Independence Day

Independence Day

4th of July, The American Way

Fireworks, grilling, and wine are clear signs the 4th of July has arrived. It’s the American way to celebrate Independence Day with friends, hamburgers, hot dogs, and chips, but it’s the addition of wine to any party that elevates your 4th festivities. Here are some wine options that will have your guests they made your guest list. [The emojis help you understand the characteristics of each wine. You can only find these custom emojis in the VAULT29 app.]

Starters + Fish or Chicken: White wines and rosé are party starters. Enjoy them with appetizers like chips, guacamole & salsa, veggies platters, as well as grilled chicken or fish. Here are a couple wines your guests are sure to enjoy: 

Charles & Charles

2016 Rosé - Columbia Valley, Washington

VAULT29 emojis - Charles&Charles wine - Rosé
 

Galerie

2016 Sauvignon Blanc - Napa Valley, California

Galerie Sauvignon Blanc

(Red) Meat + Red Wine: When grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, pork chop, or even lamb think Zinfandel! (You won’t go wrong with a Tempranillo or Grenache either.) Here are a couple wine picks for your red meat grilling:

Bella Vineyards

2014 Lily Hill Zinfandel - Healdsburg, California

VAULT29 emojis - Bella Zinfandel
 

Seghesio

2013 Old Vine Zinfandel - Sonoma County, California

VAULT29 emojis - Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel

Fireworks=Bubbles: The show must go on. When the sky begins to light up, it's time to pop the bubbles and toast to Independence. We've got two classics that are sure to end your evening with a bang!

Laetitia Winery & Vineyards

NV Brut Cuvée - Arroyo Grande, California

VAULT29 emoji - Laetitia Brut Cuvee
 

Schramsberg

2014 Brut Rosé - North Coast, California

VAULT29 emjis - Schramsberg Brut Rose

Go ahead, show us how you're enjoying Independence Day . Simply Download the VAULT29 from the App Store, create a post, and check out our custom wine emojis!

Wren Hop

Wren Hop

Delve into the story of Wren Hop Vineyards: what started as an "experiment" ended up being limited production, pow-in-yo-face Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  From organic winemaking, to each vintage's own "book cover," Wren Hop shows us perseverance and attention to meticulous detail crafts the greatest wine legacies.


We have a story- it’s called "mean something to someone." We like to say we make wine for "some of the people, all of the time." Wren Hop was crafted for hedons who like structured wines with big flavors. Inspired by our love of powerful European wines like Amorone, Cote-Rotie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, we set out to emulate this rich style from the sometimes delicate and always moody cultivar Pinot Noir. Not to be outdone, we pursued the infamous "Wente Clone” for our Chardonnay program. This grape shines in marginal and not so hospitable cool weather sites of Sonoma County. You can actually taste the struggle and adversity in the glass. While not exactly pandering to the masses, we knew there would be other obsessed fiends out there just like ourselves. It didn’t take long to find them. 

Our philosphy is pretty simple. Organic farming practices, specific clonal selection, detailed sorting, extended cold soaks, saignees and a 100% new French oak barrel program.  These all play a role in the intense color and lingering finishes of the wine. In pursuit of balance? Yep, but more importantly... in pursuit of darn tasty.

Wren Hop's tiny mascot actually has quite a fabled past. Strangely enough, the eagle is not the king of birds. That title was conferred on the clever and resourceful wren back in ancient times. We named our brand in it’s honor and the wren’s small but crafty legacy. Our labels showcase a story connected to the secretive bird. Names like Omens & Prophecy, Flight Risk and Royalty in Exile start conversations and create mystique. Which, of course, works well over a bottle of wine. The labels are created in the form of a leather bound book that resembles an eternally “borrowed” edition from your college library. This creates texture, dimension and connection to the bottle. It also leaves you with a collectors item- labels change art with every vintage.

Wren Hop wine labels are in the form of a leather bound book

Wren Hop wine labels are in the form of a leather bound book

It’s almost ludicrous how much we love the details. From spec’ing type for our vineyard row markers to agonizing over the perfect hand peeled wood table for our tasting room- presentation is what drives experience. Riedel stems, Cornetto decanters, Laguiole openers, these things make us downright giddy.  After 14 months of hard labor and extreme standards, this wine is not showing up in an off the rack polyester suit. We’re also careful to remove any pretension with our rough luxe brand voice and personal pourings. Or as Don Henley calls it-  “a deadhead sticker on a cadillac” We host private, sit down tastings at the vineyard one group at a time. It’s bespoke wine tasting at it’s most casual non-snootiness. 

Our production is small and personal and that’s how it will stay. Many people ask us about growth, but we really just want to stay limited and nimble. We’ve made many friends and have shared even more bottles with them. Yes- there is exhaustion that no amount of caffeine will cure, but that late night glass and the sound of coyotes yelping in approval is worth it. Here’s to the eternal howling. Slainte- Jim McDonough/Wren Hop

Epoch Wines: Rich Legacies (part 2)

Epoch Wines: Rich Legacies (part 2)

We highly encourage you to reflect back on Epoch Wines: Rich Legacies (part 1) to learn about the family, winemaker, and vineyards behind the brand before reading part 2 (below by Lindsey Strawn). This two-part series will provide a better understanding of how one concert pianist, two geologists, two vineyards and lots of history make for a truly awesome story of an award-winning small production winery located in Paso Robles.

Epoch Estate Wines on VAULT29

Historians

A huge part of our story at Epoch is about preserving two integral pieces of Paso Robles history.  When we purchased our Paderewski Vineyard in 2004, not only did we hit the jackpot as far as soils and views were concerned, we were also buying a property that was once owned, planted, and cherished by Polish pianist and Prime Minister, Ignacy Jan Paderewski.  In 2010, we were fortunate enough to purchase the old York Mountain property, which was the site of the first bonded winery on the Central Coast.  Besides being total geology nerds (sorry, Mom and Dad), my parents (particularly my mom) are total history nuts as well.  To own two properties that boast such rich history is a dream come true, and we make it a priority to preserve and share both the Paderewski and York Mountain legacies through our wines and the Epoch experience.

Paderewski’s story in a nutshell: Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a solo concert pianist from Poland, and as crazy as this may seem, he was kind of considered the Elvis of his day.  He put on quite a show, and he traveled throughout the world performing.  In fact, he was the first solo pianist to ever play Carnegie Hall.  Pretty cool, right?

Paderewski standing in his future vineyard in Paso.

Paderewski standing in his future vineyard in Paso.

During his tour of the U.S., he was encouraged to make a pit stop in Paso Robles, a small town that might just have the cure to his rheumatoid arthritis in the form of its natural sulfur-rich mineral baths.  When not soaking in sulfur (which by the way, did cure that arthritis!), Paderewski explored Paso and fell in love with its beauty and charm.  He loved it so much that between 1914 and 1916, he ended up purchasing 2,846 acres on the west side of Paso.  Though he never built a home on either of his ranches, he planted almonds, various fruit trees, and Zinfandel and Petite Sirah vines.  As you may have guessed, we now own 577 acres of the ranch where he once planted these grape vines.  We were so obsessed with this story that we just had to name the first Epoch vineyard after this impressive man.

There is much more to Paderewski’s story, but here are some highlights: in 1918, he helped President Woodrow Wilson create his “Fourteen Points,” playing an integral role in point 13 which established an independent Poland.  In 1919, he was appointed Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the newly independent Poland, and he signed the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of his country.  Between his departure from politics in 1922 and his death in 1940 a lot happened on the political front in Poland.  When Paderewski died, his body received a state burial at Arlington Cemetery per the request of President Roosevelt.  Paderewski asked that his body not be returned to Poland until it was free again.  In 1992, under the leadership of George H. W. Bush, Paderewski’s body was returned to the free-at-last Poland.

Needless to say, this guy was a total stud, and the fact that he found solace and a home-away-from-home in Paso Robles is pretty awesome.  We pinch ourselves daily that our happy place was once also cherished by this man, and we are proud to carry on the Paderewski name and legacy through our vines and wines.

The York family in 1903 – Andrew York is in the middle – standing in front of the original York Mountain homestead, which we have completely restored as a home for our family and friends

The York Mountain story in a nutshell: In 1882, Andrew York, a native Illinoisan, who caught the winemaking bug, purchased a 120-acre homestead in Templeton, CA.  Andrew quickly expanded the existing vineyard with cuttings from Napa.  In 1895, York along with his three sons, began construction on their wine cellar by hauling boulders from the countryside and purchasing the essentials for their new winery.  At this point, the York family named their winemaking venture, Ascension Winery, and this became the first bonded winery on the central coast.  Again, pretty cool, right?!?

Over the next 80 some years, the York winemaking endeavor changed hands throughout the family several times, and the winery saw a few name changes (Ascension Winery to A. York and & Sons to York Brothers to York Winery).  Despite those adjustments, the operations ran continuously (even during Prohibition when they were forced to sell simple grape juice), vineyards were planted, the winery itself was expanded using bricks fired on site, and most importantly, their wine was made and enjoyed by the local community. 

YMW after the San Simeon Earthquake

YMW after the San Simeon Earthquake

In 1970, York Winery and the surrounding property were sold to the Goldman family.  Besides another name change to York Mountain Winery, the winery continued to run without interruption.  In fact, it did so until the late 1990’s when the winery itself was forced to close due to retrofit requirements, making it one of the longest continuously run wineries in the U.S.  In 2003, the Central Coast was rocked by the San Simeon Earthquake (a 6.5 on the Richter Scale), and the historic winery was officially condemned due to earthquake damage.  Though wine under the York Mountain Winery label continued to be sold out of a nearby trailer, this beloved property and operation entered foreclosure in 2009. 

This sad ending saw a very happy beginning in 2010 when we (my family and Epoch Estate Wines) purchased the property out of foreclosure and began to bring this historic property back to life.  While operating our Tasting Room out of a tricked-out single-wide for seven years, we worked on obtaining the permits to rebuild the condemned winery while simultaneously restoring the old York homestead (pictured above with the York family) and building our new winery.  Reconstruction on the century old ruins of York Mountain winery officially began in 2013 under the leadership of Lake Flato Architects and B.K Architects LLC.  After four years of pain-staking renovation (we literally created our own version of paint-by-numbers with the original bricks and stones, removing and labeling them one-by-one, to then reinstall them in their exact location after reconstruction), we FINALLY opened the doors to the repurposed winery as our new Tasting Room in December!    

The phases of York Mountain: 1882 – 2002: before the San Simeon Earthquake; 2003 – 2009: post-Earthquake until foreclosure; today: as our new Tasting Room.  You can see the original bricks, stones, beams, and wine press used throughout all of these phases of YMW’s lif

The bricks fired on property in 1906 are not the only elements of this beloved structure that we have preserved.  The original redwood beams and the stones from the original cellar also play essential roles in our new Tasting Room.  A basket press that was once used by the York brothers now sits amongst the rafters to replicate the original positioning which allowed gravity to bring juice from the crushed grapes to the main floor.  Many other original York relics are showcased throughout this building, as we want our visitors to learn about this rich piece of Central Coast Winemaking history that we feel blessed to carry on through Epoch Estate Wines.   

New Tasting Room 

Oh and I forgot the coolest part of this history chapter!  The two pieces of our legacy story, Paderewski and York, collided in 1934 when Paderewski brought harvested Petite Sirah and Zinfandel grapes from his vineyard to York Mountain to be turned into award-winning wine by the York Brothers.  Once again, how cool is that?!?  We have come full circle as we now bring fruit from Paderewski Vineyard to York Mountain every harvest to be crafted into wine.  It’s just Epoch wine now. 

We take our job of being historians for Paderewski and York Mountain very seriously.  We like to think you can taste this in our wines and are able see it come to life when you visit us atop York Mountain! 

Memory-makers:

Ok, so if you are still reading this (I warned you, we have a LOT to tell), the bottom line is that we want drinking Epoch to be an experience unto itself.  We call these Epoch Moments.  That experience can be at home: we hope sipping on a glass of Block B and enjoying its unique chalkiness inspires you to close your eyes and picture the calcareous soils of Paderewski Vineyard.  Or that this same bottle challenges you to cozy up with Jordan’s VINPRESSIONs to see how the wine dancing across your tongue is a living, breathing piece of art.  That Epoch experience can be taken to the next level upon visiting us, something we sincerely hope you will do soon!  Sipping on a flight of our wines while sitting in a building that boasts bones from the first bonded winery in the Central Coast is something pretty special.  Let’s not forget that the juice you will be drinking is from fruit farmed on a property that was once farmed by a Polish Prime Minister and the Elvis of his day. And if drinking our wines does none of the above, that’s ok too!  We just hope it leads to something super fun and memorable, an Epoch Moment unique to you! 

With that, we invite you to come visit us soon to see all of these forces in action!  We are open daily from 10 – 4, and while walk-ins are welcomed, appointment are strongly encouraged!  We hope to see you soon! 

If you are interested in joining our Allocation Waitlist for our biannual wine releases or buying a few of our wines now, you can do so here.  And in case you didn’t get your fill of information here, our website is chock-full of more details about Epoch, our wines, Paderewski, York Mountain, and believe it or not, much more.

Thanks so much for taking the time to learn more about Epoch Estate Wines!  Cheers!


Epoch (part 1)

Epoch (part 1)

Epoch:

  1. A period of grand or remarkable events
  2. A division of geologic time
  3. Epoch Estate Wines

Epoch in a few sentences: Founded in 2004 by geologists, Bill and Liz Armstrong, Epoch has quickly developed a big reputation for handcrafted, small-production wines with abundant personalities.  Located on the storied York Mountain, Epoch is an ultra-premium producer of wines from Rhone, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo varieties grown on their two west Paso Robles vineyards – Paderewski and Catapult.  As the steward of both the historic York Mountain Winery property and the Paderewski Vineyard, Epoch is committed to the land it cherishes, the quality wines crafted, and the rich legacies now shared with the next generation of Epoch drinkers. 

Liz & Bill Armstrong, Epoch Owners

Liz & Bill Armstrong, Epoch Owners

Let’s go ahead and dig a little deeper into that…

I am Liz and Bill’s eldest daughter as well as part of the team at Epoch, and I am going to be leading you through this deep dive into who we are at Epoch.  So sit back, relax, preferably with a glass of vino, and enjoy!
— Lindsey Armstrong Strawn

We are fortunate to have a LOT of stories to tell at Epoch.  So when thinking about how to sum us up, I feel the easiest thing to do is to break us down into four main categories: farmers, winemakers, historians, and memory-makers.  Here is what I mean… 

Farmers:

True, the wine has always been the end goal, but the Epoch wine you drink always begins in our vineyards, land we feel abundantly blessed to own, cherish, and yes, farm.  All of our fruit at Epoch comes from our two estate-grown vineyards, Paderewski and Catapult Vineyards.  Both of these vineyards can be found in the Willow Creek District of west Paso Robles and both were fallow when we purchased them.  Fallow?  Yes, they were basically pretty piles of dirt (the proof is in the photo below), and we had the opportunity to turn these blank canvases into vines. 

The Armstrong kids at the then-fallow Paderewski Vineyard in 2004; Lindsey is the one on the right!

The Armstrong kids at the then-fallow Paderewski Vineyard in 2004; Lindsey is the one on the right!

Being geologists, my parents understood how fortunate we were to work with these intense soils that bared little resemblance to typical California soils: for Paderewski, this meant lean, rocky soils that were rich with limestone; for Catapult, this meant extreme rocky soils packed with silicious shale and little limestone content.  Both were soils we loved and knew would make great wines; soils that encouraged the vines to struggle while finding nourishment deep within the ground.  The reward of this hardworking vine is berries packed with wicked complexity and intense flavors.

Liz & Bill Armstrong in the Paderewski Vineyard

Liz & Bill Armstrong in the Paderewski Vineyard

No one can claim to be a farmer without obsessing over the weather, so there is that too!  Just like our soils, our climate here is intense.   The Paso Robles wine region benefits from the largest diurnal temperature swing of any region in California.  Daily, temperatures can vary as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the ideal environment for achieving that perfect acidity in ripening wine grapes. 

Working with blank canvases, both vineyards’ clone selections were carefully chosen to create the perfect match between soil and vine.  The vineyard blocks were meticulously laid out based on their unique exposures, soil attributes, and mesoclimates.  Today, each block is happily producing fruit specific to their exact location.  Our holistic and site-specific wine-growing goals have naturally led us to organic and biodynamic farming practices. These methods allow us to nurture and protect our vines while still abiding by our low impact and low demand philosophy.

A few Paderewski Vineyard stats:

  • Planted in 2004
  • Acreage: 67 under vine, 577 total
  • pH: Low to Mid 8s
  • Elevation: 1200' average, 1350' highest
  • Red varieties: Grenache, Mourvédre, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel
  • White Varieties: Grenache Blanc and Viognier

 

 

A few Catapult Vineyard stats:

  • Planted in 2008
  • Acreage 28 under vine, 47 total
  • pH: High 5s
  • Elevation: 1000' average, 1030' highest
  • Red Varieties: Grenache, Mourvédre, Syrah, Tempranillo
  • White Varieties: Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier
 

Winemakers:

It feels weird to have farmers and winemakers listed as two separate pieces of the Epoch puzzle when we fully subscribe to the philosophy that nothing outside of our vineyard, climate, and grape varitety should affect how the wine tastes; however, as we all know, critical decisions must be made once the fruit makes its way to the winery.  Our Winemaker, Jordan Fiorentini, works closely with our Vineyard manager, Kyle Gingras, throughout the year to watch over our vines, so the transition from the ranches to the winery is seamless. 

Jordan Fiorentini, Winemaker

Jordan Fiorentini, Winemaker

I will spare everyone the details of how wine is made, but there are two things you should know about Jordan (there are actually a million things you should know about Jordan, but for brevity’s sake, I will stick with two): 1) she loves to experiment with vessels (she particularly has a crush on concrete) and 2) she’s an artist; for her, winemaking and the subsequent process of drinking it, is all about noticing and expressing the art’s intricacies.  I will let her explain that herself.  But first, meet some of our vessels:

Vessels:

  • Custom concrete fermenters
    • Currently used for fermentations, but they can also be used for aging if we desire.  Each board-formed tank weighs 14000 lbs and holds up to four tons of fruit.  The conical shape allows for more cap compression during fermentation.  The five-inch thick walls are lined with tubing that allows glycol to cool or warm down the tanks
  • Concrete tulips
    • Coming all the way to us from France, these beauties are used for fermentation and aging.  They can hold us to 580 gallons or 240 cases.  We are the first in the USA to sport these Italian vessels
  • Concrete eggs
    • Hailing directly from France, these concrete eggs have been with us since the beginning.  The egg shape allows the wine to continually flow inside, thus requiring no need for battonage (lees stirring).  Each egg holds around 180 gallons or 75 cases of wine.
  • Amphora
    • Crafted by hand in Florence, Italy, this fragile vessel is made by affixing coils of wet clay together.  We are still experimenting with the amphora, but we have used it for both fermentation and aging.  It can hold 132 gallons or 55 cases.  Amphorae were originally used in ancient Rome and Greece for storage of food and wine.
  • Oak barrels
    • We like diversity when it comes to our oak.  We use various sizes of barrels for aging as we are constantly searching for what fits each wine best.  In general though, Jordan does prefer puncheons.  Almost all of our oak barrels and puncheons are from France, however, a few barrels hail from Hungary and are used to age our Tempranillo.

VINPRESSIONs by Jordan Fiorentini, Winemaker

As a winemaker, releasing the wines I’ve made to the world is always a thrilling and anxious moment, especially because I cannot be in the room with the consumers when they pop and pour the bottles.  A normal winemaker responsibility is to write tasting notes of their wines, usually upon release, to explain the wine to the world.  I have written such tasting notes for many years, however I always longed for a better means of communication, because I experience wines in more than just words.

Mouthfeel and texture are two important, intricately linked sensations in winemaking and are the grail by which I make and experience wine. A wine’s texture is its structure, its physicality and the backbone of its essence.  The texture is filled in with all the wonderful aromas and flavors, which are ever changing from the obvious to the sublime.

Being a very visual person and wanting to communicate these sensations that are very difficult to describe with words, I experimented with drawing my tasting notes with graphite on paper versus just writing words for them in 2012. At that moment, my visual tasting notes, what we call VINPRESSIONS, were born.

VINPRESSION Quadrant

Each VINPRESSION is my best attempt at communicating with the consumer in a personal, visual format about how the wines smell, taste, and feel while they are being tasted.  Instructions for reading each VINPRESSION are quite simple – read these drawings from left to right as the wines travel to the front, middle and back of your palate.  Although the VINPRESSION looks abstract, I draw them as if they were on a four-quadrant graph.  The left side of the graph describes the sensations on the front palate (as the wine enters the mouth), the center of the graph explains the mid palate and the right of the graph is the back palate (the finish). 

Shown on the drawing, if the lines drop to the bottom left quadrant, the wine is hitting the bottom of my front palate, and likewise if it ends high on the top right quadrant, it touches the back top of my palate.  A round, full wine touches all quadrants of the graph and if it has no hard edges on the palate, there will be no sharp angles, just round ones.  A wine that finishes long will show extending lines to the right.  Sometimes a wine’s tannins curl back and prickle the mid and front palate after swallowing and this is shown too through lines moving from the right to the left.

I do give my overall impression of the wine in words on the VINPRESSION to start the tasting experience.  I also use words in the context of the drawing at the time and place they are experienced on the palate.

These VINPRESSION tasting notes are an exciting journey, and with each new tasting note I “draw,” I learn more about how to better communicate the way wines taste.  I hope you have fun with these sketches and that they broaden the way in which you think about wine – they have and continue to do so for me. 

learn about the historians & memory-makers of Epoch Wines (Part 2), here.

Easter & Wine

Easter & Wine

Easter Candy + Wine on VAULT29 blog

Spring has arrived! Nothing pairs better with Spring than white clouds sailing high in the blue sky, freshly planted tulips standing tall, Easter, candy, and wine.

Easter is around the corner, and the kids don't have to be the only beneficiaries! With a plethora of candy options abound, why not channel your inner-child and get down with some candy wine pairings? Here's a few to help you get started...

1.  Peeps: Those spongy, yet crunchy, puffy colored sugar-coasted marshmallow chicks are so strange. Strange or not, they sure do go well with a glass of bubbles – Prosecco to be precise.   

 

2.  Jelly Beans: Jelly beans date back to the days of the Civil War (think Abraham Lincoln, 1860s) where Boston candy maker, William Schrafft, advised people to send soldiers his candy to help them cope with the discomfort of gangrene. In the 1930s is when the wide-spread American candy became associated with Easter. Enough with the history lesson. A dry Riesling is known to pair well with jelly beans.

 

3.  Cadbury Crème Eggs: These Easter classics consist of a chocolate "egg-shaped" exterior, filled with a gooey yellow and white fondant which resembles the yolk of a chicken egg. Sip on a glass of port or late harvest wine as this type of wine is known to kill the sweetness.

 

4.  Cadbury Mini Eggs: Hiding in the shadows of the bigger brother, the Cadbury  Creme Egg, is the Cadbury Mini Egg. Once you get past the thin candy-coated pastel shell, you're delighted with solid milk chocolate. Grab a bottle of Merlot and a bag of Mini Eggs and call it a night.

 

Don't see your favorite candy listed? We'll leave you with this...

Easter is your first real opportunity to break out the rosé! Rosés are versatile wines that adapt well with most foods. So, while you are pondering what to sip with your favorite Easter candy, think pink. Bubbles won’t hurt either. HAPPY EASTER!

There's more to wine than labels, ratings, and tasting notes. At VAULT29, we are about wine experiences. To discover experiences happening worldwide, join our community of winemakers, wineries, restaurants, drinkers, and more! simply download the VAULT29 app. It's available on itunes now! find it here

Tax Day

Tax Day

Tax Day is fast approaching in the US. April 15th can be dreadful for those who owe the government money; it can also be rewarding for those who have overpaid. Regardless of your position, filing taxes are stressful. Luckily wine eases the stress.

On Tax Day, Saturday, 4/15, join us on a non-stressful, epic, never-before offered wine experience in Sonoma County as we fly with DRNK Wines! [Limited Space]

Localism

Localism

Localism Wines: Real Grassroots

Localism: an authentic network of connections and relationships established by living, working and being local to Napa Valley.

Nicole Knoth|Proprietor/GM

Nicole Knoth|Proprietor/GM

In 2008 we had a joint epiphany while enjoying the wine country life on a weekend trip to Paso Robles: we needed to leave our current careers behind and somehow get into the wine industry! With our backgrounds in biotech and marketing we felt confident that we had the basic skills needed for learning to make and sell wine. We moved to Fresno to attend Fresno State’s Viticulture & Enology program and as they say, the rest is history.

Ryan Knoth|Proprietor/Winemaker

Ryan Knoth|Proprietor/Winemaker

As soon as we arrived in Napa we decided to start our own brand before really even establishing ourselves with careers in the industry. It was just a passion that needed to be fulfilled immediately – we wanted proof that what we had sacrificed and given up to get to the epicenter of the wine world was already paying off.

We came in with no investment to speak of – Localism’s beginnings were really grassroots. We talked to everyone we knew to get connected with what we needed to start out. We've really embraced the closeness of this industry and the valley in general. Everyone is very collaborative and willing to help out. It's really refreshing and means a lot to us because we left everything behind in pursuit of this kind of culture. One connection leads to the next and this is what defines Localism. We've not only created this network for ourselves but for those who have become part of it with us. It's much larger than wine- its art, music, food, the land, family and the list goes on and on. The wine is what brings it all together- wine is life. This philosophy is what drew us in initially when we first decided to begin this adventure.

The foundation of our Localism network goes like this: in sourcing grapes for our first ever Cabernet vintage (2010) we found a couple living on a beautiful property in Coombsville who were interested in selling the grapes growing on their 1 acre vineyard. We happily took over the farming for this parcel and have done so for the past 7 vintages. We met the owner of the winery where we make the wine at the first ever Bottle Rock event here in Napa. He has been supportive of our brand ever since. The artist whose incredible art adorns our labels we found by searching for local artists in the area – she is now a great ambassador of Localism. Our designer is a former coworker and friend whose incredible enthusiasm for what we are doing inspires us. The owner of the warehouse that stores our wine also hand waxes our bottle closures for us – his artistry embodies the Localism spirit. Only with this network of individuals are we able to exist in a very competitive industry where new brands come pop-up (what it seems like) on a daily basis. Localism continues to move forward organically year after year as if we are following a path that was already laid out for us.

2014 Localism Cabernet Sauvignon | VAULT29

We source our Cabernet Sauvignon from the Schwartz Vineyard, located in Coombsville, Napa Valley's newest AVA. Officially recognized in January 2012, grapes have been growing here before the 1870's. The Coombsville AVA has a cooler growing season than many in Napa Valley; its proximity to the San Pablo bay provides a more moderate climate and frequent fog. These factors combine to create a long, moderate growing season. Based on the cooler climate and volcanic soils, this appellation is known for making elegant, perfumed Cabernet, with fresh red and black fruit characteristics that carry crisp acidity and velvety tannins. We have had the unique opportunity to directly manage the Schwartz vineyard, implementing organic processes, and sustainable practices. Being in control of the vineyard allows us to fine tune each vine, producing premium Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, reflecting the cool climate and terroir of Coombsville. Our current release is our 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. This wine was aged 20 months in French oak barrels. 

2015 Localism Sauvignon Blanc | VAULT29

Our current release 2015 Sauvignon Blanc features fruit from two of Napa Valley’s premiere appellations: Yountville and Calistoga. The Yountville appellation boasts a rich history; the first vineyards in the Napa Valley were planted by George Yount in the mid-1800s. This is a classic “warm days and cool nights” appellation with sunny afternoons and often foggy mornings. The Yountville AVA is one of the coolest wine regions in Napa Valley, which helps contribute to a long growing season. This Sauvignon Blanc is comprised of 100% Sauvignon Blanc (50/50 Sauvignon Blanc &  Musque clones). Frequent lees stirring and sweet oak, help to round out and complement the naturally bright acidity of this wine  

We look forward to the continued evolution of Localism as new and exciting opportunities present themselves by crossing our path.

Cheers! Ryan & Nicole of Localism Wines

La Pitchoune

La Pitchoune

who we are 

"a little history" by Tracy Nielsen

La Pitchoune means “the little one,” a reference to a small family property in the South of France. The name speaks to small production, small lots, and the idea that our small size is our greatest asset. At La Pitchoune, we prize the special care we can apply to our craft. By combining passion, art, and science, we ensure that each blend is expressed to its fullest potential. 

In 2011, inspired by the wines from Burgundy, we set out to make the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Sonoma County focusing on West Sonoma County. Our first vintage was 2012. We currently make our wines in Santa Rosa - the hub of winemaking for West Sonoma County. We live in Sonoma County. We believe in Sonoma wines. 

how we got here 

From Left to Right: Andrew, Peter, Tracy

From Left to Right: Andrew, Peter, Tracy

My husband and I met in San Francisco and decided to move to the Bay Area almost 12 years ago.  We soon discovered wine country and quickly fell in love with Sonoma County – especially Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  

One of the winemakers that had me sitting up and paying attention, was Andrew Berge. He had been working with Bill Hunter at Chausseur, and I quickly discovered that Andrew was a winemaker to watch.  Later, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Andrew at a party through a mutual friend. We found we had many things in common when it came to Pinot Noir – we thought it should be balanced, it should have nuance, it should represent the vineyard site where it came from, but something that we also both enjoyed were wines with age.  We decided to continue our discussion the next day over a beer at the Underwood in Graton, (where most brilliant ideas are born) and I soon discovered that he was looking to make a change and get out of what he was doing, and I was determined to try to find a way in.  We decided to partner together, and started out with five tons of Pinot Noir and a dream. Today we are producing over 20 tons of world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the most distinctive vineyards of West Sonoma County. 

what's different 

La Pitchoune wine pairing on VAULT29

I recently read an article that said, “does the world really need another bottle of $45 Pinot?” I made it my mission to go out there and actually ask the question myself.  I have spoken with many winemakers, industry experts, and consumers, and the answer I have been getting has been a resounding YES! Small producers like us are doing something special. Are we making a wine that is terroir-driven and balanced? Of course. But that’s just part of the story. What makes us different, is that the wines we are making have the potential to age. We have received some fantastic press, and the consistent statement has always been – I can’t wait to taste this in five years. Seven years.  Ten years. Ageablility in wine is just not something we are seeing that often in California. And we are doing our part to change that right here in Sonoma County.  

from drought to deluge 

Many people have been asking us about the impact of all of this rain and flooding on the vineyards.

In general, flooding during the dormant phase has no real long-term effect on the vines. They originally evolved in and around seasonal creeks, so it is not unusual for them to take on some water. Occasional flooding can actually be beneficial as it deposits nutrients into the vineyard that have been depleted. 

Andrew Berge & Tracy Nielsen on VAULT29

During the growth phase however, they typically do not do well with their roots under the water table. Oxygen in the root zone is critical for water and nutrient absorption. It is also important for beneficial microorganism metabolism and respiration. Microbial activity such as organic matter decomposition and nitrification require the presence of oxygen in the soil.

With the amount of rain we have received and with no end in sight, the real concern becomes erosion and mudslides. The soils are saturated so most of the rain we continue to receive will not soak into the soil. This leads to overland flow, which increases the risk of erosion and mudslides. In the worst situations, portions of vineyards can be washed away.  But we are assuming that the vineyards will survive the rain, and it shouldn’t have an affect on the upcoming vintage. 

what's new 

In April, we will be bottling our first vintage of Chenin Blanc. And we are so excited, because it tastes amazing in the barrel right now. Something in particular we like about Chenin, is it’s aging potential. (are you seeing a theme here?) France produces white wines with some of the longest aging potential in the world. And they happen to be some of our favorites to drink.  

Something else that grabbed our attention, is the history that Chenin Blanc has in California.  In the 1960s and 70s, Chenin Blanc represented about 60% of all white grapes planted in the state.  Its ability to produce large yields started the White Burgundy jug wine and wine cooler craze. They also referred to it as the ‘Chardonnay extender.’ We hope to be on the side of history that changes that image.  

the team 

Andrew Berge

andrew berge - Master Winemaker

An artist, scientist, farmer, gourmet chef, mountain climber and winemaker is what best describes the person behind the La Pitchoune wines. What makes Andrew so special is his understanding of the geography, soil, vines and the fruit that end up being the foundation of the wines created. With a Masters degree in Agriculture, Andrew is more than a winemaker. His ability to comprehend, care and tend for the fruit as it matures on the vines allows him to have full control of the grapes long before they arrive at the winery and the actual winemaking begins. This is what makes him stand head and shoulders above the rest. Balance and terroir are words that are too often thrown around for the sake of marketing, but for Andrew they are part of his quest to change the perception of California wines. La Pitchoune is his vehicle and the sharp end of the stick intended to demonstrate what a hand-crafted terroir-driven California wine can be.

tracy nielsen - co-founder & assistant Winemaker

Originating from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Tracy’s adventurous spirit and infectious personality is ever-present in everything she does. Growing up as a raft-guide on the fiercest rivers of Colorado, she is not one to ever back down from a challenge. No or impossible are simply not words in her vocabulary and they serve as the inspiration and foundation for the creation of La Pitchoune.

After five-years of trying to break into the wine industry and repeatedly being told no, Tracy decided to make her vision a reality by starting La Pitchoune. It’s this very spirit that now guides everything we do at La Pitchoune. Nothing is impossible and dreams are always welcome here.

Tracy Nielsen
Peter Nielsen

peter nielsen - Co-Founder & Chief Strategist

A Swede, a Canadian, a serial entrepreneur, a DJ, a racecar driver, a visionary, and a dreamer is what best describes the man behind the overall business strategy of La Pitchoune. Just like Tracy, he is strongly driven and operates under the assumption that nothing is impossible.
A perfect day is filled with fast cars and ends with soul-shaking house music originating from vinyl sitting on a couple of 1200’s. A good evening is always accompanied by a beautiful bottle of wine from Burgundy or La Pitchoune.

george - The Winery Dog

George (full name: King George of Green Valley) is the La Pitchoune winery dog. He was born on July 21st, 2014 in West Sonoma County, surrounded by pastures, vineyards and wineries. George was destined to roam the vineyards and cool barrel rooms of La Pitchoune. In his spare time George likes to sleep, eat, chew corks, eat, play with his girlfriend Lu, and greet our visitors. His favorite foods include carrots, apples and bananas. At only 3 months old, George started his own Instagram account. You can follow him and his adventures at instagram.com/georgethewinerydog.

George - La Pitchoune Wnery Dog on VAULT29

our vineyards 

La Pitchoune Vineyard Map on VAULT29

We source grapes from several of the best and most forward-thinking vineyards in Sonoma County. This allows us to carefully select which pinot noir and chardonnay grapes we’d like to include in our winemaking program. All of the vineyards are sustainable, and most of the growers live on the property. We work closely together throughout the year, and are very involved in the decision-making process. From farming practices to harvest timelines, we ensure that only the best grapes are selected and included.

CHENOWETH VINEYARD: Located in the redwoods of western Sonoma County, the Chenoweth vineyard is a partnership between three all-stars of the California wine industry; Charlie Chenoweth, Michael Browne, and Ted Elliot. Positioned at about 700 feet in elevation, the hillside vineyard sits above the fog but is still close enough to the coast that cool maritime air moderates daytime highs. This allows for long and slow ripening. The Goldridge soils, prized for their great drainage and low fertility, control vigor of the low yielding Wente-Hyde selection of Chardonnay vines that produce the concentrated and flavorful wines from this site.  

DEVOTO VINEYARD:  Situated three ridges in from the Pacific Ocean in western Sonoma County, Devoto Vineyard is a 20-acre family farm that was founded in 1976 by Susan and Stan Devoto. The farm started out as one of the North Bay’s original micro-green growers, and slowly evolved in biodiversity. Together with their three daughters, the family grows over 50 varieties of heirloom apples, specialty cut flowers, and pinot noir grapes. They draw their inspiration from a true passion for slow food, sustainability, beauty, and the preservation of heirloom varieties such as the local Gravenstein apple.  

ENGLISH HILL VINEYARD: Planted in 2005 by Kurt Beitler on an old dairy farm, English Hill Vineyard is located southwest of Sebastopol. Since it is only 9.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean, this site is the epitome of a true Sonoma Coast vineyard. At an elevation of 650 feet about sea level, the canopy is engulfed with marine fog in the morning and bashed by steady afternoon wind. The vines struggle to keep their roots in the sandy-loam soils. Comprised of 9 Pinot Noir blocks, we source fruit from three blocks harvested over a period of two weeks. Equal parts of Dijon clones 115 and 667, along with a selection of Vosne Romanee, rounds out the blend for our English Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir. 

La Pitchoune Holder Vineyards pinot noir on VAULT29

HOLDER VINEYARD: Planted in 2000 by Bruce Holder & Mary Ann Wheeler shortly after they purchased a neglected apple orchard atop the ridge looking down on Occidental. Located in the “banana-belt” section of western Sonoma County, the climate is defined by warm days and cool nights. Typically, this is the first Pinot Noir vineyard we harvest. Based on daily observation and hands on involvement, Bruce and Mary Ann work the property together to manage the ever-changing demands of the vineyard. The result is a grower-winery relationship with the common goal to enhance the quality of each vintage. 

PRATT VINEYARD: This vineyard, owned by the renowned vineyard manager Jim Pratt, is located on the left bank of the Laguna de Santa Rosa just north of Sebastopol. Surrounded by famed vineyards from Kistler, Dehlinger, and the Duttons, it produces world-class wines of distinction. With over 30 years of experience nurturing grape vines, Jim’s attention to detail and quality of fruit delivered to the winery is matched by few. Planted with Robert Young and Mt. Eden heritage chardonnay clones, the Pratt Vineyard enjoys warm days and is cooled in the evenings by cold air draining into the Laguna de Santa Rosa.  

Van der Camp vineyards

VAN DER KAMP VINEYARD: On the eastern flank of Sonoma Mountain, at the headwaters of Sonoma Creek is the van der Kamp vineyard. One of the oldest homesteads on the mountain, it has been farmed continually for over one hundred years with the crops not much different over time and always planted to some variety of grapevine. At an elevation of 1250 to 1500 feet, they sit above the frost line. Two fog banks move up on opposite sides of the vineyard - one from the Petaluma gap that winds up the Russian River and the other that comes in from the bay.

La Pitchoune Winery is an ultra-premium winery producing distinctive, handcrafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast. 

TASTINGS: Tastings available by appointment, email contact@lapitchounewinery.com for more information


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Black Knight

Black Knight

Black Knight: Tough Love, Good Wine

Black Knight Wine on VAULT29

Great wine is truly all about location, and to inspire greatness in grapes requires a bit of tough love. About 3.4 million years ago, Mount St. Helena violently erupted. Right nearby in the Sonoma coast appellation, Taylor Mountain also erupted, flattening and burying an entire redwood forest in the process. A million years after that, the Rogers Creek fault opened up along the top of Taylor Mountain causing lava to flow out and combine with the volcanic soil already present. This violently created, rough soil paired with the cooling Petaluma Wind Gap breezes made this mountain the perfect location to give grapevines a little tough love. Finally a few million years later, in 2007, the Black family decided to move out onto that same mountain in the hopes of making beautiful wine.

My father decided he was entirely fed up with corporate life and needed a drastic change. Our little family of five chose to turn our lives upside down and move from comfortable, mainstream Pennsylvania all the way out to California with no idea what adventures were ahead of us. As a chemical engineer, my dad spent his career turning around failing chemical plants, and he decided to use this knowledge to pursue his lifelong passion for wine and buy a failing vineyard in need of love. The first few years on the farm were an uphill battle involving overgrown and possessed Merlot vines, old broken down tractors, and countless quirky anecdotes about chasing the neighbor’s runaway cows and learning how to properly transport barrels of wine with a forklift by the age of 14.

Almost a decade later, we have turned our little family farm into something truly remarkable. We have managed to double the size of the vineyard to 35 acres, developed 2 different wine labels, created a beautiful guest house, and converted a barn into a fully functional custom crush facility. Our two different wine brands are Fault Line and Black Knight Vineyards. The Fault Line label is our commercial brand with about 1,500 cases of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot produced. These are beautifully balanced, easy to drink wines that can be found in many local restaurants in the area. We were very successful from the beginning, as our 2012 Chardonnay immediately won 96 points and a gold medal in the North Coast Wine Challenge due to its unique minerality coming from our rocky volcanic soil.

Our Pinot Noir small lot reserve collection under Black Knight, with a production close to 200 cases, is particularly exciting as it showcases numerous micro-climates from the same small vineyard, providing drastically different tasting Pinot Noirs. Our newly awarded Sonoma Harvest Fair Gold Medal winning En Passant Pinot consists of earthy clones 115 and 828 which bring out spicy flavors and complex structure. In contrast, the single clone 777 Dragon's Back is exclusively made from grapes grown directly on top of the fault. This wine is the closest you will get to knowing what a highly volcanic and granitic fault tastes like.

The great advantage of growing the grapes and making the wine is it allows us understands our product and tailor wine making decisions based on this knowledge. Over the years we have learned to utilize our micro-climates and farm according to the optimal needs of the grapes. Similarly we use various methods for fermentation in order to heighten their complexity. We use three different methods with traditional wine barrels, stainless steel tanks, and flextanks. Flextanks are a relatively new and innovative form of winemaking, where wine is poured inside plastic tanks, and oak staves are added as desired. this bold new technique allows the winemaker more control over the fermentation process and Black Knight has been on the forefront of this new technique. Flextanks have a major advantage over barrels in that they are just as breathable, but they do not lose as much moisture as traditional barrels. This eliminates the need for frequent “topping off” of barrels, keeps the alcohol contents low, and the wine flavorful. Flextanks can also be continuously reused, unlike barrels which must be replaced every few years, making them extremely cost efficient for small winemakers like us.

Our new custom crush winery is distinct because it gives small-scale winemakers the opportunity to work with high end equipment.  Additionally, having our own winery allows us to have a little more fun with our grapes and invest in new projects. In the next few months we will be releasing our first methode champenoise. We also decided to make a more traditional form of bubbles, a petulant natural or pet-nat wine, and are excited to share our various techniques for making bubbly wine in our new tasting room come late march. However one of our most exciting new venture is the Gamay Noir. This is our first harvest with the Gamay, and our vineyard is one first gamay growers in the entire country. This exotic new wine will hopefully be ready to share this summer. Black Knight Vineyards is an ambitious family vineyard and winery, and we are always excited for the next adventure. We encourage anyone who wants to get a unique and personal experience in the wine industry to come visit the farm, but be prepared to get your hands dirty.


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Timbre Winery

Timbre Winery

Inspiration

Timbre is the “color” of musical sound.  It’s how two voices express their individuality, even when singing the same note. We source fruit from some of the best vineyards in Santa Barbara County and across the Central Coast, but we don’t own any of those vineyards, so what differentiates our wines from others sourced from the same vineyard sites? There are, of course, many factors from picking decisions, to fermentation, to oak, when to rack, and when to bottle. There are also intangible, indescribable elements.  Those choices and intangibles have a big impact on the expression of a vineyard source in a bottle of wine and, collectively, make up the TIMBRE, or voice, of our winemaking.  

It is early morning and, driving the 101 up California’s coast, I am reminded of what inspired me to start a winery (way back in 2005) as a sommelier in Los Angeles. I worked at an amazing culinary hotspot but my professional life lacked the fulfillment that comes with trying for, and hopefully realizing one’s dream. 

In an effort to supplement my passion for wine I started taking short trips to the Santa Barbara wine country. Those trips away from the lights and haze of LA were, literally, a breath of fresh air. There is nothing quite like seeing the morning light break the hills surrounding the Santa Ynez valley- the unbelievably vibrant colors in contrast to the concrete slab that is Los Angeles. The same can be said of an early morning drive on many parts of the 101. I like to leave before daybreak so I can watch the sun rise over the hills that border both sides of the road. The natural beauty of the Central Coast invigorates and re-inspires me every time I get in the car!

With my amazing family for support and my best friend and business partner Alex, every challenge in the winery is met with a commitment to the highest standards of quality. But starting a small winery is hard, and keeping it alive year after year is even harder. For me, the hardest part is being continually inspired. What is it that keeps me striving day after day? Part of that inspiration comes from early morning walks through the vineyard. That time when the dew still clings to the individual berries. The moment that you are in sync with the vines themselves. Inspiration lives in the instant that you know without doubt that the fruit has reached the apex of ripeness, still crisp with acidity, and it is time to harvest.

Inspiration makes an appearance when the fruit comes into the winery from the vineyard, heaped in ½ ton bins like treasure chests full of tiny jewels. As we fill fermenters, the smell of fresh juice bursting from the still cold berries. That first pump-over when you taste the liquid that will one day become an amazing bottle of wine. It makes an appearance when fermentation completes, that moment when you can taste the young wine and get a feel for its potential. You experience it many times as you taste the aging barrels, and then it lives in the finished bottles of wine. It is our hope that others can find inspiration in those bottles as well.

Cheers!


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Romillily Wines

Romillily Wines

Romancing the Wine

You might say we here at Romililly Wines (all two of us) are on the romantic side of things. We certainly do not take the little things for granted. This was singed into our brains at an early age… long story, but let’s just say we lived in a certain bus, in a certain rural place, for a certain amount of time, as children.

We know much of any business is sales, and up-selling what romance can squeezed out of a product, but wine is a little different. If you have ever walked in a vineyard, been in a winery during harvest, or in the cellar deep in a wine cave, you know exactly what I am talking about.  There is an energy associated with these places- hard to define, but real nonetheless.

The French have the term Terroir to help explain the magic of a grape growing region or vineyard site. It is the essence of the land which is translated into the grape and, therefore, into the wine. I have heard it expressed as “Earth Energy.” I have heard people limit its definition to the weather and soil, but imagine if the vineyard were under the route of migrating duck… will this affect the bug population, fertilize the soil, etc.? Every little factor counts, to some degree.

I take the romance a step further and remind you that, just like every breath you take can never be taken again, so is this true with every sip of wine? Every day the unopened bottle is different. The bottle on the top of the stack is different from the bottle on the bottom. Once you open that 750ml of love, the change that happens, happens faster… now it is blooming and opening up. Every swirl unlocks more aromas until finally it is over the hill (assuming you drink too slow) and the wine is no longer wine, but maybe closer to something my mom left on the counter for cooking a month ago.

All I am trying to say is, enjoy every sip- You’ll never have that one again, or that one, or that one. If you open that bottle of wine today versus tomorrow the wine, your mood, the food, and your mouth will all be different than it would have been today.

Here is to the romance in wine.

Wonderment

Wonderment

Wonderment Wines: Living the Dream!

It’s been said that ‘happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance’ and we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’ve created our family of Wonderment Wines. Focused on specific terroir and vineyards using the perfect balance of dedication, integrity and fun that makes life so enjoyable.
— Stephanie Cook

‘phrases to live by….purposely on the CORK of each bottle of Wonderment Wine’ 

Wonderment: Who we are - Terroir, Terroir…!!

Wonderment Wines produces handcrafted single vineyard designate wines.  We specialize in Pinot Noir, Heritage Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc from premier vineyard sites in American Viticultural Areas (AVA) such as Carneros-Napa County, Oak Knoll of Napa County, Carneros-Sonoma County, Russian River Valley, Rockpile and Lake County. Working closely with top growers in these respective AVAs such as Dutton Ranch, Mauritson, Bacigalupi and Hyde Vineyards our wines are focused on specific terroir where each wine represents the vineyards distinctive style and expression.  We incorporate artisanal methods with minimal intervention in both the vineyard and winery with the specific goal of creating wines of balance, finesse and elegance.  

Owner & Winemaker: Stephanie Cook - Who I am…. !!

Stephanie cook, owner & winemaker

Stephanie cook, owner & winemaker

I was born and raised in Leesville, South Carolina and a have been a resident of Charleston the past 17yrs, I began traveling the world as a fashion model, living and working in London, Milan and Istanbul in my late teenage years and early 20s.

Landing back in South Carolina, this time in the wonderful city of Charleston, I turned my lifelong love of food into a new career, earning my culinary degree and graduating magna cum laude at Johnson & Wales University ten years ago.  After staging in a restaurant in Milan, I returned to the incredible food, history and beauty of Charleston. What an amazing city Charleston is; full of southern charm, soul, and fantastic people.  I put my hospitality and entrepreneurial skills to the test, creating and leading the successful special events and catering company, Bridgeside Events, which I later sold.

All the while, my dream to become a winemaker waited patiently for its moment. After losing my Dad unexpectedly, the man who made homemade Muscadine wine in the laundry room, it motivated me to make my dream of being a winemaker a reality.  

Not long after, I met Bob Biale of Robert Biale Vineyards and informed Bob that I was coming to work for him. True to my word, I worked the 2011 harvest in Napa, soaking up every bit of knowledge I could.  The Bob and the cellar staff have become life long friends and mentors.  The experience was truly life altering!

Also in 2011 while working harvest I bought my own grapes and made my first Pinot Noir (a barrel of precious Dr. Stan’s Vineyard) and two Zinfandels. These three exciting wines constitute Wonderments very first release and the realization of my Dream!

In 2012, I continued honing my skills at Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery, a historic Victorian era estate in St. Helena and I fell ever more in love with winemaking.  In 2013, I worked as the senior intern at Anomaly Vineyards for acclaimed winemaker Mark Porembski.  In spring of 2014 I decided to go down under to New Zealand, specifically to Marlborough and spent 8 weeks in the role of Vintage Winemaker for Spy Valley Wines.  Then during the fall 2014 Napa/Sonoma harvest I worked harvest at Staglin Family Vineyard with winemaker Frederik Johansson.

Each of these experiences have helped shape what today are Wonderments highly acclaimed vineyard designate bottlings.  I am so fortunate for my experiences with each of these special wineries and the people that define each of them.

The Wines: What we represent…!!

Preceding the 2012 harvest, we were able to quickly build a handful of relationships with some of the top growers in Sonoma and Napa AVAs : Bacigalupi, Dutton Ranch, Hyde, Mauritson.  Since the 2012 Vintage we have produced six red wines focused on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel along with a historic half acre block of Russian River Valley Petite Sirah.  

These six bottling have been produced every year since, with each year providing us more and more understanding of the wines ‘sense of place’.  These varietals, as evident early on with our first vintage in 2011, were chosen for very specific reasons.  As a South Carolinian with a culinary background the balance and synergy between food and wine is tantamount for an elevated experience.  Pinot Noir for myself and for many is ‘the great’ wine of the world and is such an amazing compliment for so many types of food.  As a varietal, it is elegant and feminine with a subtle backbone of power.  Zinfandel on the other hand is the great heritage varietal of California and for many is considered ‘The American Wine’ - planted and farmed by the first settlers to the Sierra Foothills over 150 years ago.  For me, it is again the compliment Zinfandel provides with a variety of cuisine - it produces a wine with balanced fruit, mouthfeel and acidity.  Interestingly, many winemakers consider both these varietals to be difficult to produce consistent, quality wines - quietly that also might have been a motivator!!  Lastly - it is a privilege to have found such a fantastic little half acre of Petite Sirah in the Russian River Valley.  These vines are twenty years old and dry farmed.  I will always remember John Bacigalupi explaining how he and his father Charles decided which PS vines to graft over to this block.  The genetic material for this block of PS is filled with over 100 years of RRV harvests.  For Wonderment it is our Cabernet Sauvignon Imposter - filled with fruit, structure and joy in any situation.  Bring on the steaks and the ‘Big Green Egg’. 

For the 2013 Harvest we were focused on producing a white wine.  We were able to convince Larry Hyde and his son Chris to sell us a row of Semillon planted in 1978 during the original development of their 160 acre Carneros-Napa Valley vineyard.  This row of slightly diseased almost 40 year old wines have been so much fun to work with.  The 150 vines produced about one ton of fruit each vintage producing approximately 50 cases of Wonderment Hyde Vineyard Semillon.  During each vintage we barrel ferment in stainless steel then age for 4 months in neutral French oak before bottling.  We are excited to see this wine age but at only 50 cases the 2013 vintage sold out quickly.  and currently the 2014 vintage is available.  Sadly, the 2015 vintage (currently in bottle) will be the last of this Vineyard designate bottling as this part of the Hyde vineyard was redeveloped in spring of this year.  Yet, we are excited to be releasing our first Sauvignon Blanc from the Las Trancas Vineyard farmed by the Hydes and located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley next spring. We were able to get a few tons for the 2015 harvest and are extremely excited to share this wine with our new and existing supporters!

This journey the past five years can only be described as ‘Living the Dream’..  more specifically ‘Living my Dream’ and hopefully you will enjoy and find time to share my dream with your friends and family.

Stars of Pinot

Stars of Pinot

VAULT29 is honored to join Los angeles magazine, city national bank, beverly hills chamber of commerce (and more!) as a partner of the 2nd annual Stars of Pinot! Hosted by our friends at WineLA, the "Star" studded event will take place on July 20th at the luxurious Sofitel La Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. 

This is an unforgettable opportunity to taste 200+ artisian, pinot wines crafted by 60+ of the world's top producers. 

Enjoy passed hors d'oeurves, freshly baked breads by La Brea Bakery, and an assortment of quality cheese and chocolates by Chef's Warehouse who provide specialty foods to top restaurants. If you've missed the 1st Annual Star of Pinot, do yourself the favor and do NOT miss the 2nd! 

Our Top 10 Reasons to Attend Stars of Pinot:
*Unlimited tasting of new release wines
*Discover hidden gems
*Meet the wineries
*Compare different growing regions and styles
*Support the T.J. Martell Foundation (Leukemia, Cancer & AIDS Research)
*Auction and win exclusive offerings
*Get down with guest "Superstar" DJ Richard Blade
*All VIP Access gets you panel discussion, buffet & swag bag
*Commemorate the evening by taking home your Schott Zwiesel glass
*Remember your favorite moments of the event by snapping pics with the VAULT29 mobile app

There are ticket options to fit various needs. Get your tickets now before the event sells out! enter "vault29" at checkout for the best deal.

Take the responsible route by using winela's new car service partner, lyft. new users use code: winela.

 

join the fastest growing community dedicated to wine experiences - vault29 - because there's more to wine than labels, tasting notes & ratings. our custom wine emojis to help describe your experience; making wine fun!

Use #starsofpinot when posting inside the vault29 app and share across other social platforms like: facebook, instgram & twitter! 

Barber Cellars

Barber Cellars

From Humble Beginnings to the 1st (#Wine) Tasting Room in Downtown Petaluma

Barber Cellars- Who Are They?:

We are Michael and Lorraine Barber, a husband and wife winemaking team, and Barber Cellars is our small Sonoma winery producing no more than 1000 cases every year.  Our winery comes from pretty humble beginnings, definitely not the classic ‘made lots of money somewhere else, then got into the wine business’ story.  No family lineage of winemakers, no store of wealth to get things going – just an undeniable love of great California wine and the willpower of two people determined to make it in a very tough business. 

Customers in our tasting room always ask me where I learned to make wine.  Well, my wine education story is pure on-the-job training.  After graduating college in San Francisco, I (Mike) got a job with one of the most respected wine retailers in the city, K&L wine merchants, and worked there for 10 years.  It was the perfect education for what we do now: I met winemakers and vineyard managers from all over the world, tasted all the wines of the world, and was sent to many different countries and all over the west coast to try wines.  I became obsessed with the idea of making my own wines and read the UC Davis viticulture/enology course books on my own, though the best knowledge I gathered was the advice and guidance from all the international vintners I met at the shop.  This gave me something you can’t learn in the classroom: the realization that wine is art, always subject to the individual perceptions and preferences of the drinker which are as vast and varied as the wine world itself. Sometimes the imperfections of a wine are its best qualities and should be allowed to express themselves without manipulation, without confining the bottle to a preset list of approved chemistry numbers.

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I wanted to create elegant, unique, food friendly wines that let the vineyards speak through them, and I somehow convinced my wife (girlfriend at the time) to join me.  In 2005 we started hauling half tons of Healdsburg grapes up to our second story San Francisco apartment, rehydrating barrels in our bathtub, fermenting the must in a walk-in closet (a mildly dangerous plan…), and stomping the grapes with our feet.  A romantic idea, but it was actually pretty sticky and gross – organic grapes mean you have to deal with a lot of spiders.  In 2007 we met some people in the East Bay Vintners Alliance, in particular Matt Smith (winemaker of Blacksmith Cellars/Dashe/Rockwall/Winterhawk), who taught us how to take our production to the commercial level.  Our first commercial vintages were made from Dry Creek Valley grapes in a Suisun Valley facility we commuted to from San Francisco.  They were instantly received with praise in national wine magazines and in the SF chronicle, and Barber Cellars was born.

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In 2009 we set our roots in Petaluma, CA and I decided we would only work with vineyards around our town in the cooler lower Sonoma appellations of Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Coast.  Jon Philips, owner/winemaker of Inspiration vineyards, was instrumental in setting us up at our small warehouse winery in Santa Rosa.  Now we’re 100% Sonoma County: living in Petaluma, making wine in Santa Rosa from lower Sonoma appellations, and constantly either pouring our wines for customers or working in the vineyards.  This past November, after carving a path through red tape and renovation, we took our most important step and opened up our tasting room at 112 washington st, Petaluma, CA 94952 – a corner of the historic Hotel Petaluma and the first downtown tasting room in Petaluma.  Reflective of who we are and what we love, it’s a beautiful and casual place we renovated ourselves – a space to drink wine, play games, and enjoy local cheeses/charcuterie.

Our wine origins are modest.  We have relied completely on the advice and help of our fellow vintners and vineyard managers.  This business is tough, but the community is strong and has made us stronger.  Our wines are expressive, unique, and elegant, and that’s exactly what I wanted to make.  Stop by our tasting room, taste for yourself, and say hello!

What Do They Make?:

Barber Cellars is dedicated to small production, hand made, high quality wines from organic single vineyards.  We do not believe in additions or manipulations to our wines, and we prefer elegant/bright wines that are food friendly and ready for the dinner table.

We are in the heart of pinot noir/chardonnay territory (Petaluma is the gateway to the Sonoma Coast appellation) but I don’t have a passion for those grapes.  Other people are already making plenty of outstanding pinots and chards from this area.  I decided to look for other varietals we could find from Petaluma, creeping up the mountain to the east of town (Sonoma Mountain) for our reds and choosing different grapes around here for our whites.  Our Sonoma Mountain cabernet is out of stock right now (back in spring 2016), but it’s a burly and spice driven mountain beauty with structure and dark, brooding fruit flavors.  Our sauvignon blanc will also be back in spring: a bright and racy white with grapefruit flavors and white flower aromas.  Our pinot gris and zinfandel are the wines available on the market right now.

Pinot Gris – this one of a kind beauty comes from a single block of Keller’s estate in South Petaluma, a block with a high chalk content in clay soils typical for the Sonoma Coast.  I call it ‘Rougissant’ – French for ‘blushing’ – because of the slight color the wine has from three hours of skin contact we gave it before pressing and fermentation.  Pinot Gris, or pinot grigio depending on what language you’re speaking, is actually a red skinned grape with a grey/dull red skin opacity.  Any contact the juice has with the skins after crushing the fruit will extract color and apricot/almond flavors.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel for a long/cold/slow fermentation of about 7 months.  The result is a crisp and unique wine with full, rich flavors but a bright finish.

Zinfandel – I love zinfandels, and zins have always been the focus of our winery.  Zinfandel is California’s grape, and when it’s made well it can be a wonderful and delicious journey through California’s heritage (some of the oldest vineyards in the state are zinfandel vines still growing after 150 years).  It is also one of the most difficult wines to make, prone to uneven ripening and deficiencies.  Zins require blending with other varietals and are more susceptible to the touch of the winemaker than most other grapes.  If not handled with care, they can become a big pruney and alcoholic mess.

I fell in love with our zinfandel vineyard as soon as I saw it.  Michael Topolos (of Russian River Fame) personally showed me his Sonoma Mountain vineyard he had planted 45 years ago, and we signed a contract for the vineyard immediately on the back of his truck with a pencil and a piece of notebook paper.  This is a beautiful vineyard hidden in the trees up a steep gravel road in Sonoma Mountain, perfect for the kind of zinfandel we want to make.  It’s planted to zinfandel, petite sirah, and Alicante bouschet, all of which are grown interspersed and harvested together in a ‘field-blend’ style of zinfandel production.  The wine we make from these vines is elegant and delicious, a classic zin that is leaner than most, with raspberry and plum flavors, lush tannin, and a chili pepper finish.  Strong but sophisticated, graceful but flavorful, the wine has always been called ‘Mr. Beast.’ 

I wish I had a better origin story for the ‘Mr. Beast’ name, but it’s actually the name of our cat.  He’s an annoying, tenacious food stealing feline we rescued from the vineyards, and I thought his name would also be a great name for a zinfandel…


Discover Barber Cellars wine experiences in the VAULT29 app by downloading and searching #BarberCellars. We'd love to see you create and share your own experiences too - Cheers!

Rack & Riddle

Rack & Riddle

”Rack & Riddle: Meeting the Need for Sparkling and Still Winemaking Services in the Custom Crush Arena” by Elizabeth Nixon

Wine industry veterans Rebecca Faust and Bruce Lundquist often heard winemakers lament: Making sparkling wine is too cost prohibitive; the learning curve too steep. Yet sparkling wine sales have been outpacing still wine for nearly a decade—everybody wanted in. A light bulb turned on. This was the perfect, untapped niche: Rack & Riddle would be an operation where wineries, winemakers and brands could access still and sparkling custom crush services—from base wine or grapes, or any winemaking process in between—as well as private label wines.

Rack & Riddle has grown from eight employees at its founding in 2007 to over 80 today, expanded in 2014 to two facilities based in Sonoma County, and is one of the largest operations in the nation specializing in the traditional French sparkling winemaking style of méthode Champenoise.

Rack & Riddle is a playground for winemakers—they have access to sparkling equipment that wouldn’t normally be in a still winery. So they don’t have to purchase it, or worry about the overhead inherent in a production facility. We love to collaborate one-on-one with our clients. They can have as much input and presence they like because we have an open door policy.
— Rack & Riddle’s’ Executive Director of Winemaking Penny Gadd-Coster

Custom winemaking

Projects at Rack & Riddle are varied and truly custom. Clients elect to bring in grapes or base wine, or choose from winemaking processes a la carte, such as bottling finished wines, or aging wines in barrel. The private label wine program is ideal for those seeking a branded label with a quick turn-around time. Orders average just three months from placing an order, to receiving government label approval to being labeled and packed in cases ready to ship. Private label customers range from wineries and restaurants to retail stores, gift basket companies and more.

“A lot of our customers start their wine program with a private label wine. In the meantime, they can prepare to bring in their own grapes or base wine down the road. This is a really useful strategy to get their wine program established in the marketplace,” said Gadd-Coster.

Kansas City Royals™ World Series™ Championship Brut on the Rack & Riddle production line

Kansas City Royals™ World Series™ Championship Brut on the Rack & Riddle production line

One such client is Wine by Design, an official licensee of Major League Baseball, who chose Rack & Riddle as the “ideal partner to produce limited-release sparkling wine” first in 2013 for the Boston Red Sox sparkling, and now for the Kansas City Royals sparkling wine. “How do you find those people who are best at what they do?” said Wine by Design Founder and CEO Diane Karle. They turned to a grape grower for advice. “Immediately, no question, they said, ‘Rack & Riddle…’ We started the conversation, explained what we wanted to do, and their group was excited to get on board. We were very lucky.”

Kansas City Royals™ World Series™ Championship Brut

Kansas City Royals™ World Series™ Championship Brut

Award-winning private label wines from Rack & Riddle stock

Rack & Riddle Winery also has its own brand of four award-winning sparkling wines, which have been awarded 20 Gold medals and Best of Class awards in just the past few years. The wines can be purchased in select stores across California and numerous states nationwide, and in 27 states online at www.rackandriddle.com.

The Breathless Wine Team: (L->R): Sharon Cohn, winemaker Penny Gadd-Coster (pouring), Cynthia Faust, and Rebecca Faust

The Breathless Wine Team: (L->R): Sharon Cohn, winemaker Penny Gadd-Coster (pouring), Cynthia Faust, and Rebecca Faust

Breathless Wines, Rack & Riddle’s sister winery, will open a tasting room adjacent to Rack & Riddle’s sparkling wine facility at 499 Moore Lane in Healdsburg, Calif., in early 2016. Founded by sisters Rebecca Faust (Rack & Riddle’s co-founder), Sharon Cohn and Cynthia Faust, Breathless’ tasting room will feature three sparkling wine varietals in an innovative space—the first of its kind in Healdsburg constructed out of shipping containers. Guests enjoy a world class tasting experience complete with sabering lessons, in a space devoted to supporting more than a dozen non-profit partners.

With a multitude of programs running at once, Rack & Riddle emphasizes customer satisfaction is key.

“Working with Rack & Riddle has been an absolute pleasure,” said client Amy Kemp, co-proprietor of Loma Prieta Winery. “They are extremely knowledgeable and provide outstanding customer service, which affords us the opportunity to provide a superior product at a very reasonable price point.”

Outsourcing winemaking to Rack & Riddle means “the difference between being able to offer sparkling wine and simply not being able to offer sparkling wine,” Kemp recently told Wines & Vines. Utilizing Rack & Riddle’s custom crush facility also means Kemp won’t be delayed by a “sparkling wine production learning curve.”

Rack & Riddle Vineyards | VAULT29

As a custom crush facility that produces over 1.2 million cases annually and a team with over 100 years’ combined expertise, Rack & Riddle’s No. 1 goal is for clients large and small to know they are in the best of hands.


Winemakers, wine brands, winelovers: We'd love to see your Rack & Riddle and Breathless Wine experiences in the VAULT29 app! Simply download, create a post, and use #RackandRiddle, #BreathlessWines, and/or #CustomWines hashtags - Cheers!

Kampala Wines

Kampala Wines

”Drink Organic Wine? Yes. Because Your Wine Should Be Natural, Too.” by Lauren Barnard, Founder & Owner, Kampala Wines

It may come as a surprise, but your bottle of wine could be holding a little secret. There is more in it than just grapes! Unlike our food products, alcoholic beverages are not required to feature an ingredients list on the bottle. And domestic and international regulating bodies allow an alarming number of additives to be put into these beverages, including wine, without disclosure.

After some serious research into organic wine and tasting many along the way, I became obsessed with finding them and drinking them all of the time. They are so delicious! With so many committing to organic food, why aren’t we also considering organic with our drinks, especially wine? It’s because they can be so hard to find because there are no ingredients labels. As such, I started Kampala Wines to provide an all-organic shop to people who, like me, want their wine to be natural, just like my food. 

Kampala Wines—an Online Retailer of Organic Wine

Kampala Wines was born with the vision of bringing natural wines into the mainstream as the new wine drinking norm. We are based out of San Francisco and ship to 42 states. We have an online shop, a wine club, and do wine event planning.

Organic vs. Non-Organic: You Can See the Difference

Look at this photo. Each grown just a few feet apart from one another in Le Marche, Italy, the vineyard on the left is grown using conventional farming methods. Pesticides and unnatural fertilizers are used to grow the grapes. Even grass is unable to flourish in this environment.

The vineyard on the right uses organic and Biodynamic farming methods. Here, the vineyard is thriving with life. Green grass, insects, lizards and all sorts of other lifeforms are all working together to get what they need while also feeding the vines themselves. Talk about harmony!

But How Does Organic Wine Taste?

It tastes amazing! Earthly benefits aside, growing organic creates an environment for some super delicious grapes to follow. Because all of the vitamins and nutrients found in the soil end up in the grapes, organic vineyards means more complexity in the soil, which means more complexity in your wine. Also, organic wines many times are not fined or filtered. That means, more complexity in the bottle. And, that makes for a more happy you. 

Building a Community of Organic Wine Lovers

Our community of customers and friends are a group of thoughtful, interesting, and creative people who love wine and all of the memories it can help make. I hope you join us! Learn more at http://www.kampalawines.com


Please share your Kampala wine experiences with the VAULT29 community. Tag #Kampala and #organicwine in each post - Cheers!

2015 Thanks

2015 Thanks

2015 #Wines of Thanks

From everyday drinkin' to special occasion bottles and experiences, here's our Top 20 Wines of Thanks! Glasses up to all of our winelovers. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving - Cheers!

2014 Viognier by Amplify Wines | VAULT29

#20 - The 2014 Viognier by Amplify Wines was one of the most unique of the year. We loved this bright wine made by the super talented Cameron Porter. 

2014 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc by Galerie | VAULT29

#19 - The 2014 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc by Galerie was our favorite find of the year. Galerie is an ultra-premium boutique brand created specifically for international winemaker Laura Diaz-Munoz. From the gorgeous labels (blown watercolor) to the wine itself, this $30 is an unbelievable deal and one of the most impressive expressions of Sauvignon Blanc. 

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon by Kongsaard | VAULT29

#18 - The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon by Kongsaard is a wine to celebrate. You won't find this wine widely available, and with it's price tag, it's a once in a lifetime experience.

2014 Bieler Pere & Fils Rosé | VAULT29

#17 - The 2014 Bieler Pere & Fils Rosé was a perfect summer time sipper at $11.99 a bottle. We kept cool with this Provencial wine! 

2011 Stephens Vineyard Pinot Noir by Ten Acre | VAULT29

#16 - The gorgeous 2011 Stephens Vineyard Pinot Noir from Ten Acre was one of our favorite Pinots from winemaker Mike Zardo.  Mike started his winemaking career at Pinot-famous Pisoni, and made his way to the Russian River Valley.  Don't miss the tour and tasting at sister winery, Bella Vineyards, in Healdsberg for some of the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Old Vine Zins the area has to offer.

2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon by Adler Deutsch

#15 - The 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon by Adler Deutsch Vineyards was recommended by Sommelier Scott Brenner of PRESS Napa Valley. Paired with perfectly prepared filets, we enjoyed this stunner by Aaron Pott. An unforgettable wine paired with an unforgettable meal. 

2007 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon | VAULT29

#14 - The knockout 2007 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon needs no introduction. We were fortunate to taste a splash of this Mount Veeder gem at the 2015 Napa Valley Auction.  

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon by Obsidian Ridge Vineyard | VAULT29

#13 - The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon by Lake County's Obsidian Ridge Vineyard was the perfect discovery thanks to our friends at Uncorked in Hermosa Beach.  When you're craving a big Cab without a hefty price tag, you can't beat it at 24 bucks.

2012 David Moret Rully | VAULT29

#12 - The 2012 David Moret Rully was the perfect wine when feeling French. Greg at San Francisco's Wine Merchant tricked us with this beaut, and we're thankful he did! 

Emeritus 2011 Hallberg Ranch + William Wiley Pinot Noir | VAULT29

#11 - The Emeritus duo, 2011 Hallberg Ranch and 2011 William Wiley Pinots. Many of the award winning wines in the area are sourced from Emeritus' pristine Hallberg Vineyard.  A special treat was the side by side tasting of their very limited production - and last vintage - of the William Wiley. Two stunning Pinots you can't miss. 

2012 El Libre Rose of Malbec | VAULT29

#10 - The 2012 El Libre Rose of Malbec delivers. This wine is juicy in flavor and price at $9/bottle. Pair with paella and have yourself a feast! 

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by The Vineyard House | VAULT29

#9 - The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by The Vineyard House is a wine with rich Napa history. Tucked behind Far Niente, between BOND Winery and Harlan Estate, is The Vineyard House owned by Jeremy Nickel, son of Gil Nickel. Jeremy carries on the Nickel legacy with TVH, and writes his own piece of history with his impressive wines.

1999 Dynamite Hill Petite Syrah by Ridge Vineyards | VAULT29

#8 - The 1999 Dynamite Hill Petite Syrah by Ridge Vineyards was a pleasant surprise. We assumed this 16-year old wine was past it's prime, but boy were we wrong! Known for it's powerful Zinfandels, Ridge blew us away by this balanced, beautiful effort of Petite Syrah! 

2011 Rio Vista Vineyard Pinot Noir by Thorne | VAULT29

#8 - The 2011 Estate Grown Rio Vista Vineyard Pinot Noir by Thorne out of Sta. Rita Hills was a gorgeous wine we discovered at Pinot Days in Los Angeles. At $36/bottle, you'll want to get this wine in your glass ASAP, as many of their wines sell out quickly. Run! 

2012 La Carriere Chardonnay by Peter Michael | VAULT29

#6 - The 2012 La Carriere Chardonnay by Peter Michael was, simply put, one of the best wines we've ever had. If you're a Chard lover, this is a must drink regardless of it's $119 price tag.

2011 Palmaz Vineyards + 4088 Cabernet Sauvignon | VAULT29

#5 - The 2011 Palmaz Vineyards and 2011 4088 are two BIG hitters enjoyed at trendy steakhouse, 5A5, in San Francisco. Prime cuts of beef, including wagyu, deserve exceptional bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at its' side.  A hefty set back worth every penny, at least once! Don't pass the opportunity to tour the impressive, memorable Palmaz Estate in the newly recognized Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley. And if you can get your hands on a limited production bottle of 4088, do yourself the favor! They also produced a gorgeous Merlot by famous winemaker Robert Foley.

DRNK Sauvignon Blanc | VAULT29

#4 - If you find yourselves in the Sebastapol area, please do yourselves the favor and visit Ryan and Katie Kunde at DRNK Wines. Everything they do, from their Vin Gris to their Caver's Cuvee, is a crowd pleaser. Their $20 Sauv Blanc, sourced from the Kunde Family Vineyards, is versatile with foods or enjoyed on its own for any and every occasion. Escape the hot weather by hanging out in the cave, sippin' on some of the best from Russian River while Ryan tells you about his latest projects which may or may not involve drones.

ONX 2014 Field Day White Blend | VAULT29

#3 - We discovered ONX at Family Winemakers in 2014. Their entire line up was standout, but the 2014 Field Day, a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier was made to drink solo! The crips, clean flavors of this Paso Robles wine is vitalizing on a hot day. 

2013 Robert Sinskey Vin Girs + 2014 UNTI rosé | VAULT29

#2 - A couple of producers - Robert Sinskey (Napa Valley) and UNTI (Headlsburg) - had our palates desiring more and more rosé, which was all too often in 2015. The 2013 Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir and the 2014 UNTI rosé of Grenache/Mourvedre are conversation starters. Start any day or night festivities with these knockouts!

2005 Rutherford Quintessa Cabernet Sauvignon | VAULT29

#1 - We had been sitting on this beauty for several years, and finally found an occasion to pop the cork! In typical Quintessa style, the 2005 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon drank beautifully and was one of the most memorable to date.

Flying Goat

Flying Goat

”Disgorging of Goat Bubbles Sparkling Wine” by Owner/Winemaker Norman Yost

Flying Goat Cellars is a boutique winery located in the California Central Coast community of Lompoc. We are a pioneer in the production of Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine in Santa Barbara County, producing Goat Bubbles sparkling wine for 11 consecutive vintages. Under the Goat Bubbles brand we offer 5 unique styles of sparkling wine: Crémant, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Brut Cuvée and Rosé

Méthode Champenoise is an Old World technique for producing a bottle of fermented sparkling wine. Each bottle of sparkling wine undergoes fermentation to produce carbon dioxide or CO2. The second fermentation in the bottle is created by putting the blended wine in bottles with yeast and small quantity of sugar and then stopped with a crown cap. Then the bottle is laid to rest in the cellar horizontally for the second fermentation to complete in 3-6 weeks.

Typically, the aging period for Goat Bubbles sparkling wine is between 9 months to 16 months; the aging varies for each of type of sparkling wine. The bottles are then transferred to riddling racks to force all the sediment to move towards the neck of the bottle. The bottles need to be turned once a day by hand for 1-2 weeks, which facilitates movement of the yeast that is trapped on the sides of the bottle.

Chilling the bottles prior to disgorging

Chilling the bottles prior to disgorging

Once the bottles are ready for disgorging, they are very carefully transferred to an ice bath to freeze the neck.  After about 10-15 minutes the bottles are removed with the neck facing down. One hand tilts the bottle to 45 degrees while the other hand removes the crown cap. The tool for removing the crown cap is hooked shaped, thus allowing the operator to flip off the cap. This Old World process for removing the “lees” is called “disgorging”. The pressure inside each is bottle is 75-90 psi so once the cap comes off the product will come shooting out with considerable force, hence the need for goggles and overalls. (pictured below)

Dosage

Dosage

The next stage of the process is the introduction of the “dosage,” which is typically a sugar solution along with a small quantity of sulfur dioxide as a preservative. The amount of dosage added to the bottle depends on the level of sweetness desired in the wine. Bottles are then corked by hand and a wire hood is applied to secure the cork. 

The next and final stage is the waxing of each bottle prior to going into a box. 


Discover Flying Goat wine experiences in the VAULT29 app and add your own! Use hashtags #FlyingGoat or #FlyingGoatCellars. CHEERS!

      William Knuttel: The #Winemakers Winemaker     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Long time California winemaker   William Knuttel   has been solely focused on the making of ultra-premium wine for the entirety of his wine career. Knuttel’s philosophy has long been to make an enormous range of wines in various styles each vintage, for the simple reason that a winemaker only gets to make a limited number of vintages over his lifetime. This wealth of experience has led to an adherence to traditional winemaking practices, resulting in balanced, elegant wines that pair well with foods and have excellent aging potential—the hallmarks of classic wine.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Knuttle in the Saintsbury lab (1986)  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     William Knuttel was a chemical engineer before discovering his passion for winemaking, and that early career provided him with two valuable opportunities. The first centered on an awareness of what it takes to bring a raw material to a finished product, while the second was the wherewithal to purchase, learn about, and understand fine wine.   A tragic accident at a chemical plant diverted Knuttel’s path to the world of winemaking, when he abruptly decided to change careers and pursue his Master’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Yet another tragic quirk of fate caused him to abandon his quest for that degree just as he was finishing his thesis work, and Knuttel moved to Napa Valley to begin his winemaking journey at   Saintsbury  ….who sought his skills in large part due to his chemical engineering background, as they were in startup mode. Thus ensued a long stint as winemaker there, from 1983 to 1996, helping establish the brand as an international leader in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Burgundian style—and, incidentally, revolutionizing the way those varieties were produced in California. During his tenure at Saintsbury, Knuttel also founded and was owner/winemaker of Tria from 1995 to 2003, producing fine Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. He became Vice President and Winemaker at  Chalk Hill Winery  from 1996 to 2003, specializing in ultra-premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  From 2003 to 2011 he was Executive Winemaker at  Dry Creek Vineyard , where he completely re-honed the styles and quality of that winery’s extensive portfolio.  William Knuttel’s eponymous brand derived from his constant striving for new and exciting projects—not to mention the notion that he was spending too much time “behind the desk” making wine for other wineries. The brand was born in 2001, solidifying his reputation as an ultra-premium winemaker that many in the industry have come to know and respect.     



  

  


 
   
    
      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      
    
   

  

 


  



 
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     “ Winemaking is like other industrial processes: raw material to finished product…but winemaking allows me to access my artistic side as well, and that’s why I love it! ” 
   
   — William Knuttel 
     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
               Sebastian preps the hopper for the next round of grapes to go into the destemmer/crusher (Harvest 2015)   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     Over the years, Knuttel has developed long-term relationships with growers, giving him access to extraordinary fruit, especially important when it comes to single vineyard wines. Uncompromising and ever curious—a winemaker’s winemaker—Knuttel believes that wine is comprised of terroir, style, and technique (he would make an argument for geography and psychology, too!). Nurturing the grapes stamps a character into the wine, and the experiences of past winemaking ultimately find their way into the current endeavor. The image on the label—a fencer in multiple exposures, superimposed to show the complete motion of “le coup d’epee”—metaphorically embraces all of these characteristics and highlights the balance, finesse, power and poise valued by the winemaker.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
               Another one bites the dust! Empty bins outside the facility in Sonoma (Harvest 2015)   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     The William Knuttel label produces around 5,000 cases annually, which only seems to be a large number when the many single vineyard and specialty bottlings are considered. The winery is family owned and operated, and proud to have a tight knit crew that we consider part of the family. In 2012 Knuttel opened a   custom crush facility in Sonoma  , the home for the William Knuttel brand and where several of our client’s wines are crushed, bottled, and stored. Knuttel’s daughter,   Kate  , has become the winery’s Business Manager, while his son, Sebastian, is starting his career as Knuttel did: working closely with the fruit and finishing product in the cellar. Knuttel confers on a daily basis with the facility’s Winemaker and General Manager,   Rex Smith  , as well as the rest of our cellar crew: Enrique, Miguel, Jose, and Oliver. The team creates both high quality affordable wines, as well as ultra-premium single vineyard and specialty wines. Over the past few years, we have been especially proud to present our Vineyard Designates Series, which as the name states, features the vineyard names of our loyal growers. With this series, as with all of our wines, we strive to ensure that each vintage upholds Knuttel’s winemaking philosophy, as well as set the bar for ultra-premium wines in the valley.     



  

  


 
   
    
      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
                   
                     
                       Knuttel sampling Malbec at Peterson Vineyard 
                      
                     
                   
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
                   
                     
                       Kate, Bill, and Sebastian enjoying some time off together! 
                      
                     
                   
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      
    
   

  

 





      Currently, in addition to   William Knuttel Wines  , Knuttel is partner and winemaker for two other brands:   Ottimino  , which produces Zinfandel exclusively from the Sonoma Coast, and   Teira  , producer of premium Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Merlot from Dry Creek Valley. He is also owner and winemaker of   Robin K  , featuring sub-appellated premium wines from the finest Sonoma regions. Knuttel, an avid music lover, sits on the board Berkeley Symphony, where William Knuttel Winery is an official sponsor.   Visit   William Knuttel Winery   at Arcana, LLC, Crush Facility, in Sonoma,  by   contacting   to make an appointment. William Knuttel Wines can also be found at   Napa Wine Company Tasting Room   in Oakville (Napa Valley),   online  , and on  Facebook .           We'd love to see your William Knuttel wine experiences in the   VAULT29 app  . Use hashtag #WIlliamKnuttel, #WilliamKnuttelWines, or #WKW -- Cheers!

William Knuttel: The #Winemakers Winemaker

Long time California winemaker William Knuttel has been solely focused on the making of ultra-premium wine for the entirety of his wine career. Knuttel’s philosophy has long been to make an enormous range of wines in various styles each vintage, for the simple reason that a winemaker only gets to make a limited number of vintages over his lifetime. This wealth of experience has led to an adherence to traditional winemaking practices, resulting in balanced, elegant wines that pair well with foods and have excellent aging potential—the hallmarks of classic wine.

Knuttle in the Saintsbury lab (1986)

Knuttle in the Saintsbury lab (1986)

William Knuttel was a chemical engineer before discovering his passion for winemaking, and that early career provided him with two valuable opportunities. The first centered on an awareness of what it takes to bring a raw material to a finished product, while the second was the wherewithal to purchase, learn about, and understand fine wine.   A tragic accident at a chemical plant diverted Knuttel’s path to the world of winemaking, when he abruptly decided to change careers and pursue his Master’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Yet another tragic quirk of fate caused him to abandon his quest for that degree just as he was finishing his thesis work, and Knuttel moved to Napa Valley to begin his winemaking journey at Saintsbury….who sought his skills in large part due to his chemical engineering background, as they were in startup mode. Thus ensued a long stint as winemaker there, from 1983 to 1996, helping establish the brand as an international leader in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Burgundian style—and, incidentally, revolutionizing the way those varieties were produced in California. During his tenure at Saintsbury, Knuttel also founded and was owner/winemaker of Tria from 1995 to 2003, producing fine Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. He became Vice President and Winemaker at Chalk Hill Winery from 1996 to 2003, specializing in ultra-premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  From 2003 to 2011 he was Executive Winemaker at Dry Creek Vineyard, where he completely re-honed the styles and quality of that winery’s extensive portfolio.

William Knuttel’s eponymous brand derived from his constant striving for new and exciting projects—not to mention the notion that he was spending too much time “behind the desk” making wine for other wineries. The brand was born in 2001, solidifying his reputation as an ultra-premium winemaker that many in the industry have come to know and respect.

Winemaking is like other industrial processes: raw material to finished product…but winemaking allows me to access my artistic side as well, and that’s why I love it!
— William Knuttel
Sebastian preps the hopper for the next round of grapes to go into the destemmer/crusher (Harvest 2015)

Sebastian preps the hopper for the next round of grapes to go into the destemmer/crusher (Harvest 2015)

Over the years, Knuttel has developed long-term relationships with growers, giving him access to extraordinary fruit, especially important when it comes to single vineyard wines. Uncompromising and ever curious—a winemaker’s winemaker—Knuttel believes that wine is comprised of terroir, style, and technique (he would make an argument for geography and psychology, too!). Nurturing the grapes stamps a character into the wine, and the experiences of past winemaking ultimately find their way into the current endeavor. The image on the label—a fencer in multiple exposures, superimposed to show the complete motion of “le coup d’epee”—metaphorically embraces all of these characteristics and highlights the balance, finesse, power and poise valued by the winemaker.

Another one bites the dust! Empty bins outside the facility in Sonoma (Harvest 2015)

Another one bites the dust! Empty bins outside the facility in Sonoma (Harvest 2015)

The William Knuttel label produces around 5,000 cases annually, which only seems to be a large number when the many single vineyard and specialty bottlings are considered. The winery is family owned and operated, and proud to have a tight knit crew that we consider part of the family. In 2012 Knuttel opened a custom crush facility in Sonoma, the home for the William Knuttel brand and where several of our client’s wines are crushed, bottled, and stored. Knuttel’s daughter, Kate, has become the winery’s Business Manager, while his son, Sebastian, is starting his career as Knuttel did: working closely with the fruit and finishing product in the cellar. Knuttel confers on a daily basis with the facility’s Winemaker and General Manager, Rex Smith, as well as the rest of our cellar crew: Enrique, Miguel, Jose, and Oliver. The team creates both high quality affordable wines, as well as ultra-premium single vineyard and specialty wines. Over the past few years, we have been especially proud to present our Vineyard Designates Series, which as the name states, features the vineyard names of our loyal growers. With this series, as with all of our wines, we strive to ensure that each vintage upholds Knuttel’s winemaking philosophy, as well as set the bar for ultra-premium wines in the valley.

Currently, in addition to William Knuttel Wines, Knuttel is partner and winemaker for two other brands: Ottimino, which produces Zinfandel exclusively from the Sonoma Coast, and Teira, producer of premium Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Merlot from Dry Creek Valley. He is also owner and winemaker of Robin K, featuring sub-appellated premium wines from the finest Sonoma regions. Knuttel, an avid music lover, sits on the board Berkeley Symphony, where William Knuttel Winery is an official sponsor.

Visit William Knuttel Winery at Arcana, LLC, Crush Facility, in Sonoma,  by contacting to make an appointment. William Knuttel Wines can also be found at Napa Wine Company Tasting Room in Oakville (Napa Valley), online, and on Facebook.


We'd love to see your William Knuttel wine experiences in the VAULT29 app. Use hashtag #WIlliamKnuttel, #WilliamKnuttelWines, or #WKW -- Cheers!

Don't Miss Out On This #Wine Event, #LosAngeles, 11/21/15!

Don't Miss Out On This #Wine Event, #LosAngeles, 11/21/15!

PINOT DAYS LOS ANGELES

Pinot Days is back, and we have a discount code for you -- 33% ticket pricing (exclusing winemaker dinner)! We couldn't be happier to help introduce you to some amazing wines! (Just in time to pair with your Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas roasts!)

If you love Pinor Noir, or are interested in learning more about this great varietal, you don't want to miss this wine event! Pinot Days gives winelovers exclusive access to some of the rarest pinot noirs being produced in California and beyond. Many of the participating wineries do not distribute their wines, ever. Others can only be found in the best restaurants for premium prices. We love Pinot Days because you are guaranteed to discover something new and something incredibly rare. Join us as we taste our way through the Sonoma Coast, Santa Barbara, Mendocino, Central Coast and even Oregon! 

We've met some amazing people behind the brands, have fallen in love with their wines, like: 

Below are experiences captured and shared from past Pinot Days. Using the VAULT29 app (available in the App Store only), be sure to swing by the wineries tables mentioned above and capture your experiences. Feel free to use #hashtags when posting  -- Cheers!

[For discounted tickets (excluding the winemaker dinner), click here. Use coupon code: VAULT29SC15 when checking out. Hurry before tickets are sold out.]