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Short Story


Kalin Cellars was founded in 1977 and is located in Marin County - just north of San Francisco. It is owned and operated by Terry and Frances Leighton. They are the only two people between the grape and the bottle - there are no assistant winemakers, cellar workers, etc. - just a little help from our friends.


 Kalin Cellars makes wines in the Grand European Tradition - for American Budgets!

The founding concept was to employ artisanal methods (hand selection of grapes, barrel fermentation and sur lies aging of white wines, fermentation in wood with hand punching down for red wines, long-term barrel aging of red wines, minimal manipulation - no filtration) to produce wines of enduring value with traditional European style and character. Kalin Cellar's competitive cluster is the first growth wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Kalin invests the same time-consuming and labor-intensive methods that are used by these producers - but charges much less for the a similar caliber of wine ($30 - vs. $75 to 500 per bottle for first growth wines!). Kalin produces approximately 7000 cases per year of 100% single vintage and single vineyard wines. Kalin pioneered the production of unfiltered, sur lies aged white wines in California. All white wines have been bottled without filtration since 1981 - red wines are always bottled without fining, filtration, or the addition of press wine. Kalin produces barrel fermented rose sparkling wine (Cuvee Rose), Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and in special vintages a late-harvest dessert wine (Cuvee d'Or) from botrytis affected Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.


The Artisanal Method has been abandoned by most producers due to economic necessity.

Wines of enduring value require time, commitment, and the discipline to create nothing less than first-class quality. Kalin white wines are capable of improving for over a decade - red wines for two decades. Wines of this "investment grade" quality and longevity require long periods of barrel and bottle development that most producers can not afford. Kalin white wines are generally released five to ten years following the vintage - red wines six to ten years after the harvest. Every wine that we offer is a "library wine!" The wines reflect Kalin's credo --

"Produce No Wine With Less Character Than Yourself."

Critical Opinion

Kalin has achieved more consistent critical acclaim - for more varietals - by The Wine Advocate, Decanter, The New York Wine Cellar, Wine and Spirits, Food and Wine, The New York Times, and other publications - than any other winery in California!

 Robert M. Parker, Jr.'s comments from The Wine Advocate

"Terry Leighton is one of California's two most talented winemakers ... (Kalin wines) are the wines of a genius. These wines are worth every effort to find in the marketplace"

"...Kalin's Rose sparkling wine is the best I have tasted from California ... Kudos to the remarkable Terry Leighton."

"Nobody in America gets more finesse and complexity as well as flavor out of their sauvignon blanc and semillon than Kalin and its extremely talented winemaker Terry Leighton."

 "...Among the most distinctive and original expressions of American made Pinot Noir I have ever tasted."

 "Kalin Cellar's Cuvee d'Or...the finest young sweet wine I have ever tasted from California."

¨ Winemaker of the year

¨ Best American Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

¨ Reference Point Wines - Chardonnay Cuvees, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon

¨ Out of the more than 1000 producers of American Chardonnays, Robert Parker picked eight wineries that represent enduring value - one of them was Kalin!

Steve Tanzer's comments from the New York Wine Cellar

"The best chardonnays from the gifted Terry Leighton are some of the most extraordinary and age-worthy wines made this side of Burgundy."

 "Don't miss the Kalin Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, a wine with more personality and texture than all but the very best chardonnays from California. With its layers of flavor and superb palate persistence, this nutty, honeyed, floral wine could hold its own against the best white Graves."

 The Fine Wine Review

 Kalin Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

 "Toasty, new-oaky nose with the gingery note this bottling has shown in past vintages. Thick and extracted (if only more California reds offered this unfiltered texture!); mouthfilling sweet fruit with underlying backbone."

Serena Sutcliffe M.W.

 "I could write a treatise on Kalin Cellars and the brilliance of Terrance Leighton, the winemaker. The Cuvee W Chardonnay smells like the classiest of Meursaults, and its superb acidity augers well for drinking at the turn of the century. As for the Pinot Noirs, it is a question of pleading with someone already on the list if you want to sample one for yourself. Have faith in keeping them - the Sonoma Cuvee D 1979 I had the other day had a scent of Latricieres on a good day, while the Sonoma Cuvee DD 1981 had sauvage flavors of raspberries and cherry stone, with tannin to back it up."

Wesson and Rosengarten's comments from the Food and Wine Companion

 One of the Top Ten Chardonnay Producers in California

 "If Kalin Cellars proprietor Terry Leighton were a painter instead of a molecular geneticist, he'd be Jackson Pollack. From speaking with him you know that he's put theory, patient practice and resolve into his winemaking... In the winery Leighton follows the best (and riskiest) Burgundian farmyard tradition - small barrels and 100 percent malolactic fermentation and aging on the lees - to capture all of the wine's flavors. He then leaves the wine unfiltered to preserve it. This is California winemaking with a European style - like handcrafted Meursault from a ripe vintage."

The Kalin Cellars Alphabet 

Cuvée is a French word meaning lot or batch. We use this term as a shorthand system to identify individual vineyard locations.

¨ Cuvée DD - David Demostene's vineyard in Alexander Valley

¨ Cuvée LD - Jasper Long's hillside vineyard off Dry Creek Road

¨ Cuvée LR - Jasper Long's vineyard on the Dry Creek River

¨ Cuvée LV - Jasper Long's vineyard on Dry Creek Road

¨ Cuvée W - Wente Estate vineyard in the Livermore Valley - also the source for the barrel fermented Semillon

¨ Cuvée Rose - Barrel fermented rose sparkling wine from Pasternak vineyard in Marin - bottled with no dosage

¨ Cuvée Blanche - Barrel fermented Chardonnay sparkling wine from Lorenzo vineyard in Sonoma - bottled with no dosage

¨ Cuvée d'Or - Botrytis affected - barrel fermented Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from Lovin vineyard in Potter Valley - also the source for the barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

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