By Linda Murphy
Who are all these winemakers? That's the reaction of many wine drinkers when they scan retail shelves and restaurant wine lists, and see dozens of unfamiliar labels. Some of them are small brands, numbering in the hundreds, not thousands, of cases. The wines are sold by word of mouth, and the good ones are quickly snapped up by keen listeners. Here are three winemakers who are getting good buzz.
No two red varietals could be more dissimilar than supple, nuanced Pinot Noir and muscular, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. In a seeming contradiction, Sojourn Cellars partners Erich Bradley and Craig Haserot produce only Pinot and Cabernet, mixing apples and oranges, and coming up with fine examples of each.
Bradley is the viticulturist and winemaker (he's also the winemaker at Audelssa Estate Winery); Haserot (haz-er-OH, rhymes with escargot) is the sales and marketing guru. They met on a tennis court in Sonoma and founded Sojourn in 2001.
Smarter than the average bear
There are dozens of wines and vineyards with bear icons, yet when Tim Carl pored over newspapers in search of a historical context for his then-unnamed brand, one headline grabbed him: "Huge Bear Attacks Knights Valley."
The hungry grizzly apparently raided homes in eastern Sonoma County and was the icon that members of the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt (which included Knights Valley namesake Thomas Knight) used on their flag. The bear remains the centerpiece of the California state flag.
More than one
Three to Watch offers a bit of a bonus this time because Jack Bittner has two brands: Franz Hill Vineyard and Caliban Cellars.