day History

Enter Ann Colgin, who had established Colgin Cellars in 1992, producing her early vintages entirely from the Herb Lamb Vineyard in the foothills of Howell Mountain. In 1996, Colgin bought 2-1/2 acres of fallow land and the original home on Tychson Hill (the entire purchase was just under five acres) and hired superstar viticulturalist David Abreu to plant the vineyard the following year. Since then, Colgin has been actively seeking to restore Josephine Tychson's original holdings. In 2007, she signed a long-term lease on 1.3 acres of land just above her property and planted mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with bits of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.


Then in 2012, Colgin bought a 1.8-acre adjacent property to the south, which she calls Josephine's Hill, as it, too, was part of the original Tychson holding. The vines here were planted in 2014, also mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon but with small percentages of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Colgin most recently purchased another 0.6 acre just to the south of Josephine's Hill, giving her the potential to produce wine from just over 6 acres of vines as soon as planting is finished and the new fruit comes onstream.


In the meantime, in 1998 Colgin and her husband Joe Wender significantly expanded their wine venture by purchasing a spectacular high-altitude estate on volcanic soil in the Pritchard Hill area overlooking Lake Hennessey. The 125-acre IX Estate now has 20 acres of vines planted, and in addition to making a powerful Cabernet it produces one of Napa Valley's finest Syrahs (my notes on a vertical tasting of these wines last year are available here). The IX Estate bottlings were launched in 2002, and as of that year all of the Colgin wines were made at the new winery constructed on Pritchard Hill.


The Tychson Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

The IX Estate wines as well as Colgin's Cariad blend (from three St. Helena vineyards owned by David Abreu) have gained rabid followings for their depth and power. But the Tychson Hill Cabernet is arguably her most "classic" and refined wine, as a sensational vertical tasting of this wine held in Colgin's home on Tychson Hill last month made clear. The vineyard is planted on an unusual volcanic soil known as Aiken Very Stony Loam, to what Colgin calls "rockstar" Clone 4, the widely planted small-berried clone known for its consistent quality and its ability to accentuate the flavors of terroir wherever it is grown, plus the more "Old-World" Clone 337. Although the property is just off the valley floor on the western side of Highway 29, the vines are on a steep hillside that benefits from excellent drainage and from the cooler air that rolls down the hill. And of course the hills to the west protect the vines from the hot late-afternoon sun. The result is typically a vibrant, delineated wine with a floral element, subtle earth notes, firm structure and polished tannins.


Another key to the quality consistency of Tychson Hill Cabernet is continuity in winemaking. Colgin has had three winemakers since the start: Helen Turley made the 1992 through 1998 vintages, Mark Aubert vinified from 1999 through 2006, and Allison Tauziet has been in charge since 2007. But Colgin emphasized that both Aubert and Tauziet served as assistant winemakers here for years prior to being promoted, so any changes they introduced were evolutionary, not revolutionary. "There was a lot of overlap among our winemakers and thus a lot of continuity," said Colgin. Another source of stability has been the involvement of Dr. Alain Raynaud, who has owned several properties in Pomerol and St. Emilion, and whose family made wine in Bordeaux as early as the 15th century. Raynaud has served in an active consulting role since 2001, helping with the viticultural work and with blending the wines.


Colgin's Cabernets have always been rich, glossy wines in a modern style, but they're hardly the biggest wines in Napa Valley. In fact, she told me that her aim is to make feminine, elegant wines and it's the Tychson Hill wine that comes closest to this objective. (Consultant Raynaud added that the team's main goal has always been to focus on aromatic expression: "to have ripe but not overripe grapes.") The addition of between 4% and 8% of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot beginning with the 2009 vintage has only added to the wine's complexity and perfume without changing its essential character ("like putting eye liner on a beautiful woman" is the way Colgin described it).


The last few vintages of the Tychson Hill are just under 15% alcohol in bottle while most of those from the wine's first decade were in the low 15s. Many wine fans - particularly those who have rarely if ever tasted the Colgin wines - lump them in with some other outsized, showy wines of Napa Valley and are convinced that they can't possibly age like the wines of the good old days. But my tasting, which included all vintages back to the first one in 2000, indicated just the opposite.


The Tychson Hill bottlings are still remarkably young and full of life. The first three vintages are entering their windows of peak drinkability, and a few of the more recent vintages are wonderfully sexy today although several seem to be dominated at present by their structures. As a rule, these wines have more than enough density of material - and the balance - to supportat least 20 to 25 years of bottle aging. The quality and structure of these wines are especially noteworthy given the young age of the vines. Incidentally, winemaker Tauziet noted that the recent introduction of cross-arm trellising has moderated the amount of direct sunlight on the grapes, thus allowing for better retention of acidity and fresher fruit, and perhaps partly explaining the slightly lower grape sugars.



The fruit gets a short cold soak, and total time on the skins varies according to the needs of each vintage. Today it's typically between 25 and 30 days but in past years, especially during the tenure of Mark Aubert, it has been as long as 60 days. Fermentation temperatures are normally in the moderate low to mid-80s, according to winemaker Tauziet, as the fruit is naturally intense in flavor and structure and easy to extract (yields in the Tychson Vineyard average a modest 2.5 tons per acre). The wines are aged in 100% new oak, mostly Taransaud barrels, and racking is minimal. Bottling takes place during the second June or July after the harvest.

This vertical tasting took place in mid-March, in Colgin's beautifully renovated house on the property, with Colgin, Joe Wender and Allison Tauziet as my fellow tasters. I cannot recall experiencing a past vertical involving a dozen or more vintages that merited such consistently high scores.



Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 

Vintage: 2012
Drinking Window: 2019 - 2026
Score: 96+
Tasting Notes: Deep, full ruby. Compelling sweetness to the aromas of black raspberry, licorice and minerals. Plush, layered and deep, boasting outstanding volume and inner-mouth perfume to the glossy flavors of dark berries, flowers, ginger and earth. This has all the elements for Cabernet greatness, dialed up to higher setting, and yet today it's hiding more than it's showing even if it already saturates every square millimeter of the palate with flavor. Finishes with huge but utterly sweet tannins and outstanding lingering perfume. A knockout for the vintage, boasting great density and aromatic character.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2011
Drinking Window: 2019 - 2026
Score: 93+
Tasting Notes: Deep, bright ruby. Reticent but pure nose opens with air to show highly complex scents of blackberry, blueberry, licorice, graphite, rosemary, mocha and wet rock. Very pretty, slightly wild flavors of black fruits, juniper berry and violet are very young and wound up but already convey a strong impression of the site. Finishes with edgy tannins that will require patience. The estate did a lot of crop thinning to eliminate the underripe berries and hasten the ripening process for the rest (the wine is actually 14.8% alcohol in bottle). Boasts terrific definition and avoids the greenness shown by so many Cabernets from this vintage. This vintage marked the latest harvest here: between October 16 and 19.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2010
Drinking Window: 2020 - 2036
Score: 97
Tasting Notes: Deep red-ruby. Sappy aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, mocha and cracked pepper. Incredibly vivid and high-pitched on the palate, with the vibrant dark berry flavors complicated by orange peel, espresso and pungent minerality. Conveys an impression of great density without weight. Best today on the inexorable, slowly mounting finish, which finishes with substantial but utterly refined tannins and great lift and length. Stunning already but it would be a shame not to allow this beauty to express itself more fully, as it has the size, balance and acidity to support a long and graceful evolution in bottle. I underrated this wine in the early going.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2009
Drinking Window: 2019 - 2032
Score: 96
Tasting Notes: (all of this fruit was in before the heavy mid-October rainfall, according to Ann Colgin; this was the first vintage with include the new 1.3 hectares of vines planted in 2007, including bits of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot): Deep, saturated ruby. The vibrant, highly aromatic nose offers notes of plum, hard candy and incense. Superripe and voluminous but not a bit heavy or cloying in spite of the compelling, almost chocolatey sweetness of its primary sweet berry fruit. The wine's floral perfume lingers long on the suavely tannic, firmly mineral back end. "Our earliest-drinking 2009," noted Allison Tauziet.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2008
Drinking Window: 2021 - 2033
Score: 93+
Tasting Notes: Saturated medium ruby. Compelling, pure aromas of black raspberry, violet and ginger convey a rather cool quality. Juicy, gripping and penetrating; not an opulent wine but boasts outstanding definition and energy to its flavors of dark berries, flowers and licorice. Finishes youthfully tight, with firm-edged tannins and excellent length. Still needs time to unwind.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2007
Drinking Window: 2021 - 2033
Score: 94+
Tasting Notes: Healthy deep ruby-red. Dark, vibrant aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, black licorice and violet. Very sweet and deep but youthfully brooding, offering superb purity of fruit and a captivating sugar/acid balance. Still a baby on the whiplash of a finish, where its intense dark fruit flavors show lovely floral perfume but are currently partly masked by tongue-dusting tannins. This wine was silkier and more generous a few years ago but is going through a closed phase today.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2006
Drinking Window: 2021 - 2032
Score: 94
Tasting Notes: Good deep red. Musky aromas of dark fruits, graphite, licorice, earth and jasmine. Young and energetic on the palate, with the dark fruit and licorice flavors lifted by a repeating floral note. The slightly tough tannins of this very young wine call for patience. For all its considerable ripeness, this wine too is dominated by its structure and underlying minerality today.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2005
Drinking Window: 2020 - 2035
Score: 95+
Tasting Notes: Deep, full ruby-red. Multidimensional nose combines black raspberry, dark plum, sweet dusty spices, leather, truffle and damp earth, all lifted by an exhilarating note of citrus zest. Creamy and voluptuous in the mouth, conveying an utterly seamless texture and outstanding inner-mouth energy. But this palate-staining wine is extremely young and still needs time in bottle to burn off a bit more of its baby fat.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2004
Drinking Window: 2015 - 2028
Score: 96
Bright, dark red. Lovely complex, subtle perfume of black raspberry, mulberry, currant, nutty oak and sexy brown spices. Wonderfully pliant and fresh in the mouth, showing some very ripe qualities but also outstanding detail and finesse its flavors of black raspberry and deep wet-stone minerality. Offers compelling sweetness while retaining a firm shape, finishing long and aromatic, with very suave, harmonious tannins. I found this wine a bit liqueur-like upon release but today it's a knockout.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2003
Drinking Window: 2020 - 2028
Score: 93+
Good deep red-ruby. More subdued on the nose than the sexy 2002, offering distinctly dark fruit flavors complicated by espresso and herbs. Seamless in texture but not particularly expansive today, showing a slightly syrupy quality to its fruit and licorice flavors. The substantial, slightly tough tannins could use a bit more patience.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2002
Drinking Window: 2015 - 2030
Score: 96
Bright, deep red-ruby. Glossy aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, mocha, coffee, graphite and truffle; if the above is Médoc-like, this is more Pomerol. Remarkably sweet and deep, conveying a 3-D texture to its flavors of dark berries, minerals and spices. This large-scaled but beautifully balanced wine is a lush mouthful now but will gain further complexity with more time in the cellar. Really saturates the palate on the very long, tactile aftertaste.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2001
Drinking Window: 2020 - 2032
Score: 93+
Bright dark red. Slightly lower-toned on the nose than the 2000 edition, offering scents of tobacco, smoke, charcoal, graphite, dusty herbs, hot stones and cigar box. Classically dry, firm and claret-like: imagine a hypothetical blend of a Pauillac and a Margaux. Finishes with substantial but polished tannins and a juicy quality that suggests there's more ahead. Still, I recall finding more sappiness and power in the early going.


Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard 
Vintage: 2000
Drinking Window: 2015 - 2024
Score: 93
(made entirely from the original 2.5-acre planting): Good dark red. Complex, perfumed aromas and flavors of redcurrant, plum, violet, lead pencil and wild herbs. A juicy, intense midweight with a supple texture and no heaviness. Impresses for its balance, not for its sheer size. Finishes with suave tannins and excellent subtle length. Lovely wine for drinking now or holding--and remarkable considering that the vines were just three years old.


 By Stephen Tanzer



Ann Colgin’s wines stand out as one of the most refined styles of wines produced in Napa Valley. They show distinctive purity of ripe black fruits, refined tannin structure and extremely elegant flavor profiles. The Colgin's Herb Lamb is one of the best examples of that. The hundred percent Cabernet Sauvignon from the Herb Lamb Vineyard, has been the hallmark wine of Colgin Cellars from its debut in 1992. In early 1990s, Ann made a long-term contract with the vineyard owners, Jennifer and Herb Lamb, that she had an exclusive access to the top vine rows of this small, 7.4 acre, vineyard lying on an elevation of 600 to 800 feet on well-drained rocky soils of St Helena. In hands of the legendary Napa Valley winemaker Helen Turley, who was winemaker for Colgin Cellars 1992-1999, these terroir-driven grapes were transformed into a wine that caught the eye of the powerful critics and Colgin’s fame as one of the top-rated producers was written.



The grapes are harvested during the night and go through three sortings, starting in the vineyards. The final sort takes place in the winery, where 15 people will do the final grape by grape sorting before crushing the grapes. Moving the grapes, juice or wine is done by gravity. The barrels, tanks and vinification equipment, along with the basket presses, are of the highest quality. Only the finest neo-classical winemaking methods are used in concert with small yields, gentle handling, attentive sorting and meticulous blending to capture the distinctive terroir characteristics of each Colgin wine. We blend talent with terroir, tradition with technology and passion with precision to create wines with distinctive personalities and a profound sense of place.” Ann Colgin sums up.

While the Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon was for a long time the benchmark wine of Colgin, the saga came to an end in 2007, which was the final vintage Colgin made this hailed wine. The declining health of the twenty-year-old vineyard made it difficult to continue to maintain the high quality level displayed in all of the other Colgin wines. By 2007, our own estate-grown vineyards have come into full maturity, our focus has moved to the exceptional sites that produce our IX Estate, Tychson Hill and Cariad wines,” says Colgin. Dropping out the wine that made Colgin Cellars once so famous must have not been an easy decision, but after tasting Colgin’s wines from its monopole sites there is no doubt Colgin is creating currently several new success stories after the Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon. While waiting the new wines to reach their optimum drinkability, it is comforting to drink this spectacular Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The Tychson Hill vineyard was originally planted in 1881 by Josephine Tychson, the first female vintner in Napa Valley. Though the vines were removed during prohibition and the land broken up into adjoining lots, Ann Colgin has been restoring the original holdings since 1997. The property consists of approximately four acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, with several vine rows of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The signature terroir features a rocky east-facing slope containing some of the rarest volcanic soil in Napa Valley, known as Aiken Very Stony Loam, which imparts distinctive floral, earthy, ethereal notes to a wine exemplary of Colgin Cellars’ offerings.

Colgin Cellars winery is located at IX ESTATE (“Number 9 Estate”) high above Lake Hennesey, on a secluded mountaintop in the Pritchard Hill area of St. Helena. The gravity fed winery is a remarkable marriage of classic design and contemporary technology. Here the graceful lines of a Mediterranean villa and the round, barrel-like signature of the Cellar integrate the winemaker’s craft with its ecology, creating a noble place that is at once Californian in spirit and timeless in character. Set against a majestic view of Napa Valley and the surrounding intimacy of its vineyards, IX ESTATE is an inspiring venue of faultless terroir and meticulous technique, a worthy extension of the Colgin mystique. The winery is not open to the public.



Colgin Cellars winery is located at IX ESTATE (“Number 9 Estate”) high above Lake Hennesey, on a secluded mountaintop in the Pritchard Hill area of St. Helena. The gravity fed winery is a remarkable marriage of classic design and contemporary technology. Here the graceful lines of a Mediterranean villa and the round, barrel-like signature of the Cellar integrate the winemaker’s craft with its ecology, creating a noble place that is at once Californian in spirit and timeless in character. Set against a majestic view of Napa Valley and the surrounding intimacy of its vineyards, IX ESTATE is an inspiring venue of faultless terroir and meticulous technique, a worthy extension of the Colgin mystique. The winery is not open to the public.

Owner: Ann Colgin

First vines planted: 1988 by Herb & Jennifer Lamb Location: St Helena Vineyard size: 7.4 acres Average age of vines: 20 years Production: 300 cases Most of the Colgin wines are allocated to direct mailing (65-70%). There are 3,500 in the mailing list queue at present. The majority of Colgin wines are offered by allocation to mailing list of private collectors. A small portion of the production is distributed to select restaurants in the United States, Europe and Asia. Vineyard manager: David Abreu Winemaker: Allison Tauziet


Inside information

Ann Colgin

As a vintner, an art collector, and an avid philanthropist, Ann Colgin is a renaissance woman with a playful and elegant personality.  A native of Texas,  Ann completed her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University followed by an M.A. at New York University. She completed the Sotheby’s Decorative Arts Course in London, began her career in the auction world in New York, and later was the Director of the Sotheby’s West Coast Wine Department based in Los Angeles.

In 1988,  Ann attended the Napa Valley Wine Auction and fell in love with the region. She began spending summers and holidays in the area exploring the many aspects of the wines made there.  After years of searching for a prime vineyard location, a hillside vineyard was discovered which would become the foundation for the creation of Colgin Cellars in 1992.

Ann is currently an Executive Committee Member of the Board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Centre Pompidou Foundation. Since 2009,  Ann has chaired LACMA’s Collectors Committee Weekend, helping to add over $30 million of art to the permanent collection of the Museum.

She is a founding vintner and Honorary Trustee of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, where she served as Auctioneer for the first twelve years, helping to bring in more than $191 million for at-risk and underprivileged children.

Ann and her husband, Joe Wender, are lead investors in Camille Giroud, a negociant in Beaune, France. They have two adorable Coton de Tulear dogs, Gevrey and Mazis, named for vineyards in Burgundy.


Allison Tauziet

As Director of Winemaking for Colgin Cellars,  Allison works closely with our vineyard teams and oversees the production of all Colgin wines.  With her steadfast attention to detail, she ensures every effort in our grape growing and vinification is for the purpose of crafting unique wines at the highest level.

Intrigued by the adventure of her first grape harvest at Domaine Chandon in 1997,  Allison Tauziet chose to study viticulture and enology at the University of California Davis, pursuing degrees in both Fermentation Science and French.

Post-graduation, she moved to France to work as an intern at the Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux.  Working for their Ecole du Vin, Allison taught Bordeaux wine classes to English speaking visitors. Upon returning to the U.S., she joined Far Niente Winery as an Enologist, then as Assistant Winemaker for 5 years. That experience provided her with a breadth of winemaking skills in the cellar and in the laboratory.

Allison joined Colgin Cellars in 2005 as Assistant Winemaker.  She was promoted to Winemaker in 2007, and Director of Winemaking in 2018.

Allison lives in Napa with her husband and her two children, with whom she enjoys travelling and a variety of outdoor activities.


5 different wines with 95 vintages


  • Allison Tauziet


    “It truly is what I believe makes great wine. It’s not in the winemaking, it’s in the vineyard.”

  • Ann Colgin

    "Our winemaking philosophy has always been to express the true character of each unique vineyard site”
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