D’Amato & Szabo: Wine Thieves – Ep 47: Taking the Helm: Next Generation Vintners of Napa Valley

The Next Generation of Napa Valley
We’re back in the Napa Valley with stories about the early days of the re-birth of the Napa Valley from the 1970s and 1980s. We’ll hear about the hard work, the physical labour of establishing a vineyard, the uncertainty that hung over wineries at the time, and certainly the financial drain. John and Sara speak with two second-generation winemakers from the Napa Valley who both have stepped into the family business and taken the reins from their parents. It’s the sort of discussion and topic you’d think far more common in the old world, where multiple generations have been farming the same land and making wine, with family legacies stretching back in some cases several centuries.

The Thieves welcome Colleen Williams née Seps, who grew up at Storybook Mountain Vineyards in Napa Valley. A storied family affair that began in 1976, when Jerry and his German-born wife, Sigrid, discovered an abandoned vineyard and ghost winery, with century-old caves, in the Mayacamas Mountains northwest of Calistoga in the far northern Napa Valley. They were captivated by this wild, high-elevation site, which dated to the 1880s when it was known as Grimm Brothers Vineyards & Wine Vaults, and the couple purchased the property, and set about replanting the historic vineyard, and constructed a new winery. Storybook quickly became one of California’s premier producers of Zinfandel and, in 1990, Jerry initiated the creation of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, better known as ZAP, an organization dedicated to promoting the features and benefits of Zinfandel.

Christopher Vandendriessche of White Rock Vineyards in the Stag’s Leap District of the Napa Valley is also on the program. The original parcel was purchased by Dr. Pettingill in 1870 who was a globetrotter and bon vivant but he is also known to have been a dentist, brewer, winemaker, and horse breeder. The vineyard he planted was one of the earliest plantings in Napa Valley. In 1871, using only a hand saw to cut the white rock he quarried from the property, he constructed a winery and also designed two cellars, where he began the tradition of bottle aging his wine for 4 years before release- an approach still practiced at White Rock.

This episode was produced in partnership with Napa Valley Vintners.

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