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Columns – Tina Caputo

Q & A: Linda Schwartz, Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery
Tina Caputo
Dec 18, 2012

At first, the story of Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery may sound familiar: City-dwellers buy vineyard land and embark on second careers in the California wine industry. But this story has a twist. The couple behind this Sonoma Coast winery, Linda and Lester Schwartz, didn't exactly take the easy route. In 1976 the South African natives moved to Northern California, where Linda put her music background to use as an arts administrator and Lester worked as a lawyer. In 1988, the couple bought a virgin property in the high coastal ridges overlooking the Pacific Ocean, above the old Russian Settlement of Fort Ross. This is normally the part of the story where the couple hires famous consultants to plan and plant their vineyard. Instead, Linda enrolled in the viticulture program at Santa Rosa Junior College and Lester discovered his affinity for heavy machinery.

Q & A: Mike Martini, Louis M. Martini Winery
Tina Caputo
Nov 20, 2012

Like many wine lovers, I'm always interested in hearing about new producers, especially if they're veering away from the mainstream in terms of grape varieties, blends or styles. But sometimes the classics are just what I'm looking for. Wineries with a sense of place and history, specializing in traditional varieties, can be as welcome and satisfying as a plate of mom's pot roast. Louis M. Martini Winery in the Napa Valley is one of those classic California wineries. Whenever I pop a cork on one of Martini's Cabernets, I know that the wine in the bottle will be well made and a pleasure to drink -- rich, yet expertly balanced.

Q & A: Melissa Stackhouse, J Vineyards & Winery
Tina Caputo
Oct 23, 2012

When the weather turns cool and Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts turn to festive sparklers and elegant Pinot Noirs -- wines that will pair beautifully with everything from cranberry relish to roasted turkey to sausage stuffing. If I had to choose a single source for elegant holiday wines, I'd turn to J Vineyards & Winery, in the Russian River Valley. Not only does J make terrific sparklers, it makes a range of lovely Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris wines.

Q&A: Gina Gallo, Winemaker
Tina Caputo
Sep 25, 2012

If you think you left Gallo wines behind when you moved on from Hearty Burgundy, you may be in for a surprise. Gallo is behind a slew of premium brands these days, including Frei Brothers, Louis M. Martini, MacMurray Ranch, Rancho Zabaco, William Hill Estate and many others. The 79-year-old company also makes some impressive wines under the Gallo Family Vineyards label, including the Estate, Single Vineyard, Sonoma Reserve, and now, the Signature Series offerings.

Q & A: Sean O'Keefe, Chateau Grand Traverse
Tina Caputo
Aug 28, 2012

As a Michigan native, I've kept an eye on the state's wine scene for many years. During that time, I've gone from being a skeptic, to being pleasantly surprised at the quality of certain wines, to becoming a True Believer in the ability of Northern Michigan vintners to produce fantastic wines. One producer that's been doing this all along is Chateau Grand Traverse. Located near Traverse City on the beautiful Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Grand Traverse is the oldest and largest winery and vineyard operation in Northern Michigan.

Q & A: Peter Molnar of Obsidian Ridge Vineyard
Tina Caputo
Jul 31, 2012

I've tasted and enjoyed many wines from Lake County over the years, but until recently, I'd never really toured the region's vineyards. There's really no excuse for that, since Lake County is less than a two-hour drive from my house. It's just that it always seemed so… far. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took the promise of aerial transportation to entice me to spend some quality time in Lake County. But boy, am I glad I made the trip.

Q & A: Mark McWilliams of Arista Winery
Tina Caputo
Jul 3, 2012

People who live in other parts of the country often tell me how lucky I am to live in Northern California wine country, with its gorgeous vineyards, fantastic wines and sunny skies. As much as I love it here, I tell them, it has nothing to do luck. I was born and raised in suburban Michigan, but I decided soon after college graduation head West and make my own luck. Such was also the case with the McWilliams family of Texarkana, Texas, owners of Arista Winery in the Russian River Valley. In the mid-1990s, after years of vacationing in Sonoma with his wife Janis and dreaming of a life among the vines, orthodontist Al McWilliams pitched in with his brother-in-law to buy a family vineyard estate in Cloverdale, in northern Sonoma County.

Q & A: Daryl Groom
Tina Caputo
Jun 5, 2012

Daryl Groom is a man with many achievements under his belt. During his 30-plus years as a winemaker in his native Australia and in California, he's racked up multiple 'Winemaker of the Year' awards for his work at Geyser Peak Winery in Sonoma County (1990-2007), and holds the distinction of spending six years making one of Australia's most famous and sought-after red wines, Penfolds Grange. But his most meaningful success to date, he says, is a $13 red blend called Colby Red.

Q & A: Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery
Tina Caputo
May 8, 2012

When talking about the history of Oregon wines, certain names inevitably come up: Myron Redford of Amity Vineyards, David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards and Dick Erath of Erath Winery. These pioneering vintners -- among others -- laid the foundation in the late 1960s and `70s for the winemakers who followed. One such winemaker to benefit from the founders' wisdom -- and mistakes -- was Harry Peterson-Nedry, founder of Chehalem winery (pronounced chuh-HAY-lum) in the Willamette Valley. With degrees in chemistry and English, Harry's first career was in high-tech manufacturing. But as many before him have discovered, a wine hobby can have life-altering effects.

Q & A: Ross Cobb
Tina Caputo
Apr 10, 2012

Ross Cobb practically grew up in his family's vineyard, but becoming a winemaker and starting a winery weren't part of his original plan. In 1989, Ross' father David planted the 15-acre Coastlands Vineyard in California's chilly Sonoma Coast region with the idea of selling cool-climate Pinot Noir grapes to a handful of vintners. On weekends and summer breaks from studying biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Ross helped his dad in the vineyard. He grew to love the winegrowing process so much that he changed his major to agroecology and sustainable agriculture.

Q & A: Peter Bell of Fox Run Vineyards
Tina Caputo
Mar 13, 2012

For those of us who live in California, getting our hands on East Coast wines isn't easy. One East Coast producer that's worth the extra effort is Fox Run Vineyards in New York's Finger Lakes region. With 55 acres of vineyards, Fox Run makes a variety of wines -- including Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Franc-Lemberger -- but it's the winery's Rieslings that really stand out. Fox Run is one of three Finger Lakes wineries that combines its efforts to produce Tierce, one of the country's best Rieslings.

Q & A: John Balletto, Balletto Vineyards & Winery
Tina Caputo
Feb 14, 2012

John Balletto has been farming for most of his life -- but he didn't always focus on wine grapes. In 1977, after the untimely death of his father, 17-year-old John started a vegetable farming business with his mother. If it hadn't been for three El Niño storms in 1998 that wiped out three successive Balletto vegetable plantings, and a lack of water for growing vegetables on one of John's properties in western Sonoma County, John might be more famous today for his zucchini than for his Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Q & A: Jeff Stai, Twisted Oak Winery
Tina Caputo
Jan 17, 2012

I first ran across Twisted Oak Winery several years ago, at one of those giant public wine tastings that draw dozens of vintners and thousands of attendees. In a sea of wine offerings, my attention was drawn to a man brandishing a large rubber chicken. That's right: a rubber chicken. I'd seen people walking around the event earlier that day wearing badges that read "Are You Twisted?," and wondered where they came from. Here, at the Twisted Oak table, was my answer.