I am a winemaker because it is a wonderful opportunity to work with something dynamic and alive during every incarnation of its existence – from grapes to glass. Wine is always changing – including in the bottle and even after being poured into a glass; and every year is different. Being a winemaker is an incredibly wholistic job – you get to work outside with the vines and inside in the lab and winery; you determine label design and packaging as well as sales and marketing strategies – it truly encompasses a broad range of challenges and opportunities. For the most part, my job is to get out of the way and let the grapes do their thing – and then try to deliver the wine to someone who appreciates it.

I attended UC Davis, where I received an MS in Viticulture and Enology (grape growing and winemaking/wine chemistry) in 2003. During graduate school, I connected with Greg La Follette (from Flowers Winery fame) and he and I formed a winemaking consulting practice where I learned how to put theory into practice. From 2002 – 2005, we worked on a variety of small, artisan labels including: Tandem, Dunah, Londer, Halleck, Sapphire Hill, Lookout Ridge, Silver Pines, and Vadasz. In 2005 while getting some big winery experience at Gallo Sonoma, I helped to start the Soliste label and began a Sonoma Coast project for Luna (they are located in Napa Valley). Those experiences combined with a harvest at Flagstone in Cape Town, South Africa (2000) and a scholarship to join Domaine Dujac in Burgundy for a harvest (2003) helped me begin to understand about the vast world of grape growing and winemaking that exists out there.

In 2006, I had the opportunity to start my own label – many winemakers’ dream. In my short, but varied experience, it was apparent that the most important thing about making wine is the vineyard site. I am lucky to get my Pinot and Chardonnay grapes from one of the Sangiacomo Family Vineyards that lies in the Petaluma Gap – nice, cool climate Pinot and Chardonnay – a perfect (albeit tricky) Sonoma Coast site. During the 2006 harvest, my Sangiacomo Chardonnay grapes disintegrated on the vine due to a wicked botrytis bloom, so I scrambled to find some Chardonnay grapes and was lucky to find some from a small vineyard on Chileno Valley Road, just north of the Marin County border – another cool, Sonoma Coast vineyard. In 2007, my Sangiacomo Chardonnay grapes made it safely through the growing season and I went back to my original vineyard plan to harvest both Pinot and Chardonnay from the Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard. Future vintages of Chardonnay are either Sangiacomo Chardonnay, Antonio Mountain Chardonnay or a combination of both. My Cabernet grapes are from the famed Monte Rosso Vineyard on the southwest side of the Mayacamas mountain range in the Sonoma Valley appellation. During ideal years, I make a Rosé of either Cabernet or Pinot. Altogether, I rarely make more than 600 cases in total.

Besides the source of the grapes, the other thing that I believe makes a huge difference to the consumer experience is bottle age. I decided early on that I would not compromise in terms of quality and am lucky enough to be able to pursue that ideal. I will not make a wine for the Blagden label if the grapes aren't the best they can be (and therefore did not release a 2011 Blagden wine), nor will I release a wine until I feel it is actually peaking in terms of drinkability. I am also lucky in that the Blagden wines have shown to stay in peak form for a surprising length of time for a New World wine. Typically my wines take a few years to peak, and then continue to drink well for several years - the 2006 Cabernet for instance, seemed to reach its peak in 2010 and even 5 years later was drinking as well or possibly slightly better than before! It seems 3-6 years post vintage (depending on the wine, barrel age, etc.) is the ideal time to drink Blagden wines. In addition, they have shown they are certainly age-worthy and I expect them to continue to be drinkable for 10 years or more post vintage.

I hope you appreciate and enjoy all that has gone into creating these wines for you - and that they take you to new and exciting places. I know I am enjoying every step of the way, thus far...

Our wines are made at the MacPhail winery in Healdsburg, California. We welcome you to Contact Us to schedule a visit.

A toast to your health and long life!

– J. Catherine Blagden