Our Top 5 Most Expensive California Cult Wines

Our list of the most expensive wines in California fall under the title of cult wines, which are mainly the Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley. And they are very difficult to get.

Many of the cult wines are hard to buy directly from the winery. Typically the wineries maintain mailing lists.

Interested wine buyers on the list will receive notice when the next allocation of wine is coming. You are then expected to purchase your allocation. Getting on these lists can be a painful process. You might be able to find a glass at restaurants the celebrities hang out at.

Many of these top cult wines have waiting lists. You can sign up and then wait several years before you get the chance to purchase anything.

Screaming Eagle Winery

When “Waiting List” is a category on their website menu, you know you’ve entered the realm of a true California cult wine. The 1992 vintage, which was released in 1995, received 99 points from Robert Parker, the most trusted wine authority. If you can find a bottle of that vintage today, expect to pay over $7,000 for a single bottle. 

Started by winemaker Heidi Barrett, she has gone on to score a couple of “perfect 100’s” on her wines from Robert Parker and is the concoctor behind some of California’s most notable cult wines.

Screaming Eagle 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – US$3,749

screaming eagle cult winery exterior at sunset
Sine Qua Non

From their website- These wines were born of pure passion and a wishful dream – to make something that is so distinctive and so delicious as to make it indispensable to wine lovers the world over.

Clearly a rather lofty, even unrealistic notion, but one they decided to pursue anyway.

And so, with the 1994 vintage, they started Sine Qua Non, made a whopping four and a half barrels of Syrah that they called “Queen of Spades.”

California cult winer Sine Qua Non

Each wine label is hand-created by the winery owner, Manfred Krankl and you have to wait patiently for five to seven years for ordering wine directly from them.

Sine Qua Non Patine Syrah – US$1,569

Harlan Estate

Harlan Estate has been described as “the ultimate cult winery”, with its limited availability, prices, and status akin to those of Screaming Eagle

Its flagship Harlan Estate is one of the most sought-after Californian wines on the market, with the average price per bottle reaching US$1,012.

In 1984, H. William Harlan, a real estate developer, and Napa Valley resort owner began his quest for perfection in wine.

This was started by purchasing a 240 acre heavily forested property- and the perfect storm weather-wise to produce the perfect grape.

California wine Harlan Estate

The first Harlan Estate wine label, a design inspired by a 19th-century engraving, was overseen by retired U.S. Treasury engraver Herb Fichter and was 10 years in the making. Once a perfectionist, always a perfectionist.

Tusk Estates

Without a doubt, it’s winemaker Philippe Melka’s knowledge of soil and its relationship to wine is what has elevated Tusk to the California cult status it is.

In fact, he completed a master’s program under renowned terroir specialist Professor Sequin. And if you’re wondering what terroir is, it’s the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character.

Tusk, born from the best vineyards in Napa Valley, is Philippe’s finest masterpiece.

2014 Tusk Estates Cabernet Sauvignon –  US$1,650

Tusk wine boxes

Winemaker Celia Welch says it best of the 2016 Scarecrow-Well before release, the 2016 vintage was quietly acquiring the respect and admiration of winemakers and reviewers alike.

This vintage of Scarecrow shows very ripe dark cherry aromas, combined with cinnamon/baking spice and vanilla notes.

Just a hint of earth, anise, and tobacco also add complexity to the aromas. On the palate, the entry shows very juicy fresh black cherries, blackberry jam, a touch of baking spices (cardamom, clove), and warm earthy/sweet tobacco flavors.

The texture is broad and round, with enough grip to stand up well to a hearty meal. As the wine opens, the solid core shows the age-worthiness of this vintage.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon US$1730

Scarecrow expensive wine from California

The finish is, once again, a reminder of the fresh juicy notes promised by the aromas. If you’re just getting your feet wet with wines, you can read what we’ve written on some of the top wine experts around.

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