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The Holy Grail

A trifecta of talent introduces the newest cult cabernet.



A Trio of Talent: Three impresarios produce a coveted Cabernet.

Photos courtesy of Gauge Branding

With hundreds of Cabernets competing for cult status, it might seem foolish to enter what is already an exceedingly saturated category of the Napa Valley wine industry.
But when three impresarios—Tim Martin, Philippe Melka, and Michael Uytengsu—launched Tusk Estates, their ultraboutique pursuit of Cabernet perfection, wine connoisseurs made room for another contender.

“As a team, we came to the party with a lot of pieces that you really need to have a shot of cutting through the noise of a very busy wine world,” says Martin, founder of Gauge Marketing and former general manager of Lail Vineyards.

Instead of going the typical route of acquiring an existing winery, Martin and Uytengsu wanted to build a luxury wine brand from scratch. Uytengsu, a snack food magnate who’s built brands like Granny Goose and Keebler, was eager for the project: “I’ve been a big wine enthusiast my entire adult life and was looking to find a hobby that I could really get passionate about.” The two agreed that Martin’s close friend and heralded winemaker Philippe Melka was the ideal partner.  

Taking a page from his French roots, Melka applied a quintessential Bordelaise style to Tusk, culling the finest cabernet grapes from seven vineyards in five appellations. Says Martin, “We’re producing juice from vine to barrel that is aged for 30 months in new French oak, typically 1,500 cases, that Melka whittles down to the crème de la crème for Tusk at a range of 125 to 150 cases.”

Only available to exclusive wine list members, the end result is a three-bottle set encased in an exquisite linen box. And while many wineries rely on a 100-point Robert Parker score to sell out their vintage, Tusk accomplished this on its own in the first two vintages. tuskestates.com.

 

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