Goosecross Cellars Winemaker Achieves Success

Four releases illustrate transformation of “unpolished diamond” into boutique gem.

Several years ago I interviewed Bill Nancarrow, then early in his tenure as winemaker at Goosecross Cellars. Nancarrow had spent the previous decade-plus at Duckhorn Wine Company, the last few years as executive winemaker. Established in 1985, Goosecross was purchased in 2013 by a group headed by Christi Coors Ficeli, who hired Nancarrow in 2014; Christi and her husband, Dave Ficeli, purchased the winery from the group in 2021.

During our long-ago chat, Nancarrow remarked that he’d sensed from the start that Goosecross represented an “unpolished diamond.” Praising the “purity and innocence” of previous wines from the 12-acre State Lane Vineyard – its oldest vines date to 1978 – Nancarrow added that he hoped to elevate the wines further via farming and winemaking adjustments. I reflected on his goals for Goosecross while tasting two 2017s that illustrated his success in transforming the unpolished diamond into a boutique gem. A few years later, a 2022 white and a 2019 red confirmed that the winemaker remains on track.

Most of State Lane Vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon.

2017 Goosecross State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Polished and pure indeed, this 100% Cabernet comes off as subtly complex, its enveloping mouthfeel abetted by tannins that seem to sneak up mid-palate. A balanced and elegant wine whose flavors include dark berries, licorice, and stewed plums, it likes to play off fat, pairing well with heavy cheese and lightly Cajun-spiced oxtail stew.

2017 Goosecross Branta

Robust and rustic, this juicy red maintains a sense of decorum despite its fruit-forward punch. So much goodness to unpack here, with concentrated red- to black-fruit flavors via Zinfandel (50%) and Petite Sirah (41%). Cabernet Sauvignon (9%) and aging for 25 months “separately in mostly used French barrels” supply refinement. Nancarrow nailed the Zinfandel–Petite Sirah proportions, the contribution of each grape registering individually and in concert with the Cab.

2022 Chardonnay from Los Carneros appellation, 2019 Cabernet from Yountville estate.

Late-2023 update: 

 2022 Goosecross Cellars NapaValley Chardonnay

This Clone 96 Chardonnay tasted exactly like the sum of its stated vineyard and cellar parts: Los Carneros AVA fruit; whole-cluster press; cold soak; fermentation in half small stainless tank and half French barrels (50% new). Each of these elements—along with the cool-climate clone—contributed to the texture and balance of this wine with upfront minerality and mild rounding: think floral, honey, and apples on the nose with tropical notes on the palate. This one’s excellent for fall cuisine.

2019 Goosecross Cellars State Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

A swift swirl of this wine from the estate Yountville-appellation vineyard unleashes strong scents of blackberries, boysenberries, and licorice—so powerful one feared a fruit bomb, especially this young. The wine indeed tasted fruity on the mid-palate but also dusky and complex, courtesy of property’s gravelly alluvial soils and, versus the all-Cabernet 2017, the 3% Petit Verdot winemaker Bill Nancarrow slipped. Like many 2019 Napa Valley Cabs, the silky-textured wine is pleasantly approachable for its age. It went well with a rib eye but might pair even better with cassoulet.

Views of Cabernet vines and Yountville Hill from tasting patio at Goosecross Cellars.

Pristine and Pastoral

In addition to Cabarnet, Chardonnay, and the Branta red, Nancarrow also makes Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, rosé (of Pinot Noir), Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel for Goosecross. You can test drive the winery’s diverse portfolio at its barnlike tasting room, which sits amid State Lane Vineyard 2 miles northeast of downtown Yountville. The feeling is pristine and pastoral, with views west from the outdoor patio of Cabernet vines and Yountville Hill.

The barnlike winery and hospitality buildings look made of wood but are actually concrete.

Why go: distinguished estate vineyard; diverse wine portfolio; pastoral setting.


Goosecross Cellars appears in 2 Splendid Days in Walkable Yountville.


1119 State Ln., Yountville 94599

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