• Katarina In Truckslide

West Wines 25 years!



West Wines 25 years!

Buying the land 25 years ago, we were driven by the beauty of Dry Creek Valley and a deep interest in wine. We had taken serious classes in wine tasting but we knew nothing about what really goes into the process of farming, winemaking, packaging of wine products and the many obstacles in the winery industry. Luckily.

As we walked the vineyard after taking ownership, our vineyard manager told us about all the diseases, pests, insects, frost, rust etc. that can obliterate a harvest. What had we done?

However, we got off to a good start and the first vintage was 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. As we loved Bordeaux wines, we wanted to learn creating wines with long aging potential. We started by hiring Julia Iantosca as our winemaker. Julia was also the winemaker at Lambert Bridge creating excellent Bordeaux style blends and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. We worked our way through testing various types of barrels and the art of deciding when to harvest. Katarina started a winemaking degree at UC Davis to really get to know the trade and the science. She did it one class at a time over many years, and practicing alongside Julia and later Phyllis Zouzounis. Phyllis joined us in 2008 and has become a dear friend. Katarina continued to work with Phyllis and then gradually took over the winemaking completely.

Cabernet Sauvignon continues to be our flagship wine and we now have the process perfected to 30 months in French oak barrels after manually harvesting the grapes while they have lots of tannins and acidity left for long aging potential. This is the basis for another four years of beauty sleep in the bottle.

One highlight was of course when, in 2010, our Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was chosen in a blind tasting to be served at the Nobel awards banquet. We think of it as the “Stockholm Judgement” moment as there had never been a non-European wine at the banquet before, and it took a blind tasting to change that. A wonderful honor which also kicked off exporting wine to Sweden.

The history of the area is always visible around us. Of course, we have the Blue Barn, a 120-year-old barn put in place by the Guidi family who farmed the land until the 1980s. The barn served as canning factory when the fields were planted with apricots and plums during prohibition. Now the barn is home to our 1932 flatbed truck, beautifully restored 20 years ago. The truck was used at the Borden Dairy farm (still active dairy to haul milk most of its life. Now it has traded up to haul wine barrels.

Another fun memory is preparing to make sparkling wine. We spent a year tasting various champagnes, mostly blanc de blancs, i.e., made from chardonnay. Our daughter even complained that she always had to drink champagne each time she was home from college. 2014 was our first vintage and we made sure it got several years of aging sur lie in the cellar. it was served four years later at our daughter’s wedding.

It was not until 2012 that we started a tasting room. Before then we sold uniquely to restaurants and resellers. Now we have no resellers, except for the Swedish Systembolaget as that is the only way to sell to consumers there and love meeting our customers directly.

Cats have been part of our team since almost 10 years back. They have come to us as orphans or decided to move from a neighbor to us. Most recently, four and a half years ago, we got Jane Bond who showed up a stormy week in our barn. She was just a kitten. We actually thought it was a male cat but it was too shy to let us pick it up. With the black and white tuxedo coloring we decided to name it James Bond. Three weeks later we had to change the name to Jane Bond. She is very much in control of all things these days.

The last years have been more challenging with fires, pandemic and the temporary closures on and off that followed. Fall of 2020 was particularly hard with the fires just west of us and being evacuated for 10 days in the middle of harvest.

It’s been an amazing 25 years. The most fantastic part of this journey is to have met so many wonderful people in the winery industry, neighbors in the valley, customers who come back again and again and are like friends these days.

Written by Katarina at West Wines