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Sonoma County

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

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

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 for more information

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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.

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.


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.

Tasting Room bottle shots.jpg

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

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!

Brief #Harvest15 Update from #Sonoma & #SantaBarbara County #Wineries

Brief #Harvest15 Update from #Sonoma & #SantaBarbara County #Wineries

Harvest 2015 update!  To fully appreciate the art of winemaking, VAULT29 is taking you behind the scenes during the busiest - and most exciting - time of year in wine country. Two boutique California wineries, Stomping Girl in Sonoma County and Pali Wine Co. in Santa Barbara County, have called the 2015 harvest season "a wrap." Let's take a quick look...


Husband and wife duo, Uzi and Kathryn Cohen, craft superb boutique pinot noir and chardonnay from top vineyard sites like Hyde in Carneros. Harvest 2015 was a wrap in late August where the grapes from Hyde Vineyard were picked and pressed marking this harvest the earliest to date. Learn more about this dynamic duo and Stomping Girl Wines.


With the weather being so warm it’s another early harvest season for Pali Wine Co. They began getting grapes in mid-August! One of their highlights is that they picked their first ever harvest from their Pali Sta. Rita Hills vineyard. The staff went out before sunrise for the first pick and harvested about one ton of Pinot Noir grapes for Rosé. Learn more about this boutique winery from Santa Barbara County.

Emeritus Wines

Emeritus Wines

Harvest 2015 is underway!  To fully appreciate the art of winemaking, VAULT29 is taking you behind the scenes during the busiest - and most exciting - time of year in wine country. Check out the perspective from Emeritus, as we take a quick look into night harvest effort of pinot noir at Hallberg Ranch in Sonoma County's Goldridge.

Why harvest at night? Because the dark sky brings cool temperatures which protects the compositional integrity of the fruit. Generally speaking, bringing in the grapes at night when they are cool allows for better aromatics, acidity and sugar levels. Picking at night is also much more pleasant for harvest crews, minus the lack of sleep, who can suffer from dehydration and/or fatigue on hot days. 

Champagne toast on the last day of harvest – still lots of work to get wine into barrels but the cellar crew is toasting the last fruit coming into the winery.

For more insights into Harvest 2015 at Emeritus, click here.

In the Russian RIver Valley Vineyards @TeacMor - #Harvest2015 Update

In the Russian RIver Valley Vineyards @TeacMor - #Harvest2015 Update

Harvest 2015 is underway!  To fully appreciate the art of winemaking, VAULT29 is taking you behind the scenes during the busiest - and most exciting - time of year in wine country. Here's a visually rich insider's look at the events taking place in Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) at Teac Mor.

(Photo credits: Beth Deutsche)

Teac Mor Pinot Noir wait in anticipation of being picked. The winemaker and farmer work together to decide when to harvest.

Teac Mor Pinot Noir wait in anticipation of being picked. The winemaker and farmer work together to decide when to harvest.

Decisions about trellising and training of the vines impact the way grapes grow and ease of harvesting.

Decisions about trellising and training of the vines impact the way grapes grow and ease of harvesting.

Months of fastidious attention to the vines results in plump, gorgeous Teac Mor Pinot Noir berries

Months of fastidious attention to the vines results in plump, gorgeous Teac Mor Pinot Noir berries

This wouldn't be possible with constant vineyard companion, Dweezle, who takes part in his 10 harvest.

This wouldn't be possible with constant vineyard companion, Dweezle, who takes part in his 10 harvest.

Learn more about Teac Mor and find out about purchasing wine by emailing

Take a look inside the family-owned and operated winery in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. Learn what "Teac Mor" means and get to know Steve Moore's (winemaker/vineyard manager) biodynamic approach to producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their estate grown grapes. Read more here.

#Harvest2015 Update Highlighting @DRNKwines

#Harvest2015 Update Highlighting @DRNKwines

Harvest 2015 is underway!  To fully appreciate the art of winemaking, VAULT29 is taking you behind the scenes during the busiest - and most exciting - time of year in wine country. This week, we take an insider's look at what winemaker, Ryan Kunde, and DRNK's crush crew is up to.

Pinot grapes picked at Hallberg Ranch (Sonoma County; Russian River Valley) are ready for the sorting table

Pinot grapes picked at Hallberg Ranch (Sonoma County; Russian River Valley) are ready for the sorting table

The Setup:   On the right is the hopper which has an auger to push out the grapes, and they fall on to the sorting table. Then the grapes go into the destemmer, which separate the berries from the stem cluster.

The Setup:  On the right is the hopper which has an auger to push out the grapes, and they fall on to the sorting table. Then the grapes go into the destemmer, which separate the berries from the stem cluster.

The crush crew at DRNK. (Left to right) Ryan, Sonoe, and Michael.

The crush crew at DRNK. (Left to right) Ryan, Sonoe, and Michael.

Winemaker, Ryan Kunde,    pumping wine into a barrel. This batch of pinot noir was processed and fermented on the skins. First, we put the free run (aka   the juice that was extracted on its own) into barrel. Then, the grapes will be pressed and its juice put into a separate barrel.

Winemaker, Ryan Kunde,  pumping wine into a barrel. This batch of pinot noir was processed and fermented on the skins. First, we put the free run (aka the juice that was extracted on its own) into barrel. Then, the grapes will be pressed and its juice put into a separate barrel.

We encourage you, if you haven't already, to get acquainted with this gem. Join their mailing list and check out experiences which have happened at the winery by searching "DRNK" in the VAULT29 app - it's FREE - Cheers!

#Harvest2015 Update: NEW #Wine Brand @ErinEWines

#Harvest2015 Update: NEW #Wine Brand @ErinEWines

Harvest 2015 is underway!  To fully appreciate the art of winemaking, VAULT29 is taking you behind the scenes during the busiest - and most exciting - time of year in wine country. New wine brand, Erin E., hit the scene with a 2013 Sonoma Stage Pinot Noir and is now in the midst of harvesting syrah with fellow friend and wine maker, Carolyn Craig. Here's an insiders look at the 2015 harvest of syrah which will be made into a rosé.

Hillside fruit. Must pick with caution!

Hillside fruit. Must pick with caution!

It's a family affair! Friend and wine maker, Carolyn Craig, checks in on the vineyard site. Erin's husband, Karl, and father-in-law, John, walk through the vines one last time before harvest begins. Karl and Erin's children, Patrick and Cameron, walk through the Syrah vineyard checking the brix with Carolyn.  

Syrah grapes are looking good - 22 brix! 

Syrah grapes are looking good - 22 brix! 

Below: Erin uses an "old school" refractometer to check the brix (sugar levels).

We highly encourage you to get to know this newcomer! Her 1st vintage pinot noir is from Sonoma Stage Vineyard which is located in the newly founded wine territory between Petaluma and Carneros at the southern end of the Sonoma Coast AVA known as the Petaluma Gap. Read more about Erin E. in "Building of a Brand."  



"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. Last week, we revisited four wine brands and what they've learned and how they've grown in "Building of a Wine Brand" Season 2, part 2. This week in Season 2, part 3, we look back at wineries and their approach to winemaking. Get to know Cuvaison & Brandlin -- two Napa Green estates. DRNK uses state-ofthe-art technology (UAV's) to image vineyard sites. and Frey Vineyards focuses on producing high quality organic and biodynamic wines without adding synthetic chemicals or preservatives. 

For many years, Cuvaison, located in the Carneros AVA,  has been regarded as an iconic winery and brand in Napa Valley, consistently producing beautifully balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  In 1998, Cuvaison purchased a historic Mount Veeder property owned by Chester Brandlin. Located on a 1,200 foot ridgeline – this is one of Napa Valley’s most difficult but acclaimed mountain regions for grape growing. Both estate vineyards, Carneros and Brandlin, are certified Napa Green, meaning the company has been recognized for their work in reducing the impact on the environment. Read more here.


Get to know DRNK and their aerial imagery approch to winemaking! Grapegrowers and winemakers have been experimenting with grapegrowing and winemaking practices for millennia, this is not something that’s going to change; the technology DRNK uses for experimentation does, and constantly. Ryan Kunde has been experimenting and using UAVs to image vineyards and orchards for 5 years now. He was initially inspired to do so by listening to other inventors and their experiences with the technology and to my professors at Davis and their experiences in research and learning about the most important factors that affect wine quality over time. Read more here.


Frey Vineyards is America’s Pioneering Organic Winery. Founded in 1980, we have always been family owned and operated and it is our mission to produce highest quality organic and Biodynamicwines without the addition of synthetic chemicals or preservatives while fostering environmental stewardship and social equity. Our vineyards are located at the headwaters of the Russian River in beautiful Mendocino County in Northern California.  As three generations of organic farmers and winemakers, we find that our care and respect for the earth is reflected in the expression of purity and true terroir in our wines. Read more here.

You can find Cuvaison, Brandlin, DRNK & Frey wine experience in our app! Smply search by winery name! We'd love to see experiences from your perspective too!. #GetV29app

#WineBuzzin': Race Cars & Wine Collide at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

#WineBuzzin': Race Cars & Wine Collide at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

A very cool story coming out of Sonoma!  

La Pitchoune Winery has partnered with the championship winning race team K-PAX Racing. Two of the McLaren 650S GT3's will be sporting the winery's logo!  

Congratulations to La Pitchoune Winery Co-Founders Tracy & Peter Nielsen, and our friend and Master Winemaker of La Pitchoune Winery, Andrew Berge! Don't miss it sports fanatics!

Pirelli World Challenge Race schedule at Sonoma Raceway:

  • Qualifying: Saturday, August 29, 12:30pm
  • Race 1: Saturday, August 29, 4:50pm
  • Race 2: Sunday, August 30, 10:55am

For tickets to this weekends races please visit:

Don't forget to capture your wine experiences using the VAULT29 app

Erin E. Wines

Erin E. Wines

“The Building of a Brand” by Erin Eileen

While I’ve spent many years promoting and talking about various brands of my employers, I am now embarking on the journey of my brand; Erin E Wines.

I have spent most of my career in the wine industry on the hospitality side of the business which, for anyone in the DTC (direct to consumer) market, is as important as the quality of your wine. Some may argue hospitality and customer service to be THE most critical aspect to your brand. If the only opportunity you have to sell your wine is face to face I’d have to agree. Some people love to talk about the technicalities of winemaking, some love to talk about their cat while tasting your wine. I believe a strong brand can support the interests of many facets of people.

When the opportunity arose to make my own wine and create my own brand, I wanted to integrate the importance of hospitality and quality into my wine and my brand. Sure anyone can come up with a catchy name and label design. They key is coming up with a name and label design that you, the creator, 100% believe in. The quality of the wine and knowing the vineyards the grapes are sourced from was and is the other equally important factor in my brand.

I set out to create the brand. Literally pen and paper in hand I started making a list. What do I love about wine? What do I love about labels? Meanwhile I needed the wine. Believe it or not, sourcing the grapes and the wine was the easy part. There are a lot of people in this industry whose beliefs about quality align perfectly with mine. There are so many amazing vineyards and winemakers it is an honor to be surrounded by so many talented people. My first vintage is a 2013 Sonoma Stage Pinot Noir. Sonoma Stage Vineyard is a whole other interesting topic. Back to the label. I was going through the list I had made of possible names and logos and contrary to my original ideas, I decided to use my name. My name is Erin Eileen, hence Erin E. That got me thinking about the meaning of my name and who I am.

I have always loved the Irish Claddagh symbol. You typically see it in the form of a ring, the hands, the heart and the crown joined together. The hands mean friendship, the heart means love and the crown means loyalty. The circle of the ring is for eternity.

There are many beautiful versions of this symbol but I needed it to be mine. Back to the believing in your label and wine 100%. I enlisted my cousin Hailey Jensen and gave her the task of sketching my own Claddagh that could be used on my label. I think she did an amazing job, all free hand. This label is how I tell my story and who I am in a glance from consumers. The label is a conversation starter. When I think about the ways people share and enjoy wine in their lives it usually happens around a life event. To have your bottle of wine be the centerpiece for these events is an incredible honor. The wine is just as intriguing as the label, it also is a conversation starter. Each opportunity I have to share my wine with people and talk to them adds to the foundation of my brand. I currently make 50 cases of Pinot Noir, 50 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and 25 cases of Cabernet Franc. Blending the wines and making them complex and mysterious yet delicious has been an incredible adventure. I strive to make wines that are drinkable on their own, a no food required approach. The thing I have really enjoyed the most is having a brand that invites people to it. It is approachable just like the wine. People can identify with it and feel comfortable asking questions. Wine should not be a big, unknown, confusing topic and through my brand I hope to convey that message. It should be hospitable, approachable and easy to talk about and enjoy. 

We'd love to see your Erin E. wine experiences in the VAULT29 app. Use hashtag #ErinE or #ErinEWines! Cheers!

Bennett Valley Cellars

Bennett Valley Cellars

Get to know an appellation in three easy steps! by Lee Stipp

An appellation is one of the most important aspects of the wine but one of the most overlooked. Geography and weather are two top characteristics of an appellation but there are other factors such as history that come into play. Every bottle of wine should tell a story. Let us tell you the story of the Bennett Valley: an appellation so rich in history and unique in character, we chose to put it on our label.

Step One: Where

The Bennett Valley appellation lies entirely within the Sonoma Valley appellation, and overlaps part of both Sonoma Mountain and the Sonoma Coast appellations. The boundaries of the AVA roughly correspond to the Matanzas Creek watershed. With 8140 total acres, about 650 acres are planted to wine grapes, making it one of the smallest AVAs in Sonoma County. Most of the planted acreage sits on a benchland between 400 and 1100 feet above sea level, while the elevation of the region extends up to 1887 feet.

Image: Bennett Valley lies wholly within the Sonoma Valley between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen.

Image: Bennett Valley lies wholly within the Sonoma Valley between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen.

Step Two:  Why

Weather and soil are predominant factors in making the Bennett Valley a unique place. Consistent marine influence defines this cool-climate region. Through a deep gap in the mountains (known as the Petaluma Wind Gap), early morning coastal fog and cool marine breezes  pour into the valley on a regular basis throughout the growing season. While the AVA is classified as a very cool climate, the mountains that define its boundaries shelter the vineyards and protect them from extremes. More of an alluvial bench than a valley, volcanic activity created both the diverse topography and a wide range of soil types, exposures and terrains. The volcanic history of the landscape defines the soils: steep, rocky soils with good drainage encourage deep roots and intense flavors without dilution.

Image: Fog rolls through the Petaluma Gap and into the Bennett Valley resulting in perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Image: Fog rolls through the Petaluma Gap and into the Bennett Valley resulting in perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Step Three: How

How did this wonderful place get discovered? The Bennett Valley has a rich history of human involvement that linguistic experts believe go back to 7000 BCE. From there, Russian and Spanish settlements began in the early 1800’s (around Fort Ross). The late 1840’s Gold Rush era brought even more people, mainly from established US states. One notable person, John Bennett, was an influential politician for which the valley was named after. John Bennett’s daughter died of Typhoid Fever at an early age and is said to have been buried in the Bennett Valley. Wine grapes were planted in the 1850’s and up until a massive phylloxera infestation put an end to wine grape growing until Matanzas Creek Winery was born in 1977. On December 23, 2003, Bennett Valley became an officially recognized American Viticultural Area.

Getting to know Bennett Valley Cellars

Via Italia!

Pietro Zanin, born in 1881 in Rivamonte, Italy, purchased a vineyard in the Veneto region. There was no family meal without wine.

Fortunato Zanin, born in 1904 is Rivamonte, Italy, followed his father’s footsteps in the vineyard and made sure that his grandchildren would inherit the vineyard to ensure family ownership.

Emilio Zanin, born in 1939 in Agordo, Italy in the Italian Alps, maintained part ownership of the Veneto vineyard until he immigrated to the US. He sold his ownership in the vineyard to purchase Marina’s Vineyard in the Bennett Valley.

Luca Zanin, born in 1970 in Flushing, NY, worked with Emilio and his cousin Mark Zanin in creating a winery supply company located in Windsor, CA. Shortly after founding their Company, Luca bought a vineyard down the street from Emilio’s in the Bennett Valley now known as Simpatico Ranch.

What's in the bottle? (click on bottle(s) to learn more)

We'd love to see your Bennett Valley Cellars wine experiences in the VAULT29 app. Use hashtags #BVC or #BennettValleyCellars!

DRNK Wines

DRNK Wines

Aerial Imagery by Ryan Kunde of DRNK Wines

Aerial view of Pinot Hill Vineyards

Aerial view of Pinot Hill Vineyards

Grapegrowers and winemakers have been experimenting with grapegrowing and winemaking practices for millennia, this is not something that’s going to change; the technology we use for experimentation does, and constantly. I’ve been experimenting and using UAVs to image vineyards and orchards for 5 years now. I was initially inspired to do so by listening to other inventors and their experiences with the technology and to my professors at Davis and their experiences in research and learning about the most important factors that affect wine quality over time. The practice of using remote sensing data for the purposes of collecting information to improve farming practices is decades old; it’s generally known as precision agriculture for farmers and precision viticulture for grapegrowers and winemakers. What’s new are the community efforts by grassroots organizations cheaply bringing us breakthroughs in technology that level the playing field for remote sensing data and access to the skies. 

With the help of aircraft, satellites, and more recently, unmanned aerial vehicles, aerial imagery is widely available to all types of end users and applications. From law enforcement and forestry to city planning and government, to growers and vintners. Interpretation of the data that lies within an image is up to the end user. As a winemaker, my uses for aerial imagery are different than that of the grower who farms the vineyard. Although I can consult with vineyards about variation, ground truthing, and growing practices, I’m particularly interested in using imagery to help catalog vineyard sites we source fruit from, tie the site to the wine, and better understand the complexity of factors of variation and fruit selection. Everywhere in nature there’s variation, graphically described as a normal distribution or bell curve. I want to understand as much as I can about the nuances of a vineyard from the ground up, and the implications it has on maturity, concentration, and flavor.

\What’s interesting is that it’s not a binary problem. Reducing variation in every vineyard isn’t going to make better wine all the time. I believe it’s varietally dependent. Some varietals may or may not benefit by narrowing the bell curve. For instance, last year I made a Sauvignon Blanc from an old vine, dry-farmed vineyard site. After imaging I was able to clearly isolate and sample low and high vigor regions from within the block. Both had significantly different aroma, flavor, and chemistry profiles that I wanted for my blend. I selected rows with more variation, and it added great complexity to the wine. Other wines may benefit from as little variation as possible where optimum ripeness is key, and underripe or overripe characteristics are undesirable. The target moves by variety, style, and site.

Wine is an agricultural product, grown in an imperfect medium, outside of our sphere control. As it should be. We enjoy wine because it stimulates our senses and brings us joy. Really good wine can surprise, challenge, or confirm what we hold to be true about wine. Having an ah-ha moment with wine is, something many of you may already know about, it’s something you’ll remember the rest of your life and can make a person a lifelong devotee to wine. Aerial imagery isn’t about demystifying wine or taking away the ah-ha moment, it is a tool to help us get there and appreciate the complexities of our favorite wines.

As seen in the VAULT29 app!

As seen in the VAULT29 app!

View experiences which have taken place at DRNK in the VAULT29 app! Simply, download the free app in iTunes and search "DRNK" on the main Wine Wall!

Stay connected and "Like" & "follow" DRNK Wines on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Wine Families

Wine Families

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. Last week (Season 1: part 3), we recapped stories shared by wineries from the Central Coast. In Season 1: part 2, we took a look back at our stories from Sonoma County and in Season 1: part 1, we revisited Napa Valley experiences.

This week is the forth and final recap of Season 1 where we look back at family owned and operated wineries in California. Get to know Trombetta: A mother/daughter duo; Esterlina: The largest African American owned/operated family winery; Stomping Girl: An Israeli husband/wife team; and Hardball Cellars: A family's love for baseball and wine.

A Mother/Daughter Duo

It's pretty unusual to find a mother/daughter duo in the wine industry. Meet Rickey Trombetta Randcliff and Erica Randcliff: the duo who turned a home winemaking venture into a commercial endeavor with the release of their 2010 Gap's Crown (Sonoma Coast AVA)  Pinot Noir. At the start of the venture, Rickey was a home winemaker with a "learn-by-doing" approach in the vineyards. As things progressed, Trombetta eventually collaborated with California's famed winemaker, Paul Hobbs. Today, you can find Rickey tending to Trombetta's marketing, sales, and office needs, while Erica focuses on the wine production side of the business. With three Gap's Crown pinot noir vintages now under their belt, they've recently checked off one of their long term goals: adding a chardonnay to Trombetta's portfolio. Get to know more about this award-winning duo and find out what wine influenced Erica to become a winemaker.  Read more.


Largest African American Owned/Operated Winery in the US

Meet the Sterling Family: growers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties who later established their own family winery operation in 2001.  As California farmers & winemakers for 3 generations, the Sterlings have pooled their collective talents and experience from farming, medicine, law and business to drive the successful family wine enterprise. Today, Esterlina Vineyards & Winery is the largest African American owned family vineyards and winery operation in the U.S. They produce award-winning wines with international demand and recognition from their facilities in Sonoma County. Esterlina wines have been featured on White House Menus with President Bush in 2005 and 2008, and specifically requested for President Obama’s Inauguration celebrations in 2009 along with numerous industry accolades. Read more about this gem of a family.


Israel Tradition, Husband/Wife Duo

Stomping Girl Wines was founded in honor of Uzi Cohen's grandmother, who began a family winemaking tradition in Israel. Back then, Uzi was recruited to help pick the grapes during harvest on the family's vineyard property, while his younger sister helped with foot stomping. Two generations later, in 2003, Uzi and his wife, Kathryn, carried on the tradition and began making wine in their home wine cellar in Berkeley, CA, and enlisting the help of friends and their three children. Today, they are dedicated to producing vineyard designate pinot noir and chardonnay using traditional, minimalist techniques influenced by time spent in Burgundy. In addition to their emphasis on vineyard designate wines coming from family-owned, sustainably-grown vineyards, they also deliver the same top-quality pinot noir in stainless steel kegs for restaurant by-the-glass programs. Read more about this dynamic duo...


A Family's Passion For Wine + Baseball

For the Westerberg family, the passion for wine, baseball and family combine for an unbeatable combo in Hardball Cellars! Mike and Cindy are transplants from Oregon and were raised by hard working families in the Willamette Valley. In the mid 1980’s, they followed their family to Napa where they planted roots and fell in love with the Northern California wine country. Their "Coaches" who influenced their passion for wine was none other than their parents and grandparents who made wine for well over 50 years in Oregon. In the "Rookie Years," Mike spotted an ad in the Napa Register for some u-pick Zinfandel fruit on Glass Mountain Road in St. Helena. He grabbed garbage cans and took his kids along for the ride to the vineyard. Hardball Cellars has an exceptional line up of Napa cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and chardonnay. Get to know their "Game Plan", "The X and O's" of winemaking, the "Five Tool Player"and more! Read more..

Wine Mic Monday: Sonoma Winery Techniques

Wine Mic Monday: Sonoma Winery Techniques

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. Last week, we recapped Napa Valley wineries in Season 1, part 1: Napa Valley. In Season 1, part 2, we look back at our stories from Sonoma County. There are many different viticulture practices, such as "Dry Farming" practiced by Emeritus, and "Biodyncamic Farming" or the hollistic approach, as practiced by Teac Mor. Take a look at Alma Fria's "Viticulture on the Fringe" and get deeper insights into their farming and winemaking techniques. Find out why Spell believes soil quality is the single most important factor in defining the distinctive character of a wine in "The Importance of Soil Types." 

Dry Farming 

You know when you get a summer tomato from the farmers market, you’ve been eating tomatoes from the grocery store all winter and spring and when you take a bite you instantly remember what a tomato really tastes like? That moment connects one with the farmer, the land and the food. Someone planted the tomato, tended to it and picked it. It grew in a field, in soil not in a greenhouse, not hydroponically. 

One should get that same feeling when tasting a wine made from non-irrigated grapes, or dry-farmed. Dry farming is not widely practiced in California due to a lack of rainfall during the summer growing season. In almost all other grape growing regions of the world there is summer rainfall. Read more about Emeritus' farming practices and get to know their exceptional wines!


Viticultire on the Fringe

Alma Fría \al-mah free-ah\: the soul of a family; the cold of a geography. The Hatterman family migrated to Northern California and planted new roots in the remote ridgetops of Annapolis on the West Sonoma Coast.  From this beautiful and remote place, they are committed to handcrafting Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of elegance, finesse and complexity. Reflecting on their wine journey, they constantly remind themselves just how fortunate they are to work with terroirs of such potential and beauty and to do it with the help of talented and great people with whom they beat down together the remote paths and the gravel roads that make up this special region.  In Carroll Kemp, winemaker, and Greg Adams, viticulturist, they have found true journey companions. Read more, you don't want to miss getting to know the Alma Fria family and their gorgeous wines!


The Importance of Soil Types

One trait commonly touted by many wineries throughout the world is the soil quality their grape vines are rooted.   At Spell, they believe that it may be the single most important factor in defining the distinctive character of each wine. The soil taxonomy of each vineyard is as varied as the geographical diversity.  Soils rang from gravelly loam with moderate permeability and low water holding capacity to expanding clays with slow permeability and high water holding capacity.  The vines rooted in these varied soils take up varying levels of macronutrients and micronutrients which form the foundation of vine development. Read more on the impact soil, water, and the sun have in the composition of each grape and ultimately wine.  Familiarize yourself with the beautifully crafted pinot noir & chardonnay of Spell Estate!

Biodynamic Farming

Steve Moore cares for Teac Mor's vineyard, and he’s passionate about what he does. He farms biodynamically, and feels deeply connected both to the land and to the vines. “I consider the vines my children and I want them to thrive long after I’m gone,” he said. Doing so requires Steve take a holistic approach to farming. An olive orchard and large vegetable garden on the vineyard promote a healthy ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects. “I believe the vines are not only alive, but aware of their environment. I think that a healthy vineyard will result in better wine.” Read more about Steve's daily vine inspection to his harvest techniques and on to the release of Teac Mor's small production wines! 

Stomping Girl

Stomping Girl

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. This week we are proud to feature Stomping Girl Wines -- a husband and wife duo crafting superb boutique pinot noir and chardonnay from top vineyard sites like Hyde, Beresini & Lauterbach Hill.

A Snapshot of Stomping Girl Wines by Kathryn & Uzi Cohen

Uzi & Kathryn Cohen, Stomping Girl Wines

Uzi & Kathryn Cohen, Stomping Girl Wines

Stomping Girl Wines was founded in honor of my grandmother, who began our family’s winemaking tradition in Israel, recruiting my younger sister to foot stomp and me to help pick the grapes during harvest on our family vineyard property. Two generations later, in 2003, my wife, Kathryn, and I carried on the tradition and began making wine in our Berkeley, CA, home wine cellar, enlisting the help of friends and our three children.

Kathryn during harvest | VAULT29

Today, working in partnership with grapegrowers at top vineyards such as Hyde Vineyard and Beresini Vineyard in Carneros and Lauterbach Hill in the Russian River Valley, we are dedicated to crafting superb Pinot Noir and Chardonnay using traditional, minimalist techniques influenced by time spent in Burgundy. We produce close to 1000 cases per year in Sebastopol, CA. Active in both Sebastopol as well as our urban outpost in Berkeley, we feel extremely lucky to be able to pursue our passion.

Our current release includes the 2012 Hyde Vineyard, Carneros, Chardonnay; 2012 Lauterbach Hill Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir; and 2012 Beresini Vineyard, Carneros, Pinot Noir

Producing small lots of Pinot Noir requires hand punching the cap that forms on top 2-3 times a day. The grape skins rise to the top with the help of the C02 that is created during fermentation by the yeast consuming sugar. Punching the 'cap' that forms incorporates the skins back into wine below and helps in extraction of flavors and tannins.

Stomping Girl Steel Kegs | VAULT29

In addition to our emphasis on vineyard designate wines coming from family-owned, sustainably-grown vineyards, we are also proud to deliver this same top-quality Pinot Noir in stainless steel kegs for restaurant by-the-glass programs.  Our gravity-filled, reusable steel kegs substantially reduce our carbon footprint: there is no empty packaging to recycle or send to the landfill and CO2 emissions from transporting the wine are greatly reduced. Look for Stomping Girl Pinot Noir on tap in select Bay Area restaurants as wine on tap becomes more and more popular!

Our limited production Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is available to Wine Club members, on our website and at select wine shops and restaurants in the Bay Area, Southern California and New York. 

Be sure to add your Stomping Girl Wine experiences in the VAULT29 app!

"Like" Stomping Girl Wines on Facebook & "Follow" them on Twitter: @StompingGirl



"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. This week, and in honor of Black History Month, we are proud to feature Esterlina Vineyards & Winery.  Esterlina is the largest African American owned family Vineyards and Winery operation in the U.S who celebrated it’s 10 Year Anniversary in 2011. 

Quietly Making Wines Too Good to Ignore by Stephen Sterling

Esterlina Vineyards & Winery, the largest African American owned family Vineyards and Winery operation in the U.S, produces award-winning wines with international demand and recognition. Esterlina wines have been featured on White House Menu’s with President Bush in 2005 and 2008 and requested for President Obama’s Inauguration celebrations in 2009 along with numerous industry accolades.

Esterlina Winery operates its tasting room in the Dry Creek Region of Sonoma in collaboration with their Everett Ridge label, in the California wine country. The Sterling Family, have been growers in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties for some time before establishing their own family winery operation in 2001.  California farmers & winemakers for 3 generations, the Sterlings have pooled their collective talents and experience from farming, medicine, law and business to drive the successful family wine enterprise.   The Sterling’s have vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley, Cole Ranch AVA of Mendocino. The family currently bottles and produces all their wines at their Everett Ridge Winery location in Sonoma’s Healdsburg Wine Country.  

Our family believes wine growing is all about the land. Based on that belief, we sought out sites in the finest appellations and planted superior clones. Through experimentation, patience and a little luck, we feel we have created exceptional wines. We are confident that after you sample our wines you will agree
— Sterling Family

Esterlina Vineyards & Winery began as an extension of our family’s passion and history for farming and passing of wine making and enjoyment of food and wine.

Some of our earliest shared family stories are of the farming history of various members of our family and their love of the land and the treat of wine making as legacy passed from generation to generation. 

Esterlina Family | VAULT29

The details, after medical school my brother Eric began his emergency room practice in Sonoma County, during one of my father’s frequent visits to the area, he suggested getting back into farming via the local crop, grapes.  While we had grown raising cattle, and some row crops in the central valley and in Mendocino County, our higher learning pursuits took us to other industries.  Eric, a practicing physician, Craig an MBA focusing on small business and an attorney, Stephen an MBA focusing on marketing management and working in the blossoming wireless industry, while Chris maintained the love of farming like our father.  Our mother Doris is involved with the hospitality side of our business.  Both our mother and father are found in the tasting room on many special events and during the first few years of our tasting room operations.

The name Esterlina came from the family property in the Dominican Republic.  They called our home “casa de Esterlina” or house of the Sterlings.  There is a well known winery in Napa called Sterling which is owned by one of the large wine companies.  As our father would say, “they have more attorneys than we do”, “we don’t want to fight them for the use of our name”. 

After the purchase of first commercial vineyard in Alexander Valley where we grew Cabernet Sauvignon we chose another Sonoma vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  Our premier vineyard location is our Cole Ranch AVA.  The Cole Ranch founded by John Cole whom we purchased the vineyard from in the 90’s is one of the most unique vineyards in America.  The Cole Ranch has the distinction of being the US monopole or smallest single vineyard AVA in the country.  It is also one of the test questions on the Sommelier and Master Sommelier exam given by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Esterlina Tasting Room View | VAULT29

Our winery tasting room is in the picturesque Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma in the town of Healdsburg, a popular wine destination currently.  Visitors can often enjoy meeting a family member particularly on weekends and hear the stories of wine making and ask questions about our various vintages and the unique hand crafted and single vineyard selections.  Our tasting room is situated so that even in rough weather you can enjoy the view overlooking the Dry Creek Valley through bay type windows behind our tasting area. 

Our wine club members enjoy the hand prepared family recipes and along with treats made from fruits and vegetables grown on property and the same style grass fed beef that we grew up raising.

In February 2015 our family has decided to invite guests to a first ever Black History Month Celebration at our estate property in Healdsburg.  Of the nearly 8000 wineries in the US and 3500 plus in CA less than 80 are owned by African American or Latino families.  Of those less than a dozen have a tasting room open to the public.  Esterlina has been proud sponsors for Macy’s Black History Month the last several years and featured on CNN, Essence. Proceeds from ticket sales and wine sales go to The United Negro College Fund, The Museum of African Diaspora and The Redwood Empire Food Bank. To hear our story live as told by our family watch our video:.

UPDATE: In early 2016, Flanagan Wines purchased the Everette Ridge property in Dry Creek (Healdsburg, CA). More on this here.

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"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog to write about aspects unique to them and their wines. This week, we are proud to feature Trombetta Family Wines, a mother/daughter winemaking team with ties to Paul Hobbs, from Forestville (Sonoma Coast AVA). 

With their start in home winemaking, the mother/daughter team of Rickey Trombetta Stancliff and Erica Stancliff brought Trombetta Family Wines to life as a commercial endeavor with the release of their 2010 Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir. We caught up with them in the heart of the Sonoma Coast AVA at their tasting room (well, the family’s kitchen table) in Forestville, California. 

VAULT29: A mother/daughter winemaking team is pretty unusual. How do you make it work?

Rickey:  When we started out we did a lot of the work together but as things progressed, I was doing more in the vineyard and Erica focused on the winemaking.

Erica: Now mom takes care of all the marketing and office stuff and I’m in charge of the production side. It seems divided but there’s quite of bit of overlap.

R: My production training was initially learn-by-doing as a home winemaker, later moving on to work with Paul Hobbs. Erica was bitten by the wine bug early and then attended Fresno State for her enology degree, so she’s very at home in the vineyard and cellar..

E: My mother’s training with Paul really helped her understand the process and how important the intangibles are to winemaking. She’s also real comfortable being out in public, while I prefer to spend my time in the winery.  

VAULT29: Rickey, how did Erica first become interested in wine?

R: We’d have wine with dinner all the time and as she was growing up, her dad would always ask her to smell the wine and describe it. He encouraged Erica to communicate in a sensory way, telling us what she thought about the wine. When I began working with Paul, he became a family friend and we spent a lot of nights around the dinner table, talking about wine. Erica was there, and wine became more of an activity than it just being a beverage on the table.

She didn’t show much interest in winemaking as a career until her junior year in high school. After talking with Paul and other winemakers in the area, they all suggested that Fresno State would be a great place for her to begin studies toward a wine career, given the school’s emphasis on a practical, rather than theoretical, winemaking education. In a fortuitous coincidence, Erica, an accomplished equestrian competitor in Three Day Eventing, was offered a scholarship to join the team at Fresno before she’d even applied, so there might have been a little bit of fate involved in the decision.  

VAULT29: Were there big changes between being a home winemaker and doing it on a professional basis?

R: My husband (Roger) and I planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Merlot at our house in 1998. We did a good job with our farming, but once I started working with Paul, my eyes got opened to all of the small touches that impact your grapes and the finished wine. The right trellising, how to maintain vine health, and deciding when to pick are all big deals that sometimes are overlooked when you’re doing it as a hobby. In the pro winery, I learned first-hand how important it was to clean up constantly and to keep everything sanitary. We were aware of this as home winemakers, but never practiced it to this fanatical level until we were making wine for sale. Roger is still a home winemaker and he’s benefited from some of what we’ve learned doing it commercially. 

Even though we don’t own the vineyards where we source Trombetta’s fruit, the growers let us give them input on how they’re farmed. It’s proven that practical experience gained from my work commercially has been good for Roger’s home winemaking, while at the same time the hands-on work we do at the house gives us a frame of reference for what the growers we work with for Trombetta are up to. 

VAULT29: Erica, when we think of the Paul Hobbs winemaking style, we think of lush, overwhelming fruit, and big, masculine wines. The Trombetta Family wines have a very different personality. Did that naturally happen or did you consciously try to stay away from the Hobbs winemaking approach?

E: 2010 was the first vintage from Trombetta Family Wines but before then, my parents talked about all of the different wines that they liked and would want to have the family name on. Their preference leaned toward something elegant and food friendly, with lots of finesse. What they wanted to present was their passion for what a Sonoma Pinot should be. Our wines are little lighter on the oak than Paul’s, maybe with a slightly greater emphasis on refinement, not power.

VAULT29: So do you approach the wine with a style in mind or is it dictated by what that particular vintage’s fruit has to offer?

E: Both. Every vineyard has its own profile, and each vintage provides growing conditions that are unique. Our goal is to maximize the characteristics of the site and the weather and produce a wine that is still definably “Trombetta.”

R: We’ve now released three vintages of Pinot Noir from the Gap’s Crown Vineyard and while they’re different, there’s definitely a family resemblance, not only in terms of the vineyard, but of the way we’ve handled the élevage. I’m particularly proud of our 2011. It was a notoriously difficult vintage in the Sonoma Coast AVA, with the weather doing everything entirely wrong for pretty much the entire season. We scheduled our pick for early in the morning (so early it might as well be called a night harvest) and a couple of minutes after the last grape went into the bin, the skies opened up and let loose with a couple of inches of rain. When it was young, the wine reflected the lean, tough conditions of the vintage, but as its matured in the bottle, it’s evolved into a very elegant, feminine wine that captures everything we look for in Pinot Noir. A lot of those same elements are also noticeable in our 2012 Gap’s Crown PN and even in our 2012 Sonoma Coast bottling, made from fruit sourced in the Petersen Vineyard on the valley floor near Sebastopol.

VAULT29: You’ve just released the 2012 Trombetta Gap’s Crown PN along with the 2012 Trombetta Sonoma Coast PN. What’s on the horizon?

R: We’ve made Chardonnay for the first time in 2014. It came from a small block at the top of Gap’s Crown. It’s cool and benefits a lot from the nighttime breezes coming in from the coast, an ideal spot to grow Chardonnay.

E: Our long range plan for the Trombetta portfolio has always been to bring Chardonnay into the program. The market likes it, we like it, and we lucked out in finding such a great fruit source. Our really long, longterm plan is probably going to be to produce a Bordeaux blend of some sort. It’s something I feel a real affinity to and we think it would be a great addition to what we’re already doing. Back when I was first tasting wine, I got to taste a Merlot from the Michael Black Vineyard in Napa. It may have been the wine that sent me down the pathway to becoming a winemaker. Ideally, we’ll one day be able to buy fruit from Michael or at least in Coombsville, we’ll see what happens over the next 4-5 years. We’re not in a hurry, and we’ll only do this when the time is right.

R: For the near future, we’d just like to build a solid base of supporters and please a big enough group of people to enable us to build our production slowly. We want it to be small, maybe adding another Chardonnay or two and of course, the Bordeaux blend. PN is my great love, and if we can develop more grape sources here, we might do another vineyard-designate PN if it feels right.

The Tombetta Wines are made by Rickey Trombetta Stancliff and Erica Stancliff. Their most recent releases are available at fine wine shops and restaurants around the country, as well as directly from the winery at

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