In my last post, I was able to introduce you to Oded Shakked of Longboard Vineyards. There are many characters who make the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley appellations great. Rod Bergland of Joseph Swan is a francophile wine nerd who is a warm patient teacher. Ask Rod about where a wine is, (in its maturation) or about high alcohol wines or how dry is a dry Gewurztraminer and you’re going to get a lesson that you never saw coming. Rod is married to Lynn. Lynn is Jospeh Swan’s daughter. If you seen Rod and Lynn you’d assume they’re a couple of hippies hangin’ in the wine country. Great folks.
Lou Preston and his wife Susan own Preston of Dry Creek. Lou loves natural processes. He bakes bread (without yeast; wheat and yeast makes beer not bread, according to Lou). He cures his own olives and makes wonderfully pungent olive oil. Lou used to make 20 different varietals and his production must have been around 80K cases. Within the past 10 years he decided to go smaller. He decided to return the land to the way he found it. He found it supporting pigs and cattle and goats and wheat and olives and grapes. He felt the land was in balance when he bought it (and the surrounding farms were owned by generations old Italian families who welcomed him and taught him, sometimes implicitly, how to farm in balance.). Two years ago, when Lou slaughtered his first pig, he wanted to smoke ham, bacon and sausages they made from the pig. Their smoker was much too small. One of the guys, a man from El Salvador (I think) who worked in the vineyard, had the solution. They repurposed an old, wooden outhouse. They cleaned it out and mounted it over a hole stuffed with a stove pipe (pointing up through the crapper). The upturned pipe led to a pit filled with wood that was slowly burning. The smoke flowed without the heat. Beautiful natural process. Lou knows growing nothing but grapes is unbalanced. He did something about it. He grows grapes, olives, wheat, livestock, veggies and roses organically and sustainably. When you talk to him you don’t get a warm feeling. He’s curt, but he’s genuine.
Nicolai at Woodenhead is warm and gracious. Guy Davis of Davis Family Vineyards works his ass off. He harvests grapes in New Zealand, when it gets too dull down on the ranch. Ed Sbragia is regal. He earned his status after crafting some great Cabs at Beringer.
Seghesio Famly Winery is one of my favorites. Rachel Ann Seghesio died last week. She was married to the founder’s son, Pete. Her son, Pete, runs the winery with his cousin, Ted. Rachel Ann was the daughter of a grape grower (Passalaqua). Many of the Italian winemakers had come over to work the Italian Swiss Colony. The colony had a program where the immigrant workers could live cheap and either send the money home or save it. Mr Seghesio saved. He hoped to bring his love, who was still in Italy, to America. By the time he had saved enough the managers at Italian Swiss Colony (yes, the same winery Matthew Perry’s father used to advertise for) convinced him that his one true love has probably given up hope and married someone else. He was convinced to court Angela, a local Italian woman. Angela became Rachel Ann’s mother-in-law. Rachel Ann lived the post prohibition history of wine. If you tasted at Seghesio’s family table, Rachel Ann would come in with samples of her mother-in-law, Angela Seghesio’s, lace work and many family pictures. She would walk you through 60 years of the Dry Creek wine business. Rachel Ann was at all the winery events and she’d greet you by name. She remembered where you were from and she’d ask about the weather or the beach or a favorite dining spot. She was from my parents generation and she loved her parents generation. She loved her grandsons hanging on her hem, too. She is what the mega winery conglomerates (read Foley wine) can never become; a human face in front of a human business. The Seghesios have neighbors; the Raffanelis, the Rochiollis, the Parduccis, the Pedroncellis, the Teldeshis and I’m sure there are others who I’ve forgotten. Rachel Ann will be missed although the tradition of family owned and operated wineries lives in Sonoma County (not so much at Chalk Hill Winery, or Sebastiani winery, however). A little more on Rachel Ann can be found at;