GARY PISONI – PISONI VINEYARDS
Vineyard management is meticulous. Under Mark Pisoni's leadership, a long-time permanent crew of 18 skilled individuals perform all the work by hand. Every decision implements sustainable farming practices and long-term considerations. This commitment, combined with the rocky soils and cold Monterey Bay weather, produce serious and compelling wines.
In 1952 Jane and Eddie Pisoni began farming vegetables in the fertile Salinas Valley. A celery-crop profit in 1979 provided the down payment for the Santa Lucia Highlands property that became Pisoni Vineyards. Their love for the land provided the place where their son Gary could realize his dreams. Gary developed a love of wine while attending college. He started collecting fine French and German wines, and he made his first wine in his garage in 1978 at the age of twenty-five. In 1982, Gary broke ground and planted the first vines at Pisoni Vineyards. He was up against many obstacles, including not having a water source at the time.
Mark Pisoni, the vineyard manager, completed a B.S. in Agricultural Economics at the University of California, Davis, and an M.S. in Farm Business Management at Cornell University. He oversees the meticulous care of both Pisoni Vineyards and Pisoni Farms. Jeff Pisoni is the winemaker. He earned a B.S. in Enology at California State University, Fresno, and got hands-on experience at premium wineries before becoming the Pisoni Estate and Lucia winemaker in 2002.
The Pisoni Family produces one wine each year under the label bearing its name: Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir. Although actual quantities vary with fruit yields, typical production is a mere 500 cases annually. Often noted for their deep color and intensity, wines from Pisoni Vineyards offer complex flavors and layers of undulating texture. The rocky mountain soil and the long, cool growing season provide the fundamental character of the wine, and the tannin and acid structure contribute to the age-worthiness.
Lucia vineyard designated Santa Lucia Highlands AVA wines. Lucia is the sister label of the Pisoni Estate wines. Whereas Pisoni Estate is committed to a single expression of the Pisoni Vineyards, Lucia represents the collection of vineyards that the Pisoni Family farms: Pisoni Vineyards, Soberanes Vineyard and Garys' Vineyard (the latter two farmed in partnership with Gary Franscioni).
The wines of Lucia are vineyard designated Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from these vineyards and eponymous Santa Lucia Highlands AVA cuvées with varying percentages of each vineyard blended together. Lucia wines are made alongside the Pisoni Estate wines using the same exacting standards for quality. They are sold via mailing list and high-end restaurants and retailers. If you are on the mailing list for Pisoni Estate wines, you will automatically have the opportunity to purchase the Lucia offerings.
RICHIE ALLEN - DIRECTOR OF VITICULTURE & WINEMAKING, ROMBAUER VINEYARDS
When founders Koerner and Joan Rombauer moved their two children, two horses and five dogs to Napa Valley in 1972, they arrived armed with an appreciation for the intimate relationship between food and wine. Their appreciation stemmed from Koerner’s great aunt Irma Rombauer having authored internationally renowned cookbook the Joy of Cooking and his ancestors originating from the winegrowing region of Rheingau, Germany, where wine is considered an essential complement to a meal.
Appreciation bred passion, and Rombauer Vineyards was established in 1980. Thirty-five years later, the winery remains owned and operated by first- and second-generation members of the family.
ABOUT RICHIE ALLEN
Richie Allen was raised in Melbourne, Australia, in a leafy suburb about 40 minutes east of Australia’s famous Yarra Valley wine region.
Influenced greatly by his parents’ keen interest, Richie grew up with a greater appreciation of wine than the average young Australian male. Upon graduation from high school in 1996, Richie chose to explore his knowledge in an alternate area of interest: molecular biology. Always the model student, he graduated at the top of his class. He was not, however, convinced with the path he was laying down for himself.
Richie embarked on a four-month rock climbing holiday to the United States to clear his thoughts. It was on this adventure that fate came knocking in the form of an invitation to a day of wine tasting. Richie was so taken and inspired by the Californian wines he tasted that day that it was suddenly clear to him what he needed to do.
He promptly returned to Australia and spent the next few years engrossed in winemaking studies at Australia’s prestigious The University of Adelaide. After graduating in 2003, he set about gaining as much practical winery experience as possible from top Australian and New Zealand producers including Penfolds, Oakridge, Church Road and Vavasour.
He eventually found himself back in California, on the doorstep of Rombauer Vineyards to undertake cellar work for a single harvest. However, Richie’s enthusiasm, vast and growing knowledge, and attention to detail were keenly identified, and he was asked to continue on at Rombauer to see this potential expertly developed and nurtured. He became Assistant Winemaker in 2005, then was promoted to Head Winemaker in 2008.
Having worked his way from the ground up, Richie assumed the position of Rombauer’s Director of Viticulture and Winemaking in 2013. In this role, Richie strives to achieve consistency of style and continual improvement in viticultural and winemaking techniques by melding both traditional and modern approaches.
Away from the winery, you’re likely to find Richie pursuing his passion for photography and filmmaking. He lives in Napa with his wife, Nat, and their daughter, Violet, who is the frequent target of his lens.