Recently in Winemaker & Winery Spotlights Category

Sonoma Harvest 2013 - Up Close and Personal

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istock_harvest.jpgGet an inside look at Sonoma Harvest 2013 through several videos being posted by wineries across Sonoma County below including Benziger Family Winery, Inman Family Wines and many more.

Click Here for more news, reports and pictures of harvest!




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Benziger Family Winery




Inman Family Wines




Vine Cliff Winery Offers Weekly Wine Tastings w/ Winemaker Jim Kress

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vineCliffWinery_Vineyards.jpgVine Cliff Winery
7400 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558 707.944.1364
Open daily 10am - 4pm, by appt only

Vine Cliff Winery, located in the Oakville appellation of the Napa Valley, has announced a new program to allow consumers to tour the winery and taste their wines with winemaker Jim Kress.

"We are very pleased that our guests will have this opportunity," said Rob Sweeney, Vine Cliff's Proprietor and General Manager.  "Jim is a great guy, and what could be better than tasting our wines with one of the key people responsible for making them?"

Kress joined Vine Cliff prior to the 2011 harvest. He  has 16 vintages under his belt having worked previously at St. Clement Vineyards and Domaine Chandon. After graduating from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, Jim's passion for food and wine eventually led him to the Master of Science program in Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis.

"I am excited to have the chance to share our passion with Vine Cliff's guests ," Kress said.  "We'll check out the production area, kick some dirt in the vineyards, then relax in the caves and try some wines. It should be a lot of fun!"  

The tours and tastings are being offered every Friday at 3 pm and last about 90 minutes. A maximum of 12 guests per week may participate and the cost is $25 per guest. Prior appointments are required, and may be made by calling 707-944-1364. Children and pets are not permitted.

Founded in 1871 and owned and operated by the Sweeney family since 1985, Vine Cliff Winery focuses on producing Cabernet Sauvignon from their estate vineyard in Oakville and Chardonnay from their vineyard in the Los Carneros District.

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Wine Country Personality: Steven Emil Rogstad

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Submitted by Cuvaison Estate Wines

wcPersonality_CuvaisonRogstad_pic1.jpgIf a winemaker's personality could transcend into the wine he begets, Cuvaison wines would reflect something of a "passion-meets-hilarity" note. Winemaker Steven Rogstad is often grinning, as though teetering on the frontier between laughter and inspiration. Disposition aside, Cuvaison, is pleased to have Steve on board, as he consistently produces gracefully balanced, and structured wines.

Born in the cold reaches of North Dakota, Steve enjoyed a quiet adolescence with his family in the nearby small town of Minot. It was a sleepy town for a bright young man, and Rogstad dreamed of becoming like his childhood idol Jacques Cousteau; explorer, ecologist, filmmaker and all-around "ninja" of the 20th century. At the age of 17, and the day after high school graduation, Steve boarded the Empire Builder, and rode across the United States to the University of Washington in Seattle, where he pursued the course of study he loved; Literature and English.

Towards the end of his undergraduate experience, Steve had the opportunity to travel to Paris. Up until that time, he wasn't much of a drinker at all, and certainly didn't have a taste for fine wines. His apartment in Paris was located close to the Buci Marketplace and 6th arrondissement of Paris; hotbeds for culture, food and wine. The Parisian's way of incorporating wine into every facet of life is what really planted the winemaking "bug" in Steve.

Charles Krug Winery Day

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KRUG_Event_TastingsOnLawn_2.jpgTasting on the Lawn Celebrates 150th Anniversary of Napa's First Winery

Where will you be this Saturday? Hopefully you already have tickets (and if not - CLICK HERE) to the annual Tasting on the Lawn celebration at Charles Krug Winery where they will toast the winery's 150th anniversary!

Enjoy tastings of Charles Krug's current releases, barrel tastings, rare tasting of older, vintage wines, food and wine pairings, live music, and there will be several opportunities to meet members of the Peter Mondavi Family.

KRUG_Bottle_NV_CS_06_Beauty.jpgCelebration Highlights:

  • Tastings of all Charles Krug's current releases, from sauvignon blanc to cabernet sauvignon, including the winery's Limited Release and Family Reserve wines. Food pairings by Knikcbockers' Catering

  • Chefs from several Napa Valley restaurants serving samples of their specialties also paired with Charles Krug wines. Featured restaurants include Michael Chiarello's acclaimed Bottega, Cindy Pawlcyn's eclectic Backstreet Kitchen, and her brand new Mediterranean eatery, Brassica.

  • "Easy Everyday Pairings" -- Charles Krug wines served with fun, casual foods like pizza from the wood-fired oven, grilled burgers, tacos and even popcorn.

  • Actors portraying Charles Krug and his wife Carolina Bale Krug will stroll the Great Lawn in period costume, presenting vignettes from their lives 150 years ago.

  • Special pourings from magnums of Charles Krug's 150th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon and a rare tasting of older wines from the estate's cellar in the ballroom of Charles Krug's 1881 Carriage House.

  • Meet members of the Peter Mondavi Family, who will be on hand for photos and to sign bottles for visitors.

  • Live music on the main stage will provide a backdrop for all of the festivities. Featured is the popular Steely Dan tribute band, Steely Scam.

Interview with Frank Vezer

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by Sipping Savant

Vezer Family Vineyards ~ Suisun Valley, CA

What attracted you to Suisun Valley?
vezerPersonality1.jpgMy first six years of life were in a mining town nestled in the Cassiar Mountain range near the westernmost Yukon border of Canada. At age six my family moved to a ranch in central British Columbia. The little town was called Fraser Lake and it is in the Omineca Valley. Omineca means 'slow moving water'. The Ominieca Valley is surrounded by the Fraser Mountains. Vezer Family summers were spent traveling to the Family's birthplace of Pecs, Hungary located in the Mecsek Mountains. My childhood memories of beautiful sheltered valleys and the scenes from the Sun's shadows on the hillsides enveloping the picturesque Valleys were re-ignited when I first visited the Suisun Valley some 22 years ago. Cradled on the west by the Vaca Mountains and at the north by the Twin Sisters Summit, Suisun Valley embodied all those memories. There was no doubt that Suisun Valley Is where my wife Liz and I should raise our children! Pronounced "Sue-soon" and meaning West Wind to the original Wappo Indian settlers.

vezerPersonality2.jpgThough not widely known, Suisun Valley is one of the older AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in North America and is approaching its 29th birthday. Suisun Valley boasted the largest winery pre-prohibition era in North America. Suisun Valley was also a favorite getaway of General Mariano Vallejo, closest confidants, and especially his daughter and her husband. The Blue Victorian Mansion was part of a land grant gift some 170 years by Spanish King Ferdinand VII for helping him settle the area. The Suisun Valley Village of Mankas Corners, originally Manka's Corner was established by the mining family Manka in 1846. The Mankas Corner had a general store with a Pony Express office and accommodations for weary delivery riders and other travelers. Today, Mankas Corner still has a 'general store', Mankas Café, Barista Café & Deli, Mankas Corner Vezer Family Winery and neighboring antique store, salon and more. Vezer Family and Staff are happy to share hospitality, time and local lore with visitors. The winery building is on the National Historic Registry and has a commemorative plaque about the Pony Express as you enter the Tasting Room, beautiful gardens and special event area for Concerts or Weddings.

History & Hospitality High Notes: Silverado Vineyards

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silveradovineyards.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Silverado Vineyards is akin to a fine racehorse that's been groomed for performance since arriving in this world:  Not only is the precedent-setting winery still turning heads after more than 25 years on the Napa wine scene, it's staying ahead of the pack with a host of hospitality and sustainability initiatives that honor both its storied past and promising future.

Heritage High Marks
In "The Silverado Squatters" (1880), famed Scottish scribe Robert Louis Stevenson notes that "the beginning of vine planting is like the beginning of mining for precious metals: the winegrower also 'prospects,'" an apt observation given the valley's storied past as a mining community.  As Wine Country readers well know, vinous pursuits - rather than mining - are the main event today in Napa, a detail that's abundantly clear at Silverado Vineyards' beautifully articulated hilltop winery and hospitality center.

Wine Country Personality: Winemaker Bill Anderson

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wcPersonalityChateauJulien.jpgThe Chateau Julien team has included Winemaker Bill Anderson since the Wine Estate opened in 1982. After studying enology at UC Davis, Bill joined Chateau Julien Proprietors Bob & Patty Brower with release of the first vintage of Chateau Julien wine - 1982 Merlot & Chardonnay.  Experience and consistency over the years highlight the essence of Chateau Julien wines. Today, over three-quarters of the winery's portfolio consists of its flagship Merlot and complementary Bordeaux varietals. Winemaker Bill Anderson has balanced the art of winemaking and a commitment to quality with each of the nearly thirty Chateau Julien vintages produced since 1982.

Bill's passion for the winemaking process began at the early age of eleven. Bill was fascinated by early childhood stories of his father making wine with friends during the prohibition period. One fall afternoon at his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, Bill eagerly set out to experiment with the fermentation process using apricots from their newly acquired family orchard.  He found an old porcelain 10-gallon crock in the garage, gathered apricots from the backyard and started mixing sugar, apricots and small packages of Fleishman's yeast. While the results tasted awful, the initial aroma of fermenting fruit never left his memory and ultimately led Bill to the study of enology twenty years later. 

His philosophy today continues to be as simple as the elegance he achieves in his wines. "Elegance is what I keep in mind in winemaking. Simple, straightforward, clean; the truth is evident without frivolity. If you have good grapes and treat them well, do all the details every day and let them do what they will naturally do, you will have a good product." 

Chateau Julien Wine Estate
8940 Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley, CA 93923
831.624.2600



CharbayPosterScan CroppedPostcard 4x6.jpgCharbay makes wines? Wines, Ports & a new Green Tea Aperitif. Miles is a 12th generation winemaker/master distiller from Yugoslavia. Trained in Europe as an Enologist & Viticulturist, it's what comes naturally to him and now to his son, Marko Karakasevic, too. Miles' life is a multi chaptered story with all that has happened since leaving his homeland. These days he lives beside his winery & distillery on top of Spring Mountain where he ferments, distills & bottles the unusual with the usual.

After he left his home, he studied in Geisenheim before heading to Canada where he was a chemist & a diver for Uniroyal. He was brought into America as an enologist to make wine in Michigan. There he met his wife, Susan, and they headed to California in 1970. He made wines & champagnes for United Vintners in Madera & Escalon California, (the company that owned Italian Swiss Colony). He fermented in one week as much wine as Napa Valley used to make in a year. Those were his big tank years.

Rounding Out the Portfolio

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round_pond.jpegRound Pond Presses More Than Olive Oil From Its Estate

By Robert P. Farmer

Years ago, when I first had the pleasure of visiting the Round Pond Estate, I was struck by its tucked-away beauty in the heart of Napa's cabernet country. What struck me next was the fact that cabernet was not coming out of this tucked away beauty. Instead, Round Pond was well known for olive oil.

Its neighbors are some of the world's best-known cab producers. Without listing them all here, suffice to say you know who they are. And it's not accidental that they are all mashed into this little patch of the greater Napa Valley. Rutherford affords idyllic conditions for growing cabernet sauvignon. Generations of winemakers have subsequently been crafting the benchmark for the varietal here.

Wine Country Personality: Chris Pisani - Winemaker

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personality_zdWines.jpgWhat do you get when you mix Brooklyn attitude with Napa style?  The answer is some great tasting wine.  Chris Pisani, Winemaker for ZD Wines, is a rare combination of east coast street smart and California cool.  Growing up in a big Italian family, Chris learned to appreciate the very things that make Napa so memorable: great food, wine and company.  This real-world education made him a perfect fit at ZD Wines where family is the cornerstone of the winery's values, and great wine and food fall close behind.

During his formative years, Chris studied chemistry in college while spending time with his now-wife, Ina, whose father happened to make wines out of their house in Newburgh, New York.  Chris watched, learned, experimented and soon he was hooked.  The seed was planted and before long, Chris and Ina were moving to California for a taste of life in the wine country.

Gavin Newsom on the CADE Winery Bandwagon?

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cadeWinery.jpgFor those of you in California,  you most likely know Gavin Newsom who is currently Mayor of San Francisco and is making a bid for Governor.  But did you know that his career aspirations also include being a Napa Valley Vintner? Of course, which such close proximity to both Napa Valley Wine Country and Sonoma Wine Country this new bit of news is probably not surprising to most.

Apparently, Newsom is part of the Plump Jack team that recently opened CADE Winery on Howell Mountain which is trying to set themselves apart as being the first LEED-certified, solar powered and organically farmed winery in the area.

It's quite a twisty trail up from the Silverado Trail, but who knows, maybe on one of your visits you might run into Gavin Newsom himself....

READ FULL ARTICLE


Winemaker Ralf Holdenried

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Ralf Holdenried holding grapes.jpgWhen winemaker Ralf Holdenried was invited to craft William Hill Estate's wines in the summer 2007, it was an offer he couldn't refuse.

Ralf says, "The William Hill Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are classically styled Napa Valley wines."

Ralf acknowledges that William Hill Estate has a history of making world class wine from grapes grown in the prestigious Napa Valley.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for me to carry on an exceptional winemaking tradition."

Ralf was born into a German wine family and throughout this childhood and adolescence worked in his father's vineyard. Ralf studied winemaking and viticulture at the University of Geisenheim, prior to leaving Germany to attend the University of California at Davis. In 1997, Ralf worked his first California harvest at Franciscan Winery in Napa Valley, and shortly thereafter joined the Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery's Sonoma County winemaking team. After returning to UC Davis to earn an MBA, Ralf joined the Louis M. Martini Winery winemaking team in Napa Valley as the winemaking director of Louis M. Martini's small lot wines.

Geoff Kruth ~ Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant Wine Director

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wcPersonalityGeoffKruthFarmhouse.jpgMaster Sommelier Geoff Kruth brings vitality, passion and extensive knowledge to his role as wine director of Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant.  Having worked at some of America's finest dining establishments, Kruth is on a short list of up-and-coming young wine professionals.  In 2008 he became one of less than 150 people worldwide to have earned the designation of Master Sommelier.

His current position at Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant is a home coming of sorts for Kruth. The former Sonoma resident graduated from Sonoma State University with a bachelor of science in computer science before moving to Silicon Valley to pursue a career in the technology industry. 

A blossoming wine hobby became an obsession that lead to his enrollment in the French Culinary Institute's Classic Culinary Arts program in New York, where he honed his palate to taste professionally.  While a student, Kruth started working part time at Balthazar as a cellar master, moving on to assistant wine director upon his graduation in 2003.

Randy Ullom - Takes It One Barrel At A Time

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RandyUllom5[1].JPGWinemaster & Chief Operating Officer
Kendall-Jackson Vineyards & Winery

A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Randy Ullom became interested in wine during a three-year stay in Chile, while on sabbatical from college in the early 1970s. His stay inspired a cross-country trek through Chile's vast wine-growing regions. It was an education in various climates and soils that has proved invaluable throughout Ullom's winemaking career. On his return to the United States, Ullom entered Ohio State University to study Viticulture and Enology. He received his degree in 1975.

Steve Leveque: Inside the Mind of a Winemaker

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HallWinesSteve.jpgAnytime you have an opportunity to talk with a winemaker it's a special experience.  Here is "The" person directly responsible for making the wines you love to drink. And . . .you can now ask them any question imaginable...

I had such a moment at the HALL Rutherford Release Party for their wine Excellenz.  Their new winemaker Steve Leveque answered every standard and zany question I asked.  Steve has been making wine for about 16 years. He began his career at Robert Mondavi Winery under the tutelage of Tim Mondavi for close to 11 years.  Eventually, he spread his wings and flew to Chalk Hill Estate Winery in Sonoma Wine Country where he served as Executive Vice President and Winemaker.

New to the HALL Wines family starting summer of 2008, Steve says he's found a place he's proud to call home. It sounds cliché, but Steve relates that Hall Wines is dedicated to making great wine. "The owners are committed to the winemaking process, passionate about the wine experience, and they have one of the best vineyards - Sacrashe - to produce from."  With all the right components in place, you might say the only thing missing was Steve Leveque as winemaker....

HALL Rutherford: Wine As It Was Meant to be Enjoyed

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HallWinesVineyard.jpgRUTHERFORD, CA - A visit to HALL Wines in Rutherford is truly a heavenly experience.  Most tourists may be  familiar with the HALL St. Helena location next to Dean & DeLuca on Highway 29.   Unknown to many is their second location off the Silverado Trail and in the same area as Auberge du Solelil.

One wonders if this is done on purpose considering the exclusivity of the Rutherford location. With winding, twisting roads up a grand mountain,  at several different points you will question if you are going in the right direction.

Eventually, you will reach your destination and be utterly amazed. HALL Rutherford is literally perched on the top of the mountain with a spectacular view of the valley.  It's almost as if you've been transferred to another time and place.

Wine Country Personality: Bruce Cohn

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Bruce-and-Moose.jpgBy Robert P. Farmer

Music and wine have been living together in harmony since the beginning of music and wine. The iterations are both subtle and obvious. Wherever you find good wine, you will reliably also find good music. For one man in Sonoma County, the combination has provided the philosophical basis for a life that has spanned successful careers in each field. And today at B.R. Cohn Winery, each of those careers live in the kind of accord that can only be cultivated by someone who knows what it takes to create a good two-part harmony.

Part I -One Man's Rocking Wine Country Odyssey
Part II -Listen to the Music (And Drink the Wine)

Part I: B.R. Cohn Winery

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Bruce-Cohn-Photo-tn.jpgOne Man's Rocking Wine Country Odyssey

By Robert P. Farmer

For Bruce Cohn, life has been harmonious. Sitting with him over a casual lunch not long ago, on a poolside patio next to his winery's tasting room and just a few steps away from his own gracious abode, it was clear even to the casual observer that Cohn is a man at peace with life. He speaks easily and eagerly about things related to wine--this year's production, progress on this year's crush, getting new barrels delivered. And he speaks just as easily, if sometimes wistfully, about the interesting road he traveled to get to this comfortable poolside place. It's a story about wine that involves music. It's a story unlike any in Wine Country, which is saying a lot considering the myriad unique storylines in this part of the world.

Part II: B.R. Cohn Winery

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BRCohn_Logo.jpgListen to the Music (And Drink the Wine)

By Robert Farmer

Reading books on buses yielded a new career path for the Manager of the Doobie Brothers. Before long, Cohn's interests were divided between the wellbeing of the rock-and-rollers and the health of the vines on his newly acquired land. Cohn had an idea that the olive trees might have some value, but hadn't really considered the vines on his land had the same worth. "I knew people in these parts were making wine, but I just figured that was done by Sebastiani and other people making jug wine at the time." In fact, Cohn originally saw cash from his grapes by selling them to Sebastiani, entering into a contract with to sell to the mega-winemaker his grapes exclusively.

Cameron Hughes Wine

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lotserieswine.jpgSelling Lots for a Little
by Robert Farmer

Sometimes it's about the craft and sometimes it's about craftiness. For Cameron Hughes, making and selling wines has been about ample doses of both. Most people who peruse the wine aisles at Costco know the company. And it is his relationship with the big-box bulk retailer that really put Cameron Hughes and his eponymous wine company on the map.

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Press Release: Kenwood, CA, --Following a sold out event in May, Kunde Estate has scheduled a second dog-friendly hike on Saturday, October 18th, 2008. The hike offers a chance for animal lovers to enjoy wine country with their dogs while raising funds for Canine Companions and the Humane Society & SPCA of Sonoma County (HSSC). Both non-profit organizations provide vital services to people and animals in the region.

October's Dog-Friendly Hike consists of a three mile trek through the Kunde family's 1,850 acre estate, led by fourth generation winegrower Jeff Kunde. The hike is $45 per person and dog and concludes with a wine country gourmet picnic and wine tasting, with treats and a "water tasting" for dogs.

Miles and Ryan MacDonnell

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Round Pond Estate

With the unveiling of a beautiful new winery and tasting room this past summer, Round Pond Estate took another step in establishing itself as one of Napa Valley's great young wineries. Guided by the dynamic brother and sister team of Miles and Ryan MacDonnell, Round Pond is a small, family-owned and operated winery located in the heart of the Rutherford winegrowing region. And though the MacDonnell siblings only released their inaugural 2002 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon a few years back, they are far from being the new kids on the block. In fact, Miles and Ryan grew up playing amongst the very same vine rows, where they grow the grapes for their sought-after wines.

Mario Andretti, Part 2

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National Champion

Mario Andretti's love of cars began at an early age in his native Italy, when he saw the great Alberto Ascari race at Monza. Influenced by this legendary driver, Andretti began his own racing career in 1959 - at the age of 19 - in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, four years after he and his family immigrated to the United States and discovered a dirt track, virtually in their back yard.

Mario Andretti, Part 1

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Andretti Winery

Note: Mario Andretti is widely acknowledged as the world's best race car driver. Modest and charming, he has a world-class palate for wine and food. Since its inception in 1996, the Andretti Winery has earned a reputation for producing excellent super premium wines. We spoke to Mario about the wine business, which has become a second career to him.


Nick and Gillian Kite

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nick_gillian2.jpg Nick and Gillian Kite, owners of 'Wine Way Inn' and 'The Craftsman Inn' both located in Calistoga started out as high school sweethearts. Over the years, while traveling the world working in Europe and the USA, Gillian has enjoyed catering, restaurant and hotel cooking as well as bringing up their three wonderful children. Nick is a man of many trades, in search of wild mushrooms, diving for abalone, vineyard management, winemaking... and he speaks French!

Nick and Gillian along with their three children moved to the Napa Valley in 2003, becoming the owners of the Wine Way Inn. In the last 4 years they have established a reputation for hospitality, service and most of all great food. Nick and Gillian often share their treasures with their guests, abalone and wild mushrooms to name a few. In a year or two they will be sharing their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. They are very excited as this is their first vintage cab and are planning to produce a Pinot Grigio in about 3 years when the vines mature.

Kevin and Jill Mittan, Winemakers

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Midlife Crisis Winery

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Winemaking is the secret passion of almost anyone who has ever visited any winery or wine region. Drive down the quiet back roads surrounded by acres of vines ripe with grapes and lulled by the silence of nature and all you want to do is somehow find a way to make wine. Kevin and Jill Mittan, owner/winemakers at the Midlife Crisis Winery, admit that the romance of wine and wine country first brought them to winemaking. Jill laughingly recalls, "Friends set up a wine tasting weekend to try a little match making for us. It worked -better than they ever expected - we were married shortly after that - and our passion for everything wine that led to Midlife Crisis also began that day."

Shortly after their marriage, the couple purchased land in Paso Robles with the goal of starting a vineyard, selling grapes for a few years then starting to make wine - an idea shared by many in the mid to late 1990's.

Leslie Rudd: Entrepreneur with the Heart of Napa Valley

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leslieRudd.jpgLeslie Rudd is an entrepreneur and philanthropist with a real heart for the Napa Valley. Already a proprietor of Dean & DeLuca, Rudd Winery, Edge Hill Estate, PRESS restaurant, and Distillery 209, he recently adopted the historic Oakville Grocery in an effort to restore the beloved destination for wine country visitors.

Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, Rudd officially began his career following his student years at Wichita State University. Unofficially, he began it at the age of eight when his parents started what is now the Standard Beverage Corporation (SBC). Spending his spare time at the company, Rudd learned about entrepreneurship when other children were riding bikes. He eventually became owner and CEO of SBC, molding the business into the largest wine and spirits wholesaler in the state of Kansas.

Mike and Mary Colhoun

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mikecalhoun.jpgMaking Their Mark in Wine Country with Landmark Vineyards

Under Michael Colhoun's guidance, Landmark Vineyards has catapulted from a little-known winery to world-class prominence. Michael's achievements were best summed up in a recent article by James Laube in the Wine Spectator, "Since 1993, Landmark's Chardonnays have been among the most exciting wines made in California, combining uniformly high quality with excellent value."

Prior to 1993, Michael was Executive Vice President of a commercial real estate brokerage and development company in the New York metropolitan area. All of that changed when his mother, Damaris Deere Ford, the great, great granddaughter of John Deere and the Founder of Landmark, needed someone with marketing, sales and operational skills to run the winery.

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