Tanbark Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Philip Togni

Tanbark Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley



En primeur
En Primeur
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Philip Togni, Tanbark Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


Tasting Notes


14 %





Philip Togni


Grape Variety:

Allergen Information:
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Philip Togni

Philip Togni

The charming, unassuming yet legendary Philip Togni, now well into his 90s, arrived in California in the late 1950s, fresh from stints making wine in Margaux, Chile and civil-war-torn Algeria. He was initially employed by Mayacamas, then Chalone, and finally Chappellet, where he was responsible for the now legendary 1969 vintage – generally regarded as one of the greatest wines ever produced in California. His is an incredibly storied history that stretches back to the very early days of what we know now as the Napa Valley – the time of Andre Tchelistcheff, very early Mondavi and before Cabernet Sauvignon was universally considered to be the future of the Napa Valley.

It was while at Chappellet on Pritchard Hill that Togni went looking for land, eventually settling on an undeveloped, hillside site across the valley on Spring Mountain. He and his wife Birgitta cleared the land, built a house and survived without electricity or water (they’re still not connected to mains water), planting the vines not once but twice (phylloxera hit in the late 80s). This was pioneering stuff and not for the faint hearted. The 10.5 acre estate vineyard was planted to 82% Cabernet Sauvignon with the remainder made up of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot “based on the proportions I was used to working with in Margaux” Philip explained. To this day, this vineyard produces around 2000 cases per year in corresponding varietal proportions to the original plantings. A second section of their vineyard, north and east facing, produces a separate wine called Tanbark Hill which, while 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, leans to more tenderness than the top wine and generally drinks earlier.

Today Togni, English by birth and with an accent that remains unmarked by more than 60 years in the States, is known and revered across the Napa Valley. Having trained under Peynaud in Bordeaux, Togni’s approach to making wine is rooted very much in traditional methods and time honoured techniques – a philosophy that the Tognis continue to employ today. A love of backbone and structural rigour has at times put his wines at odds with fashion’s prevailing winds in this part of the world, and it perhaps for this reason that the Togni wines continue to fly a shade under the radar on the international stage. Philip’s daughter Lisa joined the estate in 2001, after stints in Australia and Bordeaux, and she continues to uphold the style of winemaking that’s made these wines so remarkable over the years.

The Togni wines are sometimes defined by their ability to age – these are regularly cited as some of the longest lived wines in California and generally demand at least a decade in bottle prior to being broached – and yet there’s a powerful grace to them too. Nothing is fined or filtered, the Togni’s preferring to rack every three months to naturally clarify the wines during elevage. Press wines tend to inhabit the new oak barrels, while the free run juice goes to older wood. Blending happens just prior to bottling, after 20 months in barrel.

The style of these wines is intense, structured and serious, though soulful too – akin to top Bordeaux, made under the Californian skies. In youth they display powerful structures yet remain expressive with notes of smoky rocks, fine savoury forest-like aromas and crisp berry fruit. Given enough age you see a whole world of wonderful Cabernet perfume emerge. From the first taste it is clear these are wines destined for the long haul, unapologetically traditional in their approach, built around freshness, taut depth and engaging tannic profiles.

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