Monday, March 30, 2015



About the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association:
The Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association is a non-profit organization (501c6) founded in 1983 to support and promote Santa Barbara County as a premium wine producing and wine grape growing region. The Vintners’ Association produces festivals, seminars, and wine tastings as well as providing information to consumers and the wine and travel media.

Through the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation, the Association contributes to the community through local charitable, art and educational and scholarship organizations with proceeds from its various events, such as Santa Barbara Wine Auction, held every other year and benefitting Direct Relief International, and silent auctions at all the Association’s festivals.



April 23 - 26

  • VINTNERS  VISA - The Vintners' Visa gives you one complimentary wine tasting at 12 different wineries throughout Santa Barbara County. The Visa lasts for the entire Spring Weekend starting on Thursday, April 23 - Sunday, April 26
  • VINTNERS  FESTIVAL - The Festival showcases over 120 Santa Barbara County wineries along with some of the best local food from restaurants, catering companies, and gourmet food creators in addition to music, art and related wine country vendors.
  • EVENT  CALENDAR - There are plenty of fun and exciting events taking place over the Spring Weekend. Check out winery open houses, special wine maker dinners or lunches, vineyard hikes, and more! More events will be added to the calendar in 2015.

October 9 - 12

The Celebration of Harvest Weekend, held over Columbus Day Weekend, is our annual celebration of the year's bounty. Vintners take a break from the vineyards and cellars to pour their wines and share harvest tales at the Festival Grand Tasting on Saturday, October 10, 2015 from 1:00-4:00PM at Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang. Throughout the weekend select wineries host their own events, ranging from winemaker dinners, library tastings, new wine releases, and barrel tastings. Want to visit the tasting rooms on an all-inclusive tasting pass?  Don't forget your Vintners Visa for unique and complimentary offerings at your choice of twelve tasting rooms.

December 5-7

It's like a wine tasting passport...a passport that gets you in the VIP line no one knows about.  Your Key will allow you into special experiences and events, along with giving you special offers and deals,  at 38 participating wineries and at 10 restaurants throughout Santa Barbara County December 5 - 7.

Once you purchase a Key, you will receive a secret password that will enable you to make reservations to attend these experiences and events. There is no limit or maximum amount of events you can attend. Don't forget to book a transportation package on Saturday and Sunday, so you don't have to worry about wine tasting and driving. Keys are limited, so purchase yours today!


Driving north along the pastoral Foxen Canyon Wine Trail feels like traveling back to California’s early days. Rolling hills frame vast meadows, deer and wildlife roam free, and pristine landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see. This peaceful environment enticed the late Fess Parker into buying a 714-acre ranch here back in 1988. The Texas-born actor, who played the television roles of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and 1960s, had moved his family to Santa Barbara in the early 1960s and begun construction of a blufftop home. When heavy rains caused it to collapse onto the beach, he revised his plans and headed inland.

There, he discovered the Foxen Canyon property, where he initially planned to run cattle, plant a few grapes to sell to other vintners, and establish a small winery. Parker, an only child, dreamed of starting a family business that he could pass on to future generations. He asked his children to join him, and they planted a five-acre experimental Riesling vineyard in 1989. Eli, his son, started as assistant winemaker and spent three years under the tutelage of acclaimed enologist Jed Steele before taking the helm. Eli then planted more vines and started a four-year project to build a cutting-edge winery and tasting room.

Eli Parker and his sister Ashley continue to stay involved as stewards of the family’s vision for the winery while Ashley’s husband Tim Snider serves as President and oversees day-to-day operations. The family’s vineyard is the 120-acre Rodney’s Vineyard, named after Fess Parker’s late son-in-law, at the 400-acre Foxen Canyon Road estate where the winery is located. They also source grapes from Camp Four vineyard in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, which Parker planted in 1998 as well as vineyards in the cooler Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley appellations. Blair Fox assumed the role of head winemaker in 2005. In recent years, the winery has sharpened its focus to produce more small-lot, vineyard-designated wines made from high-quality Rhone and Burgundian varietals, which have won awards in national wine competitions.

Completed in 1994, the new winery and tasting room are loosely designed after an Australian sheep station, with a grand stone fireplace, stone floors, and a wraparound veranda with picnic tables. The spacious complex is set amid an acre of meticulously landscaped grounds that border the vineyard. The amphitheater-style lawn, rimmed by mature oaks, provides a serene setting for picnics, summer evening performances by Shakespeare Santa Barbara, and other events. Indoors, visitors taste the latest vintages at a worn knotty pine bar, surrounded by photos of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and other memorabilia related to the actor’s television roles.

It wouldn't be stretching the truth to say that Tim Snider knows the wine business from the ground up. His first job in the industry was driving a tractor preparing the ground for his family's vineyard in Knight's Valley, Sonoma County, CA. in 1985. For six summers Tim participated in the development of the Snider family’s vineyard working on wide ranging projects from installation of irrigation systems to building deer fences to canopy management. Though Tim didn’t know it at the time, the summers spent in the vineyards would spark a true passion for the wine industry.

After graduating from Williams College in Massachusetts, Tim embarked on a 7-½ year stint at the E&J Gallo Winery. He began at the bottom as a sales representative but had the opportunity to work in several different sales capacities including Northern California Area Sales Manager. From there Tim was able to jump to the Gallo marketing department for several years including a stint as Brand marketing manager working on successful brands such as Ecco Domani, Marcelina and Rancho Zabaco.

In September of 1999 Tim left Gallo to head up the marketing at Fess Parker Winery. Over the past eleven years has held positions of increasing responsibility culminating in being named President of the winery in 2010. He is proud to be part of the team that has developed & launched successful projects such as the Fess Parker single vineyard tier of wines, the family’s boutique rhone-oriented label, Epiphany, and the Frontier Red & Parker Station programs.

In addition to his responsibilities at the Fess Parker Winery, he also oversees sales and distribution of the Snider family’s Fortress label based in Northern California. Tim also served for four years on the Santa Barbara County Vintner's Association Board of Directors, three of which were spent as president, and currently is a member of Rabobank’s Regional Advisory Board. Tim lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Ashley Parker Snider, and their three children. In his free time, Tim enjoys playing golf, basketball and tennis, running, snowboarding, coaching youth basketball and playing the drums.


Monday, March 23, 2015




The San Luis Obispo (SLO) Wine Country Association is charging into its 25th anniversary year with fresh energy, reinventing its signature “Roll Out The Barrels” event as a month-long celebration of immersive wine adventures at various wineries throughout April.

“This is a time to not only celebrate our roots, but also to change things up and build upon our momentum as an up-and-coming wine region,” said Heather Muran, executive director of SLO Wine Country, the intimate coastal winegrowing region in southern San Luis Obispo County on California’s Central Coast.

The new Roll Out The Barrels experience begins on the week of April 6, and concludes at the end of the week of April 27. The entire month will offer a variety of winery adventures and activities on an a la carte basis, organized by weekly themes such as “Taste The Coast,” “Farm to Fork” and “Sustainability & Heritage.” Examples of these adventures include:

  • Comparative barrel tastings with Winemaker Stephen Dooley at Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, allowing guests to experience the differences between newer and older barrels, different types of French oak and more. 
  • A ranch hike with Winemaker Peter Cron of Filipponi Ranch Cellars, to conclude with wine tasting, artisan cheeses and local barbecued sausage. 
  • A hands-on tour of Talley Farms followed by a gourmet lunch at Talley Vineyards, with Chef Dave Schmit featuring seasonal Talley Fresh Harvest vegetables paired with Talley’s newly released Chardonnays.

The final week of Roll Out The Barrels will feature the “Barrels in The Plaza” wine and food pairing event at Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo on Thursday, April 30. A full schedule of adventures and events is forthcoming.

While commercial wine was first produced in SLO Wine Country in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the modern wine industry began to emerge locally. The formation of the SLO Wine Country Association in 1990 marked a turning point, with local wineries banding together to create a unified organization dedicated to serving and promoting the region. This year, the association is not only celebrating its 25th anniversary, but also embarking on a new five-year strategic plan.
“The history of SLO Wine Country is very deep and diverse,” Muran said. “At the same time, we feel like we are really hitting our stride right now. The reinvented Roll Out The Barrels celebration is an example of how we are staying true to our roots while embracing a fresh direction.”



There is so much more to Dawn Wells than Mary Ann of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (the longest running sitcom still showing worldwide in over 30 languages!)

She’s an actress, producer, author, spokesperson, journalist, motivational speaker, teacher, and chairwoman of the Terry Lee Wells Foundation--focusing on women and children in Northern Nevada.

She has starred in over 150 tv shows, and 7 motion pictures, including WINTERHAWK (which she also narrated), THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (with Andrew Prine), SUPER SUCKER (with Jeff Daniels), THE NEW INTERNS, IT’S OUR TIME, and most recently, SILENT BUT DEADLY.

She has starred in 60+ theatrical productions from Noel Coward to Neil Simon, as well as the National Tours of CHAPTER TWO and THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG.  Favorite productions include FATAL ATTRACTION with Ken Howard, THE ODD COUPLE with Marcia Wallace, THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE, STEEL MAGNOLIAS (Ouiser), and THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES.

Dawn has starred as Gingy in LOVE. LOSS AND WHAT I WORE (by Nora and Delia Ephron) in New York, Chicago, Delaware, Scottsdale, and San Jose.

She was the “castaway correspondent” for Channel 9 (Sydney, Australia) interviewing such actors and directors as Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Julia Roberts, Rene Russo, Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, and Richard Donner.

And recently just presented Sandra Bullock with a Coconut Cream Pie, as the two women both knew what it’s like to be stranded, for the premiere of GRAVITY.

As a producer, she brought two Movies of the Week to CBS:  SURVIVING GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, and RETURN TO THE BAT CAVE, with Adam West.  She ran her Film Actors Boot Camp for 7 years in Idaho.

In connection with the 50th anniversary of the unexpected hit series "Gilligan's Island," Dawn (who portrayed the lovable farm girl next door, Mary Ann Sommers), has released "A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?" through Taylor Trade Publishing and Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.

Dawn has just completed three stage productions in 2013 including "Love Letters," "Steel Magnolias" and off Broadway in "Love, Loss & What I Wore."  She is currently working on the idea of a new reality show "Hunter History" as well as a new book entitled "A Guide To Life: Why We Love Mary" to be released this year.


Monday, March 16, 2015




Lester and Linda met when they were both students at the University of Cape Town, South Africa in the 1960s. Lester, the son of a lawyer and a farmer, was studying geology at the time while Linda, a pianist and composer, was studying music. They spent their limited budget and leisure hours eating at restaurants and drinking the local wine. Subsequently, Lester graduated as an attorney and Linda completed her degree in music composition and music theory. They were married in 1967. Nine years later the couple moved to California where Lester practiced law as an attorney in San Francisco and Linda studied Arts Administration and soon joined her professor's arts oriented consulting group that advised non-profit arts organizations.

In 1988, Lester, longing for the country life he had experienced as a young boy, found a large acreage of virgin property in the high coastal ridges overlooking the Pacific Ocean, above the old Russian Settlement of Fort Ross. He and Linda purchased the land and built an African inspired home, featuring the round and oval rooms common in tribal architecture that offered dramatic views of the surrounding terrain.

The vineyard project began in 1991 with Lester ordering two dozen dormant rootstocks. When these initial plantings proved successful, Linda enrolled in the Viticulture Program at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County and attended classes at U.C. Davis. Linda discovered she had a green thumb and an affinity for heavy machinery. She bought an old backhoe, a bulldozer and other heavy equipment and, with Lester as the operator, they decided to plant a test vineyard with 16 different varieties, three different trellis systems, assorted clones and different rootstocks. After four years, they concluded that the area was ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and in 1994 began installing the first seven vineyard blocks.

Over the next ten years, with the help of their small crew, they installed sub-surface drainage systems, built a reservoir and drip irrigation system, designed and erected a trellis system with additional foliage wires to minimize unwanted shade from the vines, constructed seven miles of fencing to keep out the deer and wild boar and finally, after planting selected rootstocks, field grafted scion budwood of those field selections and clones that they had carefully chosen to best reflect the terroir of each vineyard block. Lester and Linda remembered the Pinotage from their early years in South Africa. They sourced bud wood from two of the best blocks in South Africa and were the first private growers to import grapevine cuttings through the Foundation Plant Services that operates alongside the U.C. Davis School of Viticulture and Enology.

In 2009, Lester and Linda were introduced to Jeff Pisoni, the gifted winemaker of Pisoni Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands, who is known for his extraordinary wines produced from the family’s estate property. According to Jeff, “I tasted the Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the Ritz Carlton and was struck by the luscious fruit, fine minerality and crisp acidity in each wine. The cool climate and the strong character of the vineyard were clearly evident from wine to wine and vintage to vintage. My goal is to continue to express the personality of the vineyard and the wonderful style the winery has worked so hard to establish over the last decade.” In 2009, the first vintage that Fort Ross and Jeff Pisoni worked together, the 2009 Fort Ross Vineyard Chardonnay was chosen as one of the TOP 100 WINES of 2011 by the Wine Enthusiast. Under Jeff's winemaking helm Fort Ross wines have continued to receive many favorable reviews and accolades.


Fort Ross Vineyard strives to produce wine of purity and elegance that reflects the cool maritime climate and challenging terroir of the steep Sonoma Coast Ridges.

WINEMAKING: Winemaking begins in the vineyard. To produce truly outstanding wines farming practices must enhance the winemaking. All Fort Ross Vineyard wines are made exclusively with Estate-grown grapes from the Fort Ross Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. No grapes from other vineyards are brought in even if the yields are greatly lower than usual. There is a constant flow of information between Winemaker, Jeff Pisoni, and Owners/Vineyard Managers, Lester and Linda Schwartz. Each harvest, the three repeatedly walk the vineyard, carefully taste the grapes from each block and harvest the fruit based upon flavor development. Single blocks are often picked several times to guarantee grapes with the desired acid balance and flavor components. To maintain the integrity of the fruit and avoid bruising or oxidation, all bunches are harvested into small picking trays during the cool of the night and then gently transported to the winery in partially filled 1/2 ton macro bins.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Winemaker, Jeff Pisoni, seeks to achieve a sense of balance between concentration and elegance. “The fruit lends a certain weight and depth to the wine while the cool climate produces the beauty and elegance”. With minimal winemaking intervention Jeff strives to give the wine a sense of place. “I like to use native yeast for fermentation. Native yeast is from both the vineyard and the winery. The fermentation is slower but the results are more distinctive”. Jeff is very careful in his punch down regimen, constantly monitoring the developing flavors. “Early in the fermentation I punch down more to extract gentle tannins. Later in the fermentation you need to avoid extracting the harder seed tannins”.

FARMING CHALLENGES: Fort Ross Vineyard is the closest vineyard to the Pacific Ocean in California and gets more rain than the Amazon Jungle. The average rainfall is 75” but can reach 125” per year. If it rains before we have finished harvesting we have to abandon the grapes in our steepest blocks. The summers are dry and considered water scarce. Our only source of water is our vineyard pond. We maintain a cover crop of native grasses between the vine rows that helps us gain access into the vineyard in the spring. Each year as the grapes begin to ripen we need to cover each vine with netting to protect the fruit from the flocks of birds as the vineyard is planted in a series of meadows surrounded by thick forests. Farming on the steep coastal ridges requires a great deal of skill. We use wheel tractors in the flatter areas, crawlers on the steeper slopes and walk where it is not safe to use machinery. All harvesting is done by hand.

CHALLENGING TRADITIONAL PROCEDURES: Lester and Linda Schwartz seized the chance of developing a vineyard site less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean despite being mocked by academics who believed that the harsh coastal climate would not ripen grapes while the fog and rain would make the crop constantly vulnerable. To test their theories, they first installed a small trial vineyard with eighteen different varieties of grapes and three different trellis systems. Then they began preparing the first blocks of the main vineyard that took them four years to be ready for planting. They chose rootstock suitable for the soil variations in the vineyard and two years later, when the rootstock was well established, they field grafted the budwood. In the cool coastal climate it took three more years before all the vines in each block were successfully grafted as the grafts need hot weather to callous and grow.

PRUNING: The vineyard was first trained to cane pruning which is more traditional in cool climates. It allows more ‘fruiting potential’ on the vine during pruning by leaving more buds and canes as an insurance against a small crop. Then block by block we began converting the vineyard to cordon pruning in an effort to elevate the wine quality through better fruit balance and more even ripening even though this meant accepting an even lighter crop.



The Czech Republic is a modern and dynamic destination with a rich history and unique natural beauty.  The CzechTourism agency, along with its offices abroad, ensures its successful presentation on the domestic and foreign markets. The Czech Tourism Authority - CzechTourism is a contributory organization of the Ministry for Regional Development and was established in 1993. Its significant partner agencies include domestic tourist regions, cities, municipalities and businesses.

Wine in the Czech Republic is produced mainly in southern Moravia, although a few vineyards are located in Bohemia. However, Moravia accounts for around 96%[1] of the country's vineyards, which is why Czech wine is more often referred to as Moravian wine . Production centers on local grape varieties, but there has been an increase in the production of established international strains such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Czech wine law (2004) defines two wine-growing regions (Czech: Vinařská oblast). These are Moravia (Vinařská oblast Morava) and Bohemia (Vinařská oblast Čechy).


Monday, March 9, 2015



STARS of Napa Valley | March 26th, 2015 | THE SHADE HOTEL Manhattan Beach

After nine years of hosting its annual Ultimate Wine Festival, Manhattan Beach’s only luxury boutique hotel, Shade, today announced plans to partner with wineLA to host the area’s first annual Stars of Napa Valley Wine Festival on Thursday, March 26. With 40 notable wineries set to participate in the festivities, Shade Hotel will expect to welcome hundreds of wine enthusiasts in celebration of Napa Valley’s most coveted wines.

General Admission: 7pm Admission (event ends at 9:30)
In addition to unlimited wine tasting of The Stars of Napa Valley wine (hosted by winemakers, owners, winery executives); General Admission will include an elegant assortment of tray-passed hors d’oeuvres a and a chance to mingle with the who’s who of Manhattan Beach. Dress code is resort casual, DJ music will fill the air, a great celebration of Napa Valley Wine. A selection number of auction items will be available to bid on;  auction items will range from $250 to $2,000; One hundred percent of silent auction dollars will benefit Manhattan Beach Middle School. Click here if you are interested in donating an auction item.

VIP Admission: 6:15 Admission (event ends at 9:30) - VIP benefits end at 7pm (please arrive on time) 6:15 early admission, special wines available to taste, enhanced tray passed appetizers for a small and limited audience;  Legendary winemakers will be hosting a Panel tasting from 6;30 to 7:00pm exclusively for the vip, showing rare wines from older vintages and discussing topical issues important to the Napa Valley wine lover. All VIPS will also benefit from a nice VIP gift bag.
This event is limited to 350 total guests and, similar to Shade’s past wine events, is expected to sell out immediately.

Master of Wine Student and innovative wine industry spokesperson, Ian Blackburn drinks wine for a living. Since it was established in 1995, Ian Blackburn has worked on building Learn About Wine into the leading source for wine education and events in Southern California. LearnAboutWine was the first business of its kind: a wine education and event website dedicated to the education, service, and enjoyment of wine.

Today LearnAboutWine has developed into Southern California’s premier company for wine education and events. Ian continues to innovate and focus on demystifying wine for everyone from the casual drinker to the potential collector. LearnAboutWine events include the wildly successful, monthly “TASTE” Series, a large-scale wine social; “PALATE BUILDER” Sensory evaluation class, VINTAGE – High end collectables tastings and LAW SCHOOL – the four week credential program that concludes with the BAR exam (Beverage Aptitude Review). Over 30,000 students in Southern California have participated in LearnAboutWine’s core class “Wine Camp,” an introduction into wine, and it is considered one of the top introduction courses in the region.

With a database of over 18,000 subscribers, Ian’s following and notoriety has grown with the popularity of wine. He has taught classes at Cordon Bleu, Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA, The Learning Annex, and other prestigious universities. LearnAboutWine maintains an active calendar of classes and events offered to the public, but thrive as a source of private and corporate events. Ian’s clients range from small social clubs and church organizations, to Fortune Five Hundred companies like Amgen, Pfizer, Disney, Nestle, Deloitte, Latham Watkins, Ernest and Young, Bank of America/US Trust/Countrywide, Paul Hastings, Quinn Emanuel and KPMG.

Ian’s passion for wine and entertaining makes him one of the top spokespersons in the United States; he was trained as an educational Ambassador for the Napa Valley Vintners and the Region of Champagne, France. Ian’s expertise and entertaining ways can be heard regularly on Los Angeles radio airwaves likeKCRW, KLOS, KROQ, INDIE 103.1, 98.7 and Ian even appeared as an expert on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” Creating wine lifestyle events in order to get more people involved in the enjoyment and appreciation of wine is Ian’s forte. Commissioned by Wiley Publications to write The Pleasure of Wine in 2004, Ian is currently studying for his Masters of Wine and working on his second book at his home office in Downtown Los Angeles.



Some dream of spending the rest of their lives on golf courses and cruise ships, but with a taste for business and a love of Santa Barbara wine country, we chose a different retirement plan.

In 1999 we purchased 82 acres in what would later become the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, and named it “Ampelos”, which is the Greek word for vine. The name has a two-fold purpose. First, we believe that all great wines start in the vineyard.

Secondly, we have close-ties with Greece; we were married there and own a small bed and breakfast, called Ampelos Resort, on the island of Folegandros. We bought the land with dreams of someday watching the nightly sunset over the hills and our dogs running through the vines.

At the time we were still working long hours in corporate America, and delegated our son Don (now winemaker at Sea Smoke) to get the vineyard started. Our vineyard consultant assured us that the land could produce a great vineyard with patience and care, but we had little time to focus on the vineyard with non-stop business travel, meetings and conferences.

In 2001, the first 15 acres were planted in the Ampelos vineyard. That same year, we landed in Newark on the morning of September 11th. Peter had a meeting in the first tower of the World Trade Center, and interrupted his plan to board Path 1 of the New York Subway when his meeting was canceled. If he had gotten on the train, 8:45 am would have found him under the towers as the first plane hit.

When we finally got out of the city five days later, we went straight to our safe place—the Ampelos vineyard. That is when we made the life-changing decision to quit our corporate jobs and focus all our effort into pursuing our dream of full-time viticulture. “Someday” was no longer part of our vocabulary.

We moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in January of 2002. We began to learn to nurture the soil and prune the vines to prepare for the first harvest, and purchased one ton of Pinot Noir and two tons of Syrah in order to learn winemaking as we waited for the vines to mature. We toiled under the tutelage of our son Don and several expert consultants.

2004 marked the inaugural Ampelos vineyard harvest. The first harvest yielded 15 tons of Pinot Noir and 6 tons of Syrah. In 2005, we planted 10 acres on top of the original 15, totaling 25 acres. Pinot Noir and Syrah remain our primary varietals, with a line of Viognier and just under two acres of Grenache—the unsung hero of the Sta. Rita Hills. We persist in experimenting with different grapes and winemaking styles, as we are major believers in the journey being the destination.

With the efforts of family and friends, wise guides, and a twist of fate, we have come to create our small, sustainable vineyard and winery. We have gone from expanding big businesses to focusing on creating a limited release of high-quality product that people can afford to share with friends and loved ones. For us, sharing those gifts is what makes it all worthwhile.

You can depend on Ampelos wine to present the essence of each varietal in its purest form. Our winemaking processes are minimalist, meaning no added yeast, no artificial tannins, no artificial malolactic bacteria, and no artificial coloring. Every sip evokes cool ocean breezes and sunny afternoons wondering at the beauty of the rolling Sta. Rita Hills.

We experiment with both old and new winemaking processes, with eyes always fixed on eco-friendly, natural winemaking. With respect to longstanding winemaking traditions coupled with flexibility, we believe our results will be improvements to the cellar resulting in intriguing and complex wines.


Monday, March 2, 2015



Château Mouton Rothschild winemaker Lucien Sionneau and Robert Mondavi’s son Timothy made the partnership’s first vintage at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1979. The following year the partners officially announced their joint venture.

In 1981 a single case of the joint venture wine sold for $24,000 at the first Napa Valley Wine Auction – the highest price ever paid for a California wine. In 1982 Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild began label design. The partners agreed to choose a name of Latin origin for the joint venture, allowing for easy recognition in both English and French. Baron Philippe announced his choice, “Opus,” a musical expression denoting the first masterwork of a composer. Two days later he proposed an additional word: “Opus One”.

The 1979 and 1980 vintages were simultaneously unveiled in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. Opus One then became known as America’s first ultra-premium wine, establishing a category of wine priced by the bottle at $50 and above.

Following Lucien Sionneau’s retirement in 1985, Patrick Léon joined Château Mouton Rothschild as winemaker and Timothy Mondavi as co-winemaker of Opus One.

Three years later, Baron Philippe de Rothschild died in France at the age of 85; and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild took the reins of the family wine business. This same year Opus One exported a share of its 1985 vintage – and became the first ultra-premium California wine to be sold in France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland. International demand for the wine continued, and in 1999 Opus One celebrated its 20th anniversary by holding vertical tastings and gala dinners in Oakville, New York, Paris and London. In 2001 the release of its 20th vintage – the 1998 – was met with gala events in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

The winery’s board of directors appointed David Pearson CEO in 2004, the first person singly responsible for Opus One. Michael Silacci was thereafter named winemaker, the first to assume full responsibility for viticulture and winemaking.

Constellation Brands, Inc. purchased Robert Mondavi Corporation and assumed 50% ownership of Opus One in 2005. Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and then Constellation Brands President and COO Robert Sands announced the Opus One Accord between Baron Philippe de Rothschild, S.A. and Constellation Brands, Inc. Opus One assumed operating independence in three key areas: vineyard management, domestic and international sales, and administration.

Of the great European wine families, the Rothschilds are perhaps the best known. And Baron Philippe de Rothschild is perhaps the best known of this great family. At the age of 20, Baron Philippe took on the management of Château Mouton Rothschild from his father Baron Henri. Philippe’s vision changed the world of wine: he invented Château bottling, commissioned great artists to illustrate his wine labels – and, in partnership with Robert Mondavi in 1979, created Opus One.

In the 1980s, after her father’s death, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild left a stage career that included the Comédie Française and the Renault-Barrault Theatre Company, bringing her own exquisite style and creativity to the design, construction, and operation of Opus One.

Among great New World wine pioneers, Robert Mondavi is an international icon. Bringing a passion for excellence to everything he did, Robert Mondavi led a renaissance in California fine wine for over six decades. Among other accomplishments, he introduced temperature-controlled fermentation, French oak barrel aging, and high-density viticulture to a fledgling American wine industry. But life was not only wine for Robert Mondavi: he broadened the American cultural palate by marrying fine wine to food, music, and the arts. One of few Americans to have received the French medal of the Legion of Honor, Robert Mondavi showed extraordinary vision as co-founder of Opus One.

Winemaking at Opus One resolves to a single goal: to produce an extraordinary wine. No compromises are made. Guided by the vision of our founders, our winemaker Michael Silacci combines intuition and technical acumen with the dual perspective of viticulturist and winemaker.

Every cluster of Opus One grapes is hand-harvested, and just as much care is taken when transporting them from the vineyard to the winery. The integrity of the grapes is assured by placing the clusters in small picking boxes that hold no more than thirty-five pounds (sixteen kilograms).

The grapes are hand-sorted: any leaves or imperfect grapes are discarded. Only gravity is used to move the berries from the destemmer into the stainless steel fermenting tanks below. Stainless steel is the perfect material – it provides a cool and gentle beginning to the fermentation process.

Because Opus One makes only one wine, each tank can be dedicated to a single lot of grapes; each tank is used only once during harvest, so fermentation and maceration need never be rushed. The long, warm maceration in temperature-controlled tanks draws out myriad rich flavors and colors from the skins, seeds, and pulp. The tanks are raised so the free-run wine can flow into new French oak barrels; the remaining skins tumble easily into basket presses.
In another gentle, unhurried step, the skins, seeds, and pulp are pressed. Like the free-run wine, the pressed wine is put into barrels to be aged. To provide backbone to the wine, a portion of the press is often added to the final blend.

Once the wine is safely in barrel, the topping, racking, and fining processes begin. During the first year, Michael continually tastes from each French oak barrel, evaluating the effect of the wood on the wine.

Fining, which occurs after the final racking in tank, also illustrates the hand-crafted nature of Opus One. Carefully added in more turbid vintages, fresh egg whites attract the very small particles that would otherwise remain in suspension. Fining clarifies and polishes the wine. After about a year and a half in barrel, the wine is bottled. Opus One receives an additional year and a half of bottle age before the wine is released— some three years after harvest.



From my experience of tasting the finest wines from around the world, all the greatest wines possess authenticity, harmony, and elegance. These are the qualities I constantly try to capture in my wines. The ultimate goal is to create wines that are seamless and textural with enough structure and balance to complement fine cuisine.

In order to make wines of the highest caliber, I select unique vineyards that are cared for by talented vineyard managers committed to excellence. I strive to locate and source from not only the best vineyards but the best blocks within each of these vineyards. During the growing season, yields are restricted to achieve maximum concentration of flavor. Harvest is based on physiological ripeness, which changes depending on the vintage characteristics.

Cellar work is based on minimal intervention, cleanliness and purity of intention. Because every vintage is different, I do not believe in recipes. With due respect to science, I do believe that true artisanal winemaking is based on intuition, sensitivity and passion. Keeping the lots small allows for gentle handling throughout the winemaking process. I want my wines to give pleasure and keep your palate interested until the last drop from the bottle – I hope you like them at first sip and love them at the last.

At Paul Lato, we love great food as much as we love our wine. In fact, we don’t believe the two can be separated. We treasure our relationship to the restaurants who serve Paul Lato wines, as they provide the outlet and the knowledge to properly showcase the balance and harmony we strive to impart to each bottle.

Paul Lato is a Polish-born professionally trained and educated sommelier who first visited California's Central Coast in 1996 on the invitation of Au Bon climat's Jim Clendenen. Clendenen told him, "You don't need to read any more wine books. Just come out and work for me one harvest and you will understand how this works." After three months with Clendenen, he returned to Canada where he was a sommelier for Toronto's best restaurant, and worked for six more years in the wine trade until he was ready to make a permanent move.

In 2002, he decided to follow his dream to make wine and returned to California's Central Coast. He brought all his savings (which wasn't much), and his life folded into two suitcases. He had plenty of passion, a little craziness, and considerable innocence, convinced he could actually become a successful winemaker. In fact, above all, the motivation for Paul is passion.

Bob Miller, the late co-owner of Bien Nacido Vineyards, gave Paul a job as a $10-an-hour cellar rat, and let him stay for free in a bunkhouse at the vineyard. Miller also encouraged Paul to make his own wines. During the long harvest days, he watched many experienced winemakers at work and asked many questions.

Starting with the 2002 vintage, he made six barrels of wine. By chance he met Robert Parker who said, "I hear you are this sommelier who makes wine. I want to taste it." Paul sheepishly told him he had only three barrels of Pinot Noir and three barrels of Syrah. Parker said, "You are starting with the hardest grapes to vinify. But don't worry about it. I'm a wine taster and I taste everything. But, if its shit, I'm going to tell you."

Parker was impressed with the wines and as he jotted down notes in his black book, he asked Paul, "What is the name of the winery?" Paul said he had not decided. Parker responded, "You have a tremendous talent. Hurry up with the name, because I want to be the first one to write about your wines." To this day, Paul says, "If I live another 100 years, I will never forget that. It brought tears to my eyes."

He has grown slowly, crafting under 500 total cases of Pinot Noir and Syrah, but gaining a reputation, and consequently having more and more access to fine vineyards. His distant mentor has been the late Henri Jayer of Burgundy and the Chave family of Rhone, and admires the older style of Williams Selyem wines as well. He found the road to success to be brutally hard, but without Parker's blessing of the first vintage, he might not have survived.

The first year, he stayed in several friends' places, and one friend invited him to live in his house, knowing he had no money for rent. In one of his darkest moments, a helpful call came from Thomas Keller, who said he loved Paul's wine and wanted it for the French Laundry. Somewhere along the way, he also discovered the writings of Joseph Campbell, and took to heart his reassurance that pursuing what you love is what matters most in life. Throughout his first ten years, many people gave him a helping hand when he needed it most. Many days he had enough gas to get to work, but not enough to drive back home. And every time, someone would show up and ask to buy a bottle or two of my wine. Paul's independent spirit forbade him from taking on investors. Paul tastes with Parker annually and he found him to be a great taster with an incredible sense of humor. "As a critic, he wants to bring new stars up, rather than break established ones."

Paul Lato wines are sold through a mailing list with very limited retail distribution. He is not as well-known now as he should be, but very knowledgeable pinotphiles, including myself, sing his praises. His Pinot Noirs are sourced from several premium vineyards, including Gold Coast, Fiddlestix Vineyard, Solomon Hills, Zotovich, and Pisoni. He is married to Pinot Noir, but also maintains a friendship with Chardonnay and Syrah and all varietals are top notch.

Paul is aiming for an ultimate production of 2500 cases annually. At some point, he would like to have an estate vineyard.