The early morning fog in the Russian River Valley cools the grapes grown on the Thomas George Estates Winery perfectly.
Their fruit, when ripe, bursts with such full and delectable flavor that six bottles of Chardonnay and Pino Noir—the varietals the vineyard is known for, recently took top scores by one of the world’s most esteemed wine critics.
World-renowned wine writer Robert Parker recently scored six bottles produced in 2015 by the winery so highly that the estate is packaging them up in branded wooden boxes, bearing a sticker with the Robert Parker score, and a signature by the winemaker, for wine collectors.
“We’re just so proud of these wines and how highly they were reviewed, that we decided to make them collector’s items and offer them for sale to our 1,000 members of our wine club,” says Jason Robinson, sales manager, Thomas George Estates Winery. “Robert Parker scored six of our 2015 wines, from the Star Ridge, Cresta Ridge, and Baker Ridge, and we did so well we earned the top scores for Russian Valley. All the wines scored 91+ or above out of a possible 100.”
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Robinson discusses the business and passion of growing grapes that people adore.
Q: How did you get into the wine-making business?
I was born and raised in the Napa Valley, we go back five generations here. And my father used to make wine for a billionaire in Rutherford who owns vineyards.
One of my best memories of childhood was going with my Dad and family to a harvest and helping him pick a second crop of grapes. We took some home and made our own wine, putting the grapes in a turtle-shaped kiddie pool and stomping them with our feet.
That was my start, and I’ve been in the industry for 34 years now.
Q: How did Thomas George Estates get on the map?
Our property was originally the Davis Bynum Winery, which had deep roots in the Russian River Valley. In fact, Davis was the first winemaker to bottle the wine with the Russian River Valley label.
After Davis got up in age, he passed it along to Tom Baker, who purchased it in 2008. Tom had a vision for doing a cave on the property and excavated it that same year, completing the dream to have a cave on a hillside knoll in 2010.
Q: What makes your grapes special?
The Russian River Valley is a cool-climate growing region due to the proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The early morning fog keeps our grapes cool, and the slight elevation on Baker Ridge helps the vines grow. This cooler climate in the morning is ideal for our Chardonnay and Pino Noir.
Q: How are you different from other wine makers?
We’re a small, family owned winery that focuses on single-vineyard, single-block wines. Which means that our entire production is only around 8,000 cases a year. Our smallest production of a single wine is only 48 cases, which is two barrels.
Our 2015 Star Ridge Grenache was our largest production of our single vineyard wines, and produced 478 cases.
We hand craft and hand pick for the highest quality fruit possible. Our single block wines are selected from such specifically grown grapes that we narrow it down to certain rows of vines to make special wines. Our single block wines focus on the soils, temperature and sunlight infusing the vines. We typically do 125 cases, or six barrels, of single-block wines.
Q: What is the consumer price point of a bottle?
They range from $38 to $78 a bottle. Considering the art and care we take to produce the best wines, and super-small productions, we are very reasonably priced.
Q: What wine trends are you watching?
Rosé is one of the fastest-growing markets right now. Our 2015 Rosé of Grenache was rated the year’s best rosé by Wine and Spirits Magazine.
Q: What advice do you have for someone entering the wine business?
Prepare for a long journey. It takes preparation and time. There’s a quote about winemaking, which is, “In order to make a small fortune in wine, you must start with a large fortune.”
But, it really takes a lot of energy and long-term planning. When you plant a vineyard, it takes years before the fruit is useable. We’re celebrating our 10-year-old birthday with a wine we just released called Ten. — Thomas George Estates Winery uses Boxerbrand menu covers Linen Naturals line in its presentation. Thank you!