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"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

Kukkula Winery

Kukkula Winery

"A stop at Beaucastel..."

In 1991, my wife, Paula, and I finished construction of our home in Topanga, CA. Topanga is sandwiched between Pacific Palisades and Malibu, and is a rugged coastal mountain community near the Pacific Ocean. Shortly after the completion of the house, we started venturing into winemaking in our unfinished basement. This was inspired by a conversation I had had with our architect about how cool it would be to used the basement area as a cellar and winemaking room. Paula always says I don’t understand the meaning of a small hobby, and this was probably the best example of that!

Anyway, we started making Pinot, initially, and then some Chardonnay from purchased grapes in the Russian River Valley and the Central Coast. Within a few years, that wasn’t enough, and I started thinking about planting some vines. The property felt a lot like places in the Rhone region of France, where we had travelled a number of times, so the wheels really started turning. Since we had 2 ½ acres of land, there was certainly some room to experiment. I was becoming especially enamored with Rhone wines, so that became the focus.

In October of 1995, Paula and I took a three week trip to the Rhone region with our 10 month old daughter. We rented a 15th century farm house in a small town called Il Sur la Sorgue, near Avignon. Our plan was to focus on food and wine adventures in the broader Rhone region.

One of the places we stopped was Beaucastel,  in Chateau Neuf du Pape. It turned out to be a seminal visit. We barrel tasted with one of the patriarchs of the Perrin family, and ended up talking about our own winemaking, and interest in planting some vines. It turned out that they were in the early stages of a partnership with Bob Haas (their importer) and were developing a nursery and vineyard using their cuttings from Beaucastel. The nursery was in the Adelaida region of Paso Robles.  He encouraged me to check it out when I returned to California. So, within a couple of weeks I drove up to Paso with a friend to visit what today is Tablas Creek.

The rest is history. I ended up buying about 500 plants of Syrah. Later I increased that to about 1500 plants (mostly Syrah with a little Grenache, and some Grosso Sangiovese from another source). Our first vines were planted in 1996, and the fruit was first harvested in 1999. We formed our first commercial winery with a whopping 65 cases of production. It became a hit, and we were interviewed by local TV news channels, and newspapers. It didn’t take long for me to really get caught up in Walter Mitty fantasies.

In 2003, after years of agonizing about being trapped in L.A. and wanting to pursue the winery fantasy, Paula opened the door to check out the opportunities in other areas. Within a week we came up to Paso Robles and on that first trip, we saw the property that we ultimately decided to buy.  It’s 80 acres, and at the time was farmed almost exclusively to walnuts (other than a one acre sliver of cabernet). The property is in Adelaida, and is some of the steepest property in Paso Robles.  Oh, and we’re now neighbors with Tablas Creek!

Kukkula was born! Today, we still farm about 32 acres of walnuts, but have planted eight acres of mostly French varietal olives, and about 49 acres of grapes.  We built our home and winery facility on the property. We grow ten varietals, of which only two are non-Rhones (cabernet and zinfandel). The others are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Counoise, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne. All of our grapes are dry-farmed and organic, and we focus exclusively on blends with a Rhone-centric approach from our estate fruit. The vines are on two properties that we farm, with 29 acres currently on the property where we have our home, and another 20 acres on a very similar property, also in Adelaida . Like kukkula, it is steep hillside property originally planted with walnuts.

We'd love to see your Kukkula wine experiences in the VAULT29 app! Use hashtags #Kukkula and/or #KukkulaWines!