Friday, January 13, 2012

1/16-Michael Horn talks with Phil Hurst & Gary Pisoni

Phil Hurst - CEO & Managing Partner H.D.D. LLC

Phil Hurst grew up on a 1000-acre ranch on the eastern hills of Napa Valley where his family raised cattle, horses and sheep. “That’s what gave me the agriculture bug,” says Phil. He is still proud of the Reserve Grand Champion steer that he raised to show at the Napa Town and Country Fair.
As a teenager he worked in wineries during summers to earn money for college. When he headed to the University of California at Davis, he intended to become a veterinarian, but a great summer job at Domaine Chandon inspired a new vision. Phil studied Fermentation Science (Enology), earning a BS degree in 1985, the same year he joined Paul Dolan and the winemaking team at Fetzer Vineyards. “We did a lot of organic farming then, with great results,” Phil recalls. When Brown-Forman (B-F) purchased the winery from the Fetzer family in 1992, B-F appointed Phil their International Winemaker and Brand General Manager.
After 12 years at Fetzer, Phil joined Golden State Vintners (GVS), serving as Vice President of International Sales. While at GSV, Phil met the people who became his partners in Winery Exchange, a venture-backed company founded in 1999 to source, develop and produce private labels and national brands of fine beer, wine and spirits. In 2008 sales reached almost $70 million. Phil is co-founder and was Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing.
Over the years the Dolan-Hurst relationship, which began at Fetzer, has grown. The two families share a mutual dream: to build three small wine estates (Napa, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley) where they can practice the highest level of earth-friendly farming and make the finest wine. In 2007 Phil and his wife Sylvia joined Paul and Heath Dolan in the purchase of a 26-acre property in the heart of Dry Creek Valley and the historic Napa Valley brand Stonegate. Phil loves the Dry Creek site – its beautiful views of the valley and neighboring hills, pristine character and creek-side venues. “I want this to be a family legacy where my boys will someday get involved with winemaking, grape growing and marketing. Right now, I want them to learn to drive the tractor,” says Phil.
Phil and his wife Sylvia live in Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, with their two sons Alek and Clay.


Gary Pisoni - Founder & Visionary
At Pisoni Vineyards & Winery, we are committed to growing the best grapes possible and producing exceptional handcrafted wines that represent our vineyard and the dedication of our family. When Jane and Eddie Pisoni started farming vegetables in the Salinas Valley in 1946, they had no idea what lie ahead for the future Pisoni generations. They started a heritage that continues today. Their son Gary, an avid wine collector, had ambitious dreams of his own vineyard. In 1982, against many obstacles, Gary planted his first 5 acres of vines. With the success of his first vineyard, he planted an additional 40 acres. Today Pisoni Vineyards consists primarily of Pinot Noir, with most of our grapes sold to recognized producers of vineyard-designated wines. The partnerships with these small wineries are based on long-term friendship and enthusiasm for great wine. In 1998, we started retaining a small percentage of grapes for our own Pisoni Estate label. Gary Pisoni exudes passion—for adventure, for family and friends, for grape growing and definitely for wine. He is the Burgundian-crazed founder and visionary of Pisoni Vineyards & Winery. After collecting and making wine for most of his life, Gary wanted to plant a vineyard of his own. He was fascinated by the mountain landscape of the ranch his parents purchased in 1979, so he decided to plant the first vines early in the spring of 1982, without even having a source of water. As he will tell you, the story started with him driving a water truck from the Salinas Valley floor to the vineyard to irrigate his young vines, which would struggle to survive in the shallow, granitic soil. After ten years, Gary finally discovered a well hidden within the far reaches of the mountains. With this source, Gary propagated his vines and began selling grapes to California’s finest Pinot Noir producers. In 1998, he started the Pisoni Estate label. According to Wine Enthusiast, this free spirit and maverick among winegrowers personifies the new face of American Pinot Noir.

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