Tarpon Cellars’ Napa Wines Taste Like Italian Holidays

After a decade of making traditional California cabs, winemaker Jeremy Carter turned to Europe for inspiration (and added a soundtrack)

March 30, 2023 6:30 am
Tarpon Cellars lineup of wine on a surfboard
The Tarpon Cellars wine lineup
Tarpon Cellars

What we’re drinking: Wines from Tarpon Cellars

Where they’re from: Tarpon calls itself a “Napa Valley winery with Southern roots”

Why we’re drinking these: After 10 years of cutting his teeth at Napa and Sonoma vineyards, winemaker Jeremy Carter was ready for change. Not a change in scenery — the Charleston native had found home in Northern California — but in style. He was ready to stray from broad-shoulder cabernet sauvignons and creamy chardonnays. “I wanted to build a more inclusive community that would attract younger people to a style of wine that was not commercially prevalent in California,” Carter says.

Tarpon Cellars winemaker Jeremy Carter
Tarpon Cellars winemaker Jeremy Carter
Tarpon Cellars

Don’t get him wrong: he still makes old-world cabernet. “There’s a time and place for every style of wine,” he says. “But the food that I eat and the climate that I live in for the majority of the year just isn’t compatible with big, tannic red wines with lots of oak and sugar.”

So he looked to Spain, Portugal and Italy for inspiration — lean, high-acid, fun wines for those everyday moments, like post-work patio drinks, casual dinners with friends and other keep-a-bottle-on-hand-and-open-it-whenever occasions. He’s playing around with chilled versions of Italy’s nebbiolo and primitivo, as well as salty, bright Spanish verdejo. All are grown and made with a sustainable lean.

An Insider’s Guide to Napa Valley, Courtesy of Winemaker Chris Carpenter
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The resulting wines are fresh, approachable and slightly nostalgic. They’re wines to pair with generally good vibes — each bottle comes with a playlist and labels that would flirt well with Instagram, though neither undermines the fact that the wines are highly drinkable. “Essentially, I wanted to be able to make something that I was very interested in drinking regularly and also introduce people to some grapes and styles that are not widely distributed, at least by American standards,” Carter says.

 four wines from Tarpon Cellars' Cambaro Series
The four wines in the Tarpon Cellars Cambaro series
Tarpon Cellars

How they taste: 

  • Cambaro Red: Carter’s breezy red is made with a blend of all those nice Northern Italian grapes — nebbiolo, primitivo and teroldego — then blended with syrah and a touch of the white grapes chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc for lift. It’s Gamay in energy: vibrant ruby,  juicy, mainly carbonic macerated and slightly herbal. There’s an inherent bias here, but I did crack this open in Napa after a (loooong) day of tasting through the new vintage of cabernet sauvignons. Those high-toned notes of Twizzlers and crushed cranberry hyper-refreshed my weary palate.
  • Cambaro White: Made with muscat canelli (a Greek-originated grape known for making highly floral, Mediterranean-influenced wines), expect salty, tangy, seaside lemonade energy, with notes of grated lemon, grapefruit, fennel, fresh-cut grass and, frankly, Fun Dip. 
  • Cambaro Skin-Contact: Carter’s foray into skin-contact wine is mainly made with chenin blanc, plus a dash of sauvignon blanc and verdejo. It’s amber-ish in vibe with big notes of apricot and roasted apple and a brilliant tannic backbone. 

Fun fact: Every bottle in the Cambaro line comes with a custom soundtrack, specifically curated to match the vibes the wine emanates. “Music has always been a big part of my life, and it’s with me in the vineyard and on the crushpad too,” Carter says. “I thought it would be fun to provide a soundtrack to each wine and each vintage to really explore the emotional connection between taste, memory and a song.”

Where to buy:  www.tarponcellars.com, or your local boutique wine store.


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