Gracianna Winery was built on a history that stretches back to World War II. His great-grandmother’s perseverance helped her escape Europe to start a new life in California.
Gratitude was the result of what the New World had to offer. There were struggles, but maintaining a farm and living a full life was rewarding. Owner Trini Amador speaks lovingly of Gracianna, the woman who taught him gratitude. He so appreciated and respected his great-grandmother he captured her story in a book (pictured below).
In her honor, with their son’s unintended coaxing, Trini and Lisa have created the successful Gracianna Winery, which also took some perseverance. They’re grateful for the appreciation expressed by their club members and the many who have paid a visit to their Sonoma County tasting room. Hear Trini tell the tale of Gracianna in this podcast.
You may recall I interviewed owner John Balletto a few years ago. His story is a perfect example of perseverance. He was only 17 when his father died, leaving 5 acres of vegetables to John and his mother. Now, 43 years later, Balletto has grown to include 800 acres of estate vineyards across Sonoma County. The wine is excellent, their prices are moderate, and have been referred to by wine magazines as a “Best Buy”.
The man responsible for the wine is Anthony Beckman, the subject of this interview, although John chimes in as well. Anthony hit pay dirt when he left his newspaper career behind to pursue his other love – good food and excellent wine. His journey to Balletto Vineyards is fascinating, and what he and John accomplish together is remarkable.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/tasteofsonoma-wine-tasting-scaled-1.jpg10672560Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2021-07-08 12:41:092021-07-08 12:41:09Taste of Sonoma – At Home 2021
I traveled 2000 feet above Napa Valley to the peak of Spring Mountain to meet up with the mountain men of Schweiger Vineyards. You’ll find peaceful, picturesque views from their tasting room in the center of their rolling mountaintop vineyard.
As father and son, Fred and Andy have been working the property, with wife and mother Sally, since the 70s. As you can imagine, they have plenty of stories to tell. You’ll find their wines are an excellent representation the complex soil of Spring Mountain – full, flavorful and complex. I am impressed with the close relationship with their club members – who’s suggestions often get put into action by the family. For more details, visit their website here.
As it was planned, this interview aired on Father’s Day weekend. Here’s to the mountain men of Schweiger Vineyards!
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.png00Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2020-07-15 18:22:302020-07-15 18:22:30The Mountain Men of Schweiger Vineyards
As I travel this week I’m reaching into the archives to bring you two compelling interviews. UC Davis Professor Emerita Carole Meredith shares the story of how she, with a little help from others, solved the mystery of Zinfandel’s origin. If you enjoy investigative stories you’ll get a kick out of the many elements involved in her discovery. In a nod to the original Croatian variety, Carole and her winemaker husband, Steve, bottle a version with their brand Lagier Meredith.
Kendall-Jackson‘s Winemaster Randy Ullom may not be a well-known name but it’s very likely you’ve tasted his creations, including the Chardonnay that has been the top seller in the U.S. for over 25 years straight. Who would have thought a ski trip to Chile would lead to nearly 3 decades of winemaking with one of the world’s most successful brands.
Another Wine Uncorked is also included. Let’s hit the road!
CK Mondavi and Family of Napa Valley is currently ranked at #16 in annual case production for US vintners. Needless to say, that’s large.
LaRue Wines of the Sonoma Coast region produces less than a thousand cases. Yep, that’s really small.
My guests are Randy Herron of CK Mondavi and Family, and Katy Wilson of LaRue. I thought it would be fascinating to hear the differences between these two brands. Randy crafts more than half a dozen varietals that are priced in the Value category. Katy focuses on cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir priced at the Luxury level. Nevertheless, these two share an easy going nature and make wines that are exceptional for their price range.
A Wine Uncorked feature is also included in the podcast. A little trivia gift from me to you.
It’s not intentional that this podcast was uploaded just a couple weeks after the movie Wine Country was released. Artesa Estate Vineyards and Winery is one of the wineries the ladies visited.
The fact is, their winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper was on my radio show in April, so she was next in line for my podcast. As you’ll hear, Artesa is influenced by Spain, Napa Valley and Portugal. You can taste those influences in the many wines Ana crafts. Varieties include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Alberino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and a sparkling.
Join us in the tasting room to learn about Artesa Estate Vineyards and Winery, the rich history, and their delightful winemaker.
On this podcast you’ll meet Nate Belden of Belden Barns.
He grew up on a farm but spent a number of his adult years working in New York and San Francisco. After a while he felt the unrelenting tug of country life once again. Although his wife Lauren grew up in New York City, surprisingly, she had a similar dream of living a rural life. But grape growing and Belden Barns wine isn’t their only focus. They partnered with Jenny and Vince Trotter to offer Farmstead Goods. Visit their website here.
Hear how Nate and Lauren’s yearning for country life came true as we talk…in the barn.
The set up in the milking barn.
There’s a good story about the reason for the Poetry Room. Ask them if you ever see Nate or Lauren
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Nate-Belden_1400x512.jpg5121400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-03-04 18:14:512019-03-04 18:32:59Wine Down on the Farm – Belden Barns
I kick off 2019 with interviews from two wineries the Santa Rita Hills. You’ll meet Chad of Melville Vineyards and Bryan of Babcock Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley of California’s central coast. Primary wine varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Bryan is also bottling Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and a few surprises. Both offer sparkling wines when they’re not sold out.
This trip to Santa Barbara offered plenty of wine and craft beer options, blue skies, palm trees and the Funk Zone. The distinctive pleasures tied in well with Chad’s unconventional winemaking style and Bryan’s innovative vineyard management. Both are gaining high praise. Melville was chose by Wine&Spirits Magazine as one of the world’s Top 100 in 2018. Babcock has received some flattering press including Food&Wine and other respected publications. Needless to say, they deserve your attention as well!
Interviewing Chad in the storage and fermentation building
Interviewing Bryan in the Vineyard Tasting Room
Babcock’s larger tasting room space
The outdoor patio of Melville’s winery tasting room
Babcock’s Soul Struck Lounge
Melville’s modern tasting room in Santa Barbara
One of the many spaces in Babcock’s hangar-sized tasting room that is jam packed with 20th century relics, some of which are for sale.
The Library Wine tasting room just off Melville’s barrel room
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Social-media-image-Alt.jpg7881400Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2019-01-13 12:10:472019-01-13 12:10:47Two Wineries Gathering Accolades in the Santa Rita Hills
Sometimes good things come in twos. It took over two years for me to nail down this interview with Warren Winiarski, I recorded over two hours of audio, and it took two visits to do so. Yet every minute I spent with him was a pleasure. You may be aware that Warren was the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and it was his Cabernet Sauvignon that outscored the French Bordeaux wines in the famed Paris tasting of 1976. But that was early on. He has accomplished so much in his 90 years and, remarkably, continues to do so. He semi-retired in 2007 but is still involved with grape growing in his Napa Valley Arcadia Vineyard. He continues to learn yet his depth of knowledge is astounding, and the way his looks at life and winemaking is fascinating. Warren is engaging, charming, and kind of like a great uncle you rarely see but when you do you just want to give him a big hug…and drink his wine.
Author’s note: Here are the other California wines that made the final list of the Paris tasting based on an average of the judge’s scores in the Paris tasting, also known as The Judgement of Paris.
Red Category: Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (5th), Heitz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard (7th), Clos Du Val Winery (8th), Mayacamas Vineyards (9th), and Freemark Abby (10th).
White Category: Chateau Montelena (1st), Chalone Vineyard (3rd), Spring Mountain Vineyard (4th), Freemark Abby (6th), Veedercrest Vineyards (9th), David Bruce Winery (10th).
A exceptional accomplishment to those who were entered!
Warren’s Arcadia Vineyards was hit hard by the Atlas Fire a year ago October. He lost a barn, the tractor trailer with all of the equipment, and three homes.
The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
The Arcadia Vineyard. You can still see the remnants of the Atlas Fire’s damage on the hillsides. The grass has grown back but a number of burned trees are evident.
A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of being invited to attended a grand affair at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa. About 700 people were in attendance, culinary fare was being served, several musicians performed and all for the purpose of celebrating ZD Wines’ 50th Anniversary.
The Rutherford AVA Napa Valley winery has been building something special for quite some time. They also make one of the most unusual wine blends I’ve heard of in the U.S. Abacus is pricey but because of the decades it takes to craft that unique blend you could argue that it’s worth it.
Just a few days before the celebration I had the chance to sit down with winemaker Brandon deLeuze so you and I could hear more about ZD Wines. Click the player below for the interview.
Follow up: I felt this was noteworthy – since this post went out Brandon was promoted from Assistant Winemaker to Winemaker, and Winemaker Chris Pisani has been promoted to Senior Winemaker. Robert deLeuze, CEO and Director of Winemaking said, “Chris and Brandon are exceptionally dedicated to producing the highest caliber wines. We appreciate their effort in advancing our commitment to quality and are honored to have them on our team.”
Congratulations to both of them from On The Wine Road.
The sun set as the Bash continued.
This 1994 Merlot was one of many library wines offered that evening. What a nice gift for ZD to share.
It took a one-of-a-kind barrel rack to hold the one-of-a-kind Abacus wine.
In preparation for this year’s Taste of Sonoma event I spoke with Tracy Nielsen of La Pitchoune Winery. Part of the interview was about Taste, but the remainder concerned her winery and their unanticipated success.
As you’ll see below by the artistic photo from their blog post they picked up a Best of Class Award at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 7000 wineries entered the contest! A six year old winery just isn’t expected to take the top prize in their category. Hear how Tracy struggled to get into the business, met her winemaker at a party, and at the behest of her husband (and chief strategist) decided to start their own winery. Their motto? Nothing is impossible.
This over-the-top Paulée event brings winemakers and collectors together to enjoy an elegant multi-course meal paired with wines from winemakers and guests’ personal cellars, including special, limited and rare vintages. The date is Friday, August 31st at Sonoma-Cutrer. This Annual Paulée features over 30 Premier Russian River Valley Wineries pouring world class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.
Click below for my conversation with Sonoma-Cutrer’s Director of Winemaking Mick Schroeter, and Winery Chef Kevin Markey. For tickets visit Russian River Valley Winegrowers. We hope to see you there. Cheers!
Tables from last year’s event at Hop Kiln Winery
A happy crowd with plenty of well crafted wine and food
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/rrvw_paulee_0.jpg448600Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-08-20 13:47:522018-09-12 13:49:37Russian River Valley Winegrowers’ Paulée Event
I’ll bet a bottle of wine you haven’t heard a story about a successful pilot deciding after retirement to move his family to a rural area to raise his family who, without expectation or a plan, became a wine baron. This podcast is the story of Rombauer Vineyards.
In 1972, Napa Valley was a quieter agricultural area but just a few years later the region was thrust upon the world stage…and it’s been growing ever since. And like many, the wine bug bite the former pilot, Koerner Rombauer. On today’s podcast I talk with his son, K.R., and winemaker Richie Allen about their great success. You’ll also learn of a surprising development that occurred just a week following the interview. I’ll leave it at that.
And if you have heard a story about a former pilot who became a wine baron, reach out to me for your bottle of wine.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Rombauer-label.jpg550950Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-06-06 17:04:202018-06-06 17:04:20The Story of Rombauer Vineyards
Join Russian River Valley Winegrowers for an amazing tasting experience of Russian River Valley single vineyard wines. More than 30 wineries will be pouring small-lot, single vineyard wines from the Russian River Valley, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Guests will dine on delicious appetizers while enjoying single vineyard wines.
This year the event takes place at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country
My interview with RRVW Board President Giovanni Balistreri and Executive Director Wendy Hilberman is below. I apologize ahead of time. We were drinking Russian River Vineyards Rosé.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/RRVW-Single-Vineyard-Night.jpg5001000Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2018-05-04 17:35:422018-05-04 17:49:27Russian River Valley Winegrowers Single Vineyard Night
The folks Ram’s Gate Winery refer to themselves as the Gateway to Sonoma and the Carneros wine region. It also leads to a full sensory experience with stunning views, architecture, and design, the aroma of the organic garden, the palate-pleasing culinary offerings, and, oh ya, the wine. It truly embodies the meaning of “the nectar of the Gods.” Ram’s Gate Winery is like a spa without the massage tables and towels but just as relaxing. Managing Director David Oliver and winemaker Jeff Gaffner fill me in on its history and the experiences they yearn to offer their customers.
As you’ll hear in this podcast, David of Ramey Wine Cellars is well known by most in the biz. His name came up three times in the last few months while talking with other winemakers. A lot of wineries have tapped into his knowledge by hiring him as a consultant. I’ve also heard he doesn’t hold back his opinions. Those spring forth concerning a bit of a controversy he’s in the midst of here in Sonoma County. Meet the winemaker who utilizes old world methods with modern innovations…when necessary. Here’s David Ramey…
Hear how a ski trip to Chile, which turned into a three-year adventure, inspired Randy Ullom to take his appreciation for wine and make a career out of it. Eventually, he would join Kendall-Jackson, travel the world, and make what has become the number one selling Chardonnay in America for 25 years in a row. You’ll hear about Randy’s career and learn about Jess Jackson, the maverick winery owner who took the world by storm.
Each year Wine & Spirits Magazine chooses the Top 100 wineries of the world. Each winery is featured in their Winter Issue and is invited to attend their annual tasting event in San Francisco. It’s quite an event! This is the third year Eric Sussman of Radio-Coteau has been chosen. He makes remarkable cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Syrah, and Zinfandel. As a “pioneering micro-climate negociant” he works with as many as 16 different vineyards. His property in Occidental is quite historic and has its own story to tell. His vineyards there are maturing nicely. I find it interesting that he only has two subject tabs on his website yet it’s deeper in content than almost any winery website I’ve seen. Eric is quite prolific. I was happy to have finally tracked down this highly respected winemaker.
(Garagiste – A French term used to describe a garage-based winemaking operation. Once seen as a negative, garagiste wineries are now treated with cult-like status.) Ben Papapietro was a garasite in San Francisco. His desire to get into the wine business found him living in his van in a vineyard for months at a time. Some how he managed to keep his newspaper job during his decades-long venture. Along with friend and partner Bruce they managed reached success in Sonoma County with Papapietro Perry Winery. Ben shares his tale with me in this podcast.
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Ben-Papapietro-bottle.jpg720582Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngJeff Davis2017-07-28 09:30:482017-07-28 09:30:48Ben of Papapietro Perry Winery