Winery Spotlights | High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction

Uncork a Southern Tradition

March 25-28, 2013

The High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction - Uncork a Southern Tradition

Winery Spotlight

Get to know some of our beloved vintners and winery owners.

Blackbird Vineyards/Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley

Throughout his 20 years of investment management, Polenske observed the fact that many of his clients preferred investments that reflected their personal interests. Applying the same principle to his investments, he displayed an impressive sensitivity to the prevailing zeitgeist.

Michael began the current chapter of his life devoting his attention to “the business of leisure” with the acquisition of Blackbird Vineyards in 2003 and turning it into an ultra-premium label.

He added curator to his resume when he launched Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley — “a life aesthetic”.  Opened in the town of Yountville in the fall of 2008, Ma(i)sonry allows guests to appreciate and acquire art and furnishings, all while sampling artisan wines from 20+ collective winery partners, including all three labels that make up the Bespoke Collection. In 2009, Polenske added a Ma(i)sonry label to his wine portfolio followed by the launch of Recuerdo Wines with The Vines of Mendoza in 2011.

In November of 2009, Polenske acquired the I. Wolk Gallery in St. Helena, as well as the sculpture gardens located at Auberge Du Soleil in Rutherford, Solage in Calistoga, and MacArthur Place in Sonoma.  The I. Wolk Gallery merged with Ma(i)sonry to serve as Napa Valley’s premier destination for the appreciation of art and design and the galleries were renamed in 2014 under the ÆRENA Gallery & Gardens Brand in eight locations including a new location opened in 2014 on the Healdsburg plaza.

Philanthropically active, he is a founding board member of Festival Del Sole Napa Valley, which celebrates the art of life with components of music, art, food and wine.  He was also a council member of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think-tank in Washington, D.C. and remains as a board member of the Russian National Orchestra.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Since the 2009 Auction and I LOVE the Winemaker Dinners.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

 Entrepreneur in some lifestyle business like our gallery business or private club/hotels. 

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing? 

Love our Arriviste Rose with fish tacos and love Blackbird Paramour with lamb.

4. What’s the best part about your job? 

Using wine as a catalyst for change and philanthropy (we have helped raise well over $2 million though our charitable lots) and the friendships that develop out of these auctions.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world? 

In Atlanta: late nights at Hilton and Robin Howell’s wine cellar. In the world: at the communal table at Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley! 

Cliff Lede and Poetry

As Cliff Lede Vineyards’ Winemaker, Chris Tynan lets the grapes speak for themselves. Tynan estimates he spends about 90 percent of every work-week in the vineyard, getting to know the 60 acres that comprise Cliff Lede. His goal: To preserve the character of each vineyard, each block, each section, and to allow that character to come out in each and every bottle he makes.

More than a decade ago, after downing a number of well-cellared 1974 Napa Cabernets on a tasting in Texas, he was inspired to pack his bags for California and experience the Valley for himself. Like most wine country newbies, Tynan started slowly. He spent his first summers in Napa doing cellar internships at Cain Vineyards and Blankiet Estate, and doing irrigation management for vineyards all over Napa and Sonoma. In 2006, Tynan was hired as assistant winemaker at Colgin Cellars; during his five year tenure there, Colgin received seven perfect 100 point ratings from renowned wine critic Robert Parker, Jr.

Tynan says the philosophy at Colgin hinged on two main concepts: low-yield farming and no-compromise winemaking. These are the same ideas and ideals that led him to Cliff Lede Vineyards.

Currently, Tynan is in charge of every aspect of winemaking, from fruit selection to fermentation, lab-work to blending. In particular, Tynan is excited about getting to know the land — some of the best soil he’s ever had to work with. Three highlights of the bunch: Oakvilles’ To Kalon and viticulturist David Abreu-managed vineyards Madrona Ranch and Thorevilos, vineyards that Tynan considers three of the greatest vineyards in the Napa Valley.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

2015 will be my fourth year at the Auction. The Winemaker Dinners are great because you get to meet the truly great wine, food, and art lovers of Atlanta.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I can’t imagine doing anything else…

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Seared foie gras and quince paste on warm brioche with old Chateau d’Yquem. It deftly sates the inner caveman with layers of ethereal fat, salt, and sweet.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

It’s never the same day twice.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Bourbon followed by big red wines at Bones Steakhouse in Atlanta. Champagne followed by Hermitage at Bouillon Racine in Paris, France.

D.R. Stephens Estate

Justin Hunnicutt Stephens, son of Don R. Stephens, the founder of D. R. Stephens Estate, shares his father’s passion for creating world-class wines. After earning a business degree from University of California at Berkeley, Justin became a broker for Cushman Realty Corporation. It was on a business trip during this period when he realized that his true passion was grounded outside of the realm of commercial real estate.

“I had an epiphany on a flight back from the east coast. It occurred to me that if I were truly passionate about real estate, I would be reading real estate journals and reviewing building pro formas. Instead, I was engrossed in articles about winemaking, different varietals, and wine regions,” he says.

Justin moved to the Napa Valley and began learning the trade from the ground up. “My first job was working as a ‘cellar rat’ during the 2001 harvest at Miner Family Winery.” In addition to Miner Family, he has worked for several other wineries — including Saddleback Cellars, Venge Vineyards, and Seavey Vineyards — in various capacities of production, sales, and management. Justin joined the family business full time as General Manager in 2004 — the year he also released the first wines under his own label, HUNNICUTT. 

In 2007, Justin and Don Stephens formed a new company that owns D. R. Stephens Estate and HUNNICUTT. In 2008 Justin and Don formed Hunnicutt Wine Company to acquire and develop a winery to both produce their own wines and custom crush for other small brands.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I first went to the High Museum Wine Auction in 2007 after Charles and Kristy Abney convinced me to at D. R. Stephens Estate dinner during Auction Napa Valley the previous year. I had never been to Atlanta before and had no friends and few customers in the area so I was reluctant to go. At the first event there, I met West and Katie Johnson who introduced me to a handful of their friends, including the Howells. They couldn’t have been friendlier and made me feel more welcome. That weekend was the most fun auction experience I have had. Having spent very little time in the South, that was my first taste of “southern hospitality.”

My favorite event of the weekend is the Vintners’ Reception. We’ve met and established great relationships with so many people over the years at the Auction, and given the whirlwind of events, this tasting provides the perfect opportunity to reconnect and catch up with many of our Atlanta friends.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I can’t imagine doing anything else, but I would most likely still be in commercial real estate. Although I enjoyed where and with whom I worked, it never resonated with me and I felt a void. 

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

While my favorite varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, my favorite pairing is Chardonnay and, what Seana and I refer to as, a fig sandwich — sliced fresh figs, a bit of blue cheese, prosciutto, and a drizzle of olive oil and aged balsamic on a French roll. It’s pretty simple but perfect. We only get fresh figs for about three months in late summer and early fall so it’s a staple for us during those months.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

There are certain bottlings that really excite you — when you believe you’ve created something really special. So, at the time of bottling that wine, when you have done everything in your power from the vineyard to blend, to bottle to put together something you are really proud of, that is the best part. (Then you have to hope it sells!)

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Atlanta: West and Katie Johnson’s house. They have a fantastic wine collection and are two of the most generous people we have ever met — this is a dangerous combination!

World: Seana and I were fortunate enough to visit a place called Villa Feltrinelli on Italy’s Lake Garda. Sitting on two very comfortable Adirondack chairs, our feet inches from the water, looking over this incredibly peaceful lake was an unforgettable experience. I couldn’t tell you what we were drinking at that moment, but it sure tasted perfect! It goes to show that wine’s enjoyment is very much an experiential one.

Frank Family Vineyards

It’s no wonder that Rich Frank, one of Hollywood’s most creative, vibrant and ingenious players owns one of Napa Valley’s most unique wineries, Frank Family Vineyards. In the late ‘80s, Rich, a long-time Disney executive, couldn’t find the time to get away for long vacations. Soon he started coming to Napa on the weekends, realizing it was only a short plane flight away from Los Angeles. In 1990, he purchased a home in the eastern hills of Napa in Rutherford.

Two years later, in 1992, Rich received a midnight phone call at his home in Los Angeles from a friend telling him that the Kornell Champagne Cellars on the site of historic Larkmead Winery was for sale, and if there was ever a time to get into the wine business it was now. Rich placed a bid, and less than 24 hours later he was an owner of the Calistoga winery.

Never one to rest on his laurels, the former adman turned Hollywood film and TV exec stepped into his role as Napa Valley vintner with ease, and is actively involved with the winery operations. Rich is also currently executive producing Royal Pains on the USA Network, along with his son, Paul. Rich is the proud grandfather of four. Rich splits his time between Los Angeles and Napa with his wife, Leslie Miller, formerly an ABC7 reporter in Los Angeles.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Frank Family Vineyards has been involved with the event since 2008, and we try to participate at least every other year. And I can tell you that the High Museum Wine Auction is one of my favorite wine related events. I find that the people who attend are genuinely interested in both wine and art — two subjects I’m very passionate about. I love to connect with people and am very social, so the in-home dinners are my favorite. It’s a great opportunity to meet other people who have been very successful in their own careers, all the while having one of the country’s best chefs pair his or her cuisine to our wines.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I’ve spent nearly all my adult career in the entertainment business. I was President of Paramount Television Group, a co-founder of USA Network, President Disney Studios for nearly 10 years, and President of the Academy of Television Arts for six years (The Emmys). I left Disney in 1995, just a few years after founding Frank Family Vineyards, with intentions of doing wine full-time. It turns out, I’ve been a miserable failure at retirement! I love Hollywood as much as I love wine, and continue to involve myself in the industry — currently as Vice-Chairman of the American Film Institute (AFI) and executive producer of Royal Pains. If I left either of these industries, you’d probably find me and my wife Leslie on a white sandy beach or going on a cruise somewhere.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

My dad was a wholesale meatpacker in Brooklyn so I’m a beef connoisseur. I love our Winston Hill, which comes from the hillside vineyard surrounding my house in Rutherford, paired with a phenomenal steak charred rare, after having sliced tomatoes and onions to start. Oh, and put a great potato of some kind with the steak!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

I love wine, food, and connecting with people, so there is a genuine foundation of passion I’ve incited in the winery. I love that each year Frank Family wins polls for the best tasting room in the valley. The fact that we make people happy and they enjoy coming back and tell their friends to come and visit gives me great satisfaction. And the best part about running a small family business is that there are no corporate responsibilities such as having to report to shareholders. We have the opportunity to make a great product and sell it the way we want to sell it.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Hal’s at the Old Ivy. I’m a sentimental guy, and this place is obviously a classic and an institution in Atlanta. The steaks and lobster are great and the Southern hospitality really shines through — very professional yet friendly. Last time I went, my wife Leslie and I noticed that many people — young and old — seemed to be on dates. A couple next to us was sharing a bottle Frank Family Cabernet and the date seemed to be going well, which made our night.

 

In Los Angeles, I love sitting at the bar at Wolfgang’s steakhouse in Beverly Hills. When I’m not drinking wine, I love to get a great martini there — Belvedere straight up with an olive and an onion. In Napa, the bar at the restaurant at Meadowood is a cocktail destination now that mixologist Scott Beattie has joined the team, and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the area. The bar at Tra Vigne is where my wine destiny started, chatting with other vintners there — it has a very convivial atmosphere — so it holds a special place on my go-to list.

Iron Horse Vineyards

Joy represents the second generation as CEO of her family’s winery, Iron Horse Vineyards and is the newest member of California’s Food and Agriculture Board.

After attending Yale University where she studied history and economics, Joy went into journalism, first for United Press International, followed by local television, and ultimately, network TV news. At the age of 29, Joy was Deputy Bureau Chief for ABC Network News in Los Angeles. She was given numerous special assignments including coverage of the first Space Shuttle landings in California and Assignment Editor for ABC’s 1984 Olympic coverage.

Joy left ABC to join her family’s business and made headlines in1985, when the White House selected Iron Horse Sparkling Wine for the President’s toast to peace at the first summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva. She has also authored four books about what it is like to live on a vineyard and make wine. Joy took up the reins at Iron Horse in 2006, having spent 20 years traveling on behalf of the winery, personally introducing the wines to an impressive list of customers from Spago Beverly Hills to the Four Seasons in New York.

Also known as an adventurer, Joy has climbed Kilimanjaro, trekked in Tibet and Bhutan and run white water rapids on the Bio – Bio River in Chile and on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River in China. She sits on the Board of Trustees of the Leakey Foundation and spearheads an annual eco-fundraising event: Celebrate Earth Day in Green Valley.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

If memory serves, I was at the first one! My favorite event is the Vintners’ Reception right before the Auction because I get to see all my Wine Auction friends … especially Dick Denny. I traditionally pour our Wedding Cuvee, which is a perfect first sip of the day and I think an inducement to higher bidding. 

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

The beauty of what I do is that I can pursue all my interests while being in wine — environmentalism, philanthropy, history, science, art and travel.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Bubbles and popcorn.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of being in the wine world is meeting so many interesting, generous, fun-loving  people. Iron Horse is my passport. It takes me everywhere imaginable.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In Atlanta: Table 1280, of course. In the world: My favorite is sipping wine at the Iron Horse tasting room with the view all the way across Sonoma to Mt. St. Helena and the vineyards spilling out at you feet.

JARVIS

A decade of making wine in the Napa Valley following graduation from the world-renowned winemaking program at UC Davis led Winemaker Ted Henry to JARVIS where his job is hands-on, participatory and really about a close relationship with the wine.

It was during high school when Ted Henry had landed a job at a high-end health club cleaning locker rooms, that he became interested in wine. The club members discussed fine dining and wine, while Ted listened, learned and began to casually study wine varietals and vintages.

He started UC Davis as a pre-med major, not even realizing that a “degree in making wine” was possible. After a human anatomy course that left him a bit queasy, Ted immediately realized that a career in medicine wasn’t his passion. Still fond of science, and curious due to his background, he enrolled in his first viticulture and enology class. Completely fascinated with the subject, he changed his major to Fermentation Science, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree.

Ted worked at Trinchero and Artesa before joining JARVIS in 2008, where he appreciates the focused approach, not being removed from the wine and has the rare opportunity to be close to the wine every day. “At JARVIS I am immersed in the whole experience from the vineyard to the cellar to meeting our customers.”

When he’s not in the cellar, or amongst the vines, he can often be found spending time with his family at Lake Tahoe as he loves skiing, camping and the outdoors.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I’ve been to four Auctions and the main event (Live Auction) is always my favorite.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Trying to figure out how to get in the wine industry. Probably would be in the sciences somewhere.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?  

Champagne and potato chips.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Getting to share this great product with people from all over. Everyone seems to love wine.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Oddly enough, One Flew South at the ATL airport. They have poured my own wine, PRIME, since the beginning and hey, it’s the busiest airport in the world and I’m stuck there a lot. Worldwide I would have to go with Hank’s, a New Orleans style bar in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico. For every drink you order you get two!

Kosta Browne Winery

Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, Dan and Michael decided to venture into winemaking. They saved tip money for two months and eventually had enough to buy a half ton of Pinot Noir, a used barrel and an old hand-crank stemmer-crusher, a purchase that marks the beginning of Kosta Browne. Since that vintage, they have nurtured relationships with the best growers and honed their winemaking skills, making sure to focus on the vision and values with which they began.
Michael moved to Sonoma County in 1987 with the goal of becoming an architect. While working at local fine dining establishments to pay the bills, he fell in love with the local wines and was intrigued by winemaking and viticulture through his visits to local wineries and vineyards. The idea of being involved in agriculture, as well as the craft of winemaking, pushed Michael into the pursuit of producing fine wines.

Michael was in the restaurant industry for 15 years, fueling his passion for wine and food. The majority of this time was spent at John Ash where he waited tables, bartended and worked the line in the kitchen. The last two years at John Ash & Co. were spent on the floor as a sommelier.
While still working at John Ash, Michael started working with Deerfield Ranch Winery in 1997 as a volunteer. He became Co-Winemaker in 2000, and this is where his passion developed into a love of Pinot Noir. When not crafting rocking Pinot Noir or walking the vineyards, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife, Sarah and their children — Logan, Lauren and Livia.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I believe our first year was 2009. I have two favorites: the Winemaker Dinners and the Live Auction.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Living in a shack in a very cool part of Mexico, fishing. With a bar tending gig on the side to keep it real.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

A grand cru Montrachet with freshly caught seared sea scallops lightly touched by a lemon ber blanc.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Having the opportunity to produce a product which brings people pleasure.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In Atanta: Rathbun Steak. In the world: our winery with my friends and people we work with.

Lancaster Estate

Jesse’s desire to be a winemaker started at a young age traveling around the world with his photographer father, Andy Katz, as he created books on wine regions. Jesse was a young lab assistant who immediately fell in love with the art of winemaking and its interplay between science and nature. His experience led him to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree in Enology and minor in Chemistry from Fresno State University. “This was a great hands-on educational experience for me, because no one in my family had ever made wine before.”

After finishing school, Jesse surrounded himself with some of the most respected winemakers in the world. He worked six harvests in just three years, spending half the year in Argentina with Hans Vinding-Diers, Winemaker at Bodega Noemia in Patagonia and with Paul Hobbs in Mendoza at Viña Cobos. His internship experience in California included work for Bob Foley at Hourglass and most recently at Screaming Eagle in 2010, working alongside renowned Winemaker Andy Erickson.

Jesse now adds another world-class winery to his résumé as Winemaker at Lancaster Estate in Alexander Valley. As a true believer in terroir, Jesse’s goal is to highlight the best characteristics of the valley and Lancaster’s unique vineyard site. “Lancaster Estate offers the perfect opportunity for me to build upon my passion for estate focused wines and continue to explore and enhance the potential of our impressive hillside vineyards.”


Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Last year was my first year. The Live Auction was my favorite.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Professional snowboarder or travel photographer? Have not thought about being anything but a winemaker sense I was 18, so tough question.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

For me wine is a sense of place…not only where the wine was made but also where you enjoy it and who you enjoy it with. To me, these are just as important as what you may pair it with. I have to say one of the best food pairings I have ever had was with a 2010 Lancaster Estate Nicole’s Proprietary Red that I brought in my suitcase to the Galapagos Islands. Customs officials had attempted to seize the wine twice before we arrived but somehow it made it through. We opened it on the last night of the trip while on a live-aboard boat and paired it with grilled freshly caught fish. Yes, fish and cabernet…it was truly sublime.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Getting to work with creative, driven people, who are passionate about what they do. Also getting to combine art, nature and science into a single expression.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In ATL: Hal’s Steakhouse. In the world: the bar on top of Vail Mountain.

Lando Wines

Sam Lando developed an interest in wine in the early 1990’s during his college years in Sonoma County and was recruited into the wine business just prior to graduation. He started his career working for some of the large global wine producers, and soon identified his true love of working with and enjoying Pinot Noir.

While his emphasis was sales and marketing, he realized early on the need to understand as much as possible about differing winemaking and viticulture techniques. After working with and becoming friends with some of the best new world wine producers, it was a natural evolution to begin hobby winemaking.

After working for five years with Kosta Browne Winery, he departed at the end of 2012. His work with dear friends was a deeply rewarding experience…personally and professionally. They worked (and played) so well together because of a love and passion for what they did. In addition to their shared affliction for Pinot, they enjoyed the company of great people and food.

In the middle of the 2012 vintage, Sam and his wife Jennifer decided to make the leap and take the winemaking hobby to the next level. They borrowed against their savings and began building the foundation to develop a small Pinot Noir focused winery. The goal is to make intense, yet elegant and balanced wines from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. We push ourselves to make great wines that we enjoy drinking and take great pride in sharing with our dear friends.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I’ve been involved in the auction for the past seven years. My favorite events are the in-home Winemaker Dinners and the Auction day. Specifically, because each of these events allow for a good amount of time to get to know the guests.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

That’s a tough one. My entire career has been within the wine industry. However, if forced to choose, probably within the music industry in some capacity. Music to me is very similar to the wine industry — composing a great song is similar to orchestrating a great wine.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

A delicious, medium rare, dry aged, bone-in rib eye steak paired with an intense, yet elegant Russian River Valley Pinot Noir!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Sharing my wines with people who enjoy Pinot Noir. In my opinion, good wines are much better when they’re accompanied by great people and conversation. It becomes more experiential and memorable.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Favorite place to drink in Atlanta…I have two, Rathbun Steak, enjoying a bourbon on the patio with Kevin – always hits the spot. Or, the Tavern in Buckhead – great beverages and stellar people watching! As for the world, hmm. First, The Strand House in Manhattan Beach, CA. The roof top bar has an incredible view of the ocean accompanied with tasty beverages. And, I have to go a little local – John & Zeke’s bar in Healdsburg CA — a great dive bar!

LIOCO Wine Company

A late bloomer, Matt had his wine epiphany during the winter of 1995 while waiting tables in Aspen, Colorado to support a ski habit. It was a blind taste of Chambolle Musigny and the eloquent comments of Master Sommelier Damon Ornowski that sent him reeling. In short order Matt went to work selling wine for a Boulder-based, boutique wine distributor where he quickly became their top sales person. In 1999 Matt was recruited by Napa-based Italian wine importer Dalla Terra. He made annual pilgrimages to Italy and discovered Barbaresco and truffles. In 2001, North Berkeley Imports made Matt an offer he could not refuse: to represent several of the classiest French and Italian producers on U.S. shores. The love of Europe deepened, and Burgundy bit down hard. In August of 2005, after years of discussion with friend and colleague, Kevin O’Connor — the two founded LIOCO Wine Company.

Matt resides in San Francisco with his girlfriend Sara. Wine aside his passions include travel, surfing, skiing, and Widespread Panic.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite? 

Our first auction was back in 2012. As for my favorite event? The Auction naturally! Love the buzz, the excitement!

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Investment banking. So I could afford my wine habit.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Champagne + sea urchin.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Mileage Plus.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

ATL: Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium. WORLD: beach bar on Namotu in Fiji.

Lynmar Estate

Lynn Fritz purchased Quail Hill Ranch back in 1980, envisioning the Russian River property as an oasis away from a busy life as CEO of Fritz Companies, a global logistics organization. As Lynn spent more time in the vineyard during his visits, he realized that serendipity had handed him a gift: he had been given stewardship over a truly remarkable piece of land. Since the original purchase, Lynn had added six pieces of land, creating the 100-acre Lynmar Estate property.

In 2001, Lynn shifted professional gears, as UPS acquired Fritz Companies and he founded Fritz Institute, a group dedicated to assisting humanitarian organizations with the logistics of global disaster relief. Simultaneously, he oversaw the replanting of parts of the vineyard and construction of a state of the art winery, caves, and a tasting room.

In 2008, Lynn and his wife Anisya made Lynmar Estate their home, transforming themselves from absentee owners to resident proprietors. Lynn has orchestrated a unique relationship between winemaker Shane Finley and Vineyard Manager Jason Saling; Shane carefully defining what he wants from each vine and block and Jason pulling forth the extraordinary from the soil.

As part of the vision of the estate, Lynn felt that food could not be ignored. The lush gardens of Lynmar and Executive Chef David Frakes are a key part of the vision, primarily spearheaded by Anisya. After a long career travelling the globe, Lynn has truly come home – partnering with Anisya to create a unique community experience where wine and food are beautifully paired with friends and a breathtaking venue.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

We participated many years ago, and I have just returned in 2014.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Spending more time running our non-profit institute, the Fritz Institute, which supports the worldwide operations of humanitarian aid organizations.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Pinot Noir and a mushroom risotto

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Meeting people who visit the property.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?  

In Atlanta: 4th and Swift. In the world: The courtyard at Lynmar Estate

Memento Mori Winery

Memento Mori wine is named for a life-embracing philosophy born of a deep appreciation for the ties that bind. Each of its three founders has triumphed over adversity and learned to value not only life but the passion and hard work that drive it, making them uniquely qualified to launch an uncompromising brand. In 2007, the friends dove head first into Memento Mori, their goal to create a winery that would use all of Napa as its estate. For three years, they tasted and researched, combining a respect for tradition with their unique entrepreneurial energy. By 2010, they had signed contracts with legendary grape grower Andy Beckstoffer, hot young winemaker Sam Kaplan and renowned consultant Nancy Duckhorn. Currently, they source from multiple top-tier vineyards in Oakville, St. Helena and Rutherford to make one flagship product. No matter how much they lose in the process of blending, they will never compromise on quality. Life is too short.

Q&A
1. How long have y’all been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

2015 will be our second year involved with the High Museum Wine Auction. The actual auction is a blast, but the parties surrounding the event are really fun.

2. What would y’all be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

We all worked together with a technology company years ago. Now we have different “day” jobs. This wine project actually started in 2007 as a way for us to work together again. It has exploded into something pretty special. Now, I just wish we had more wine to sell! Btw, I love how your questions contain the phrase “y’all”. We don’t hear that nearly enough in California! It is very welcoming.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

A bone-in filet mignon and a Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon. Our 2011 Vintage is showing incredibly well right now!

4. What’s the best part about your jobs?

Without a doubt, sharing our wine with friends, old and new. We have met the most fascinating people in this business. Actually, some of the most knowledgeable oenophiles I have met have been in Atlanta.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In Atlanta, either Prohibition or West Johnson’s private cellar ;-) As far as the world, there is nothing quite like tasting wine in the Napa Valley.

Peay Vineyards

Brothers Nick and Andy Peay wanted to make intense, expressive, and aromatic wines that engaged the brain as well as titillated the tummy. Though their preferences leaned to wines from the Old World, their parents somehow dropped the ball and did not leave them a Domaine in Burgundy or Chateau in Bordeaux. They determined this style was achievable in the New World, however, and in 1996 found a very cold, remote, fog-enshrouded hilltop along the San Andreas Fault four miles from the Pacific Ocean in the far northwestern corner of the West Sonoma Coast. Peter Michael Winery’s winemaker Vanessa Wong visited the young vineyard in 2000 to see what the brothers were doing in the hinterlands of the Sonoma Coast. She found the site very appealing and, apparently, Nick wasn’t too shabby, either. She left her position as winemaker at Peter Michael to join them in their pursuit of elegant and aromatic cold climate wines and married Nick soon afterwards.

Since then, Peay Vineyards has emerged as one of the cult-status wineries from northern California. Peay was selected as 2009 Winery of the Year by San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Top 100 wineries in the World for seven years in a row from Wines & Spirits Magazine, Top Pinot noir by Food & Wine Magazine, and was singled out by Eric Asimov from the New York Times and Jay McInerney from the Wall Street Journal for producing “excellent wines of rare intensity and precision.” And the wines taste good, too.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I have been coming for over five years. It is my favorite auction for the people and I love the enthusiastic response of the attendees. My favorites are the Thursday night dinners, as I am able to meet people and begin conversations that carry throughout the weekend. And the auction itself is a ball — an all-day roving party.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Cooking. I was headed in that direction when I was side-tracked by wine.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Hmm, no such thing in my mind. Right now I am interested in how earthy Pinot Noirs pair well with bitter flavors. Many chefs are using much more bitter and sour flavors in their food and it can be difficult to pair with wine unless the wine has a degree of tannins and earthy, green edge aromas. That is a hallmark of our estate pinots and this combination has surprised me.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

I talk about wine and food all day to people who love food and wine which is what I would be doing anyway if this were not my vocation. Somehow I do not think this would be as exciting if I made and sold hammers.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Charles and Kristie Abney’s cellar.

R. Stuart & Co.

After making wine for other people for more than twenty years, Rob Stuart and his partners founded R. Stuart & Co. in early 2002.

When he was eighteen, Rob visited his brother and his fiancée, now wife, in the United Kingdom. His future sister-in-law’s father, Jezdimer Miljkovic, was a Master of Wine, and introduced Rob to a1961 Bollinger Champagne in his picturesque home garden, which made quite an impression. Miljkovic convinced Rob to stay for the summer and work on his twenty-acre vineyard, and, in turn, Miljkovic would teach Rob about wine. Rob left the U.K. with an appreciation for fine wine, especially having developed a taste for Champagne. Rob has been searching for 1961 Bollinger ever since!

With a degree in biochemistry from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute in New York, and a short but eye-opening career in the labs at Baylor University in Texas, Rob started his winemaking journey on the bottling line at Hans Kornell in Napa, California. From there he went on to work in the cellar at Valley View Vineyards and then on to Staton Hills in Yakima, Washington where he made wine for 10 years.

Rob returned to Oregon in 1994 when he became the winemaker at Erath Vineyards until he started his current adventure at R. Stuart & Co. Rob’s winemaking philosophy continues to focus primarily on two principles: first, creating fruity, balanced, distinctive wines that reflect not the elusive concept of terroir, but the appellation itself, and, second, making exceptional Pinot Noir that is available to the everyday person.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Since 1995 or 1996, when I was sent for the first time to Atlanta (very exciting) to represent Erath winery. 

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Either being a RN in nursing or fishing commercially off the coast of Oregon. But I really can’t imagine anything else at this point in my life. 

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Rack of lamb and a properly aged Pinot Noir from Oregon or Burgundy.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

It changes seasonally and almost every day. Some days I interact with the public and some days I am in the vineyard and some days I am in the cellar either pushing grapes along or moving wine around.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

A) Commercially: ONE Midtown Kitchen later in the evening. B) Privately: With Joel Knox and Joan Marmo, in their backyard on a sultry night with a bottle of Pierre Moncuit 2002 Champagne. Mike Haney can come along if he’s not being bad. C) In the world, anywhere on a sultry night with a bottle of Champagne and my wife Maria.

Reynolds Family Winery

Steve Reynolds’ interest in wine started when he was living in Germany as a young teenager. Wine was always a part of his daily life and his father often took the whole family on wine tasting trips throughout Europe. At the time, he’d curse his father as he spent his day throwing rocks into a pond while his father tasted. Now, of course, Steve is grateful to his father for sharing his passion and infecting him with the same enthusiasm.

After leaving the field of dentistry, Steve Reynolds found his true calling in life, making wine, running a world-class winery, and having a great time doing it. The winery is run by his tight knit family and was built in a Tuscan style to honor his father’s favorite wine growing region.

Steve Reynolds, a mostly self-taught winemaker, has become one of the top winemakers in all of Napa Valley. He uses often complex and time-consuming methods of winemaking when making his Reynolds Family wines, and while they are not inexpensive processes, the results speak for themselves. Reynolds Family Winery is a true labor of love and we are thrilled to feature one of Steve’s celebrated releases.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I have been doing this wonderful event for over 10 years now. The event has made Atlanta like a second home to me (I think you even named a street after me, haha!). I have a hard time choosing the event that stands out the most but certainly all the Winemaker Dinners with old and new friends and the Saturday grand affair are hard to not select as tops.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I have tried ocean-related business, dentistry, and now wine. Wine is my life and it would be hard to pick anything else. Possibly producing my own tequila??!! It could happen!

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

I have had so many, it is hard to choose. A few of my “ahhh” moments have been Cabernet Sauvignon with my mom’s chocolate chip cookies and a seared scallop dish with an older white blend 4 or 5 years ago in San Francisco – life changing. And of course big meat and Cab all day long!!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of my job is “my job.” I am somewhat rare in that I am the owner and winemaker, which means I wear a lot of hats. My marketing hat is the fun, social part I really enjoy. I get to meet so many folks from all over. The vineyard side keeps me in touch and in tune. Grounded, literally. I get to walk with Mother Nature and that never gets old. The wine making side is so special and feels like a gift. I have so much riding on choices along the way, and mostly I won’t see the results for years. Patience and humility from this side for sure. I guess this says it all: the sum of all the parts makes me whole.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Oh, that is tough. I have old good memories at so many, but the first big memory is maybe Two Urban Licks. It’s tough to not pick old friends that have embraced our wines from day one. In the world, I would say the first margarita on any beach right after harvest with my wife :)

Tres Sabores

Julie Johnson is the winemaker at Tres Sabores, in the Napa Valley, which was founded in 1999.

She began her professional life as a public health nurse. A mother of three young adults at present, she is an optimistic and engaged winemaker and organic viticulturalist, married to winemaker, Jon Engelskirger.

Julie graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine and from Columbia University in New York. Along with her first husband, John Williams, and partner, Larry Turley, she founded Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981. In partnership with Michaela Rodeno, past CEO at St. Supery Winery, in 1990 she founded “Women for Wine Sense, an ongoing national organization whose “vision is to support the appreciation for and responsible consumption of wine”. She speaks and participates in seminars on the subject of Women in Wine for a variety of clients and at educational venues around the country.

Julie is a passionate gardener and cook. She moved to her Rutherford property in 1987. Diverse and integrated, it is organically certified (CCOF) for grapes, olives, pomegranates, olives, lamb and guinea fowl.  At the end of the day, she sleeps best if she feels that she has been a thoughtful steward of the land and has capped off the day with a very good glass of wine.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite? 

I had the pleasure of being at the first Wine Auction, so I guess that will always be my favorite. The atmosphere was exciting, electric even. I thought, “This will become one of the top wine auctions in the country!” And of course—that’s exactly what came to pass!

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I began my career as a public health nurse in Community Health. If I had finished my MPH (instead of marrying a winemaker and moving to the Napa Valley!) one of my goals was to join MSF (Doctors Without Borders). I’m proud to say that my middle son, Kylor, works for them today.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Impossible to limit to one: Sauvignon Blanc with grilled Maine scallops fresh out of the Atlantic, Rosé with Oysters, Zinfandel with a roasted guinea fowl, autumn vegetables and chutney, Petite Sirah with Mole.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Harvest time—finding the perfect time to pick out my ranch and take the berries all the way through a natural fermentation (getting my hands purple).

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta?

In Atlanta: Muss & Turners, SIP, and Holeman & Finch. In the world: Frankly, love the bar at Mustard’s in Napa (love dining right at the bar as well). Most recently exotic, incredibly beautiful and cultural place to get a drink of late?  At the Chichu Museum on Naoshima Art Island in Japan (it was a Sancerre—beautiful with the local seafood).   

Vineyard 7 & 8

Wesley moved to the Napa Valley in 2001 just after graduating top of his class at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Upon moving to Napa, he spent almost two years working for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. Building on a passion of food and wine, Wesley left the kitchen in 2002 to try his hand in winemaking as a harvest intern under Bob Levy at Harlan Estate Winery.

Wesley spent four harvests at Harlan Estate, where he gained a deep appreciation and understanding of the entire winemaking process. Getting his hands wet was only the beginning. With his passion for learning and drive for perfection, Wesley was promoted to the role of Cellar Master. While working in the winery, the Harlan Family asked Wesley to also take on the role of Estate Chef, where he was able to uphold the same level of attention to detail as he did in the winery.

Wesley joined the family winery at Vineyard 7 & 8 in 2006, with the goal of completing the construction of the new winery facility, and putting together a world class team. Since then, Wesley’s daily duties include the General Management of business operations, as well as overseeing the daily winemaking duties working with Winemaker, Martha McClellan.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

We have participated in the Wine Auction for almost five years, and have really enjoyed the partnership between the vintners and the museum, and all of the guests attending the weekend. No single event stands out as my favorite, as I believe they all offer a chance to meet new friends, and catch up with others.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

That’s a tough question as I am truly blessed to be doing what I do for a living, where I do it, and with the people I share the experience with. I guess I might spend a little more time on the golf course!

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Simple. I’m a steak and Cabernet guy!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The flexibility to be involved with all aspects of the business. One moment I am out walking the vineyard, the next I am able to share a glass of wine with great guests, and the next I am on the road outside of Napa meeting more great people, and sharing our wines.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Favorite place in Atlanta: The Iberian Pig. The world: Hmmm… cold beer while walking a spectacular golf course!

Whetstone Wine Cellars

Born in Florence, SC, Jamey grew up the son of a Baptist preacher and moved around quite a bit before settling in Wilmington, NC. He relocated to Napa in 1996 to manage Mustards Grill, figuring he’d gain restaurant experience before heading back home to the Carolinas to open a restaurant of my own. Napa had other plans for him. His winemaking education began in 1998 at Turley Wine Cellars, where learning how to change the clutch on a tractor was more valued than knowledge of Bordeaux First Growths. Jamey had the opportunity to take a summer sabbatical working for the Seysses family at Domaine Dujac in Morey-Saint-Denis, which cemented his love for Pinot Noir. After returning from France, he founded Whetstone Wine Cellars in 2002 while continuing my apprenticeship at Turley. In 2005, he left Turley in order to take the leap toward growing the Whetstone brand.

Whetstone Estate was purchased in February of 2011, and opened its doors in July of 2013. The centerpiece of the property is a 19th century French-style chateau, now the tasting salon, which sits on two acres located at the base of Atlas Peak Road in Napa. Other than gaining a physical location, the most significant change in the trajectory of Whetstone Wine Cellars was the full-time addition of Jamey’s wife, Michelle. She’s behind the overall operations and aesthetic of their brand, and introduced the simple but effective sales motto: to be more in touch with the lost art of face-to-face communication. With the touch-screen ease of the digital sales world, they’ve made this grassroots approach a priority at Whetstone.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I honestly cannot remember how long we have been attending the Auction but needless to say it is an annual highlight for me and Michelle! Charles and Kristie Abney made it all happen and we owe them a large debt of gratitude. I think the actual day of the Auction is what we look forward to most: the marching band coming through the room Pied Piper-style, eating all the killer bites from the local restaurants, and drinking beer from Sweetwater to help with my hangover.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

No idea what I would be doing, but for sure something that involved creative sales based around food, booze, and the surf industry.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

I worship the pig and one of my favorites over the past year or so has been charcoal grilled ribs with a dry rub of garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary coupled with anything red from Sicily adhering to the old world, rustic style of winemaking.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

I get so much stoke from being able to move between the vineyard, cellar, and sales road. Working with my girl is icing on the cake (although she might couch it differently). ☺

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Good grief! In ATL?! I have so many faves from private homes of friends to several establishments depending on the time of day or night. King Neptune in Wrightsville Beach, NC is where I feel a lot of nostalgia and comfort; Low ceiling, feels like you’re inside an old wooden boat, a local version of ring toss, and a straightforward selection of bottles of beer and whiskey. 

ZD Wines

Brett deLeuze is a lifetime veteran of the wine business. In 1978, when ZD moved from The Sonoma Carneros to Rutherford, the heart of Napa Valley, his grandparents, parents, siblings, in-laws and friends all came together to build the new winery. Brett gained a hands-on appreciation for winemaking while working in the cellar and contributing to the production of ZD’s award winning wines. Racking barrels, bottling wine and helping out with punch downs during harvest were a memorable part of his childhood.

Before joining the family business on a full time basis, Brett earned a degree in business from California State University, Sacramento. Following graduation, he spent a month in Europe visiting winery’s in the Burgundy and Champagne regions of France as well as Germany and Switzerland to gain a greater understanding of the world of wine.

Upon his return, he teamed up with his mother, Rosa Lee, to develop the marketing and sales of the winery. They worked together as an effective duo, growing ZD’s presence as one of Napa Valley’s top producers of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Today, he works closely with three generations of the deLeuze family as well as the ZD extended family on all aspects of running a small family winery. Brett has been happily married for more than 20 years to his wife Natalie. Together, they are raising three children Connor, Kayla and Alexandria. Connor is in high school and helps out at the winery with bottling in the summer and his two sisters are close behind.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

ZD Wine has participated in the Wine Auction since the very beginning. It’s a must attend premier wine auction that sets the bar across the country both for wineries and attendees, alike. We enjoy attending each year and visiting with our Wine Auction friends. It’s truly wonderful to be part of the Atlanta community for the weekend focusing our efforts on raising proceeds for the High Museum. If I had to choose my favorite event or day, it would be Saturday for the Vintners’ Reception and Live Auction. The energy in the room is electric!

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I can’t imagine not being involved in my family’s business. But, I have to admit if a spot opened on a Major League Soccer team it would be a tough call!

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

I love to cook and entertain both at home and at the winery. ZD Chardonnay and scallop puff pastries are a perfect way to kick off any occasion. Call me and I will be right over.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of what I do at ZD Wines is being able to work with my family on a daily basis. No,seriously!  As we approach our 46th harvest, three generations of my family continue to be dedicated to producing world class wines. And, I have to admit the view from my office is pretty sweet.  

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

There are many loyal restaurants in Atlanta that support ZD Wines. However, Tom Cathrell and Here to Serve Restaurants have faithfully poured ZD Chardonnay for nearly 20 years. They are top-notch. In the world, it would have to Napa Valley! There are many great restaurants to choose from, and I try to dine at all of them. It’s my job!

Blackbird Vineyards/Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley

Throughout his 20 years of investment management, Polenske observed the fact that many of his clients preferred investments that reflected their personal interests. Applying the same principle to his investments, he displayed an impressive sensitivity to the prevailing zeitgeist.

Michael began the current chapter of his life devoting his attention to “the business of leisure” with the acquisition of Blackbird Vineyards in 2003 and turning it into an ultra-premium label.

He added curator to his resume when he launched Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley — “a life aesthetic”.  Opened in the town of Yountville in the fall of 2008, Ma(i)sonry allows guests to appreciate and acquire art and furnishings, all while sampling artisan wines from 20+ collective winery partners, including all three labels that make up the Bespoke Collection. In 2009, Polenske added a Ma(i)sonry label to his wine portfolio followed by the launch of Recuerdo Wines with The Vines of Mendoza in 2011.

In November of 2009, Polenske acquired the I. Wolk Gallery in St. Helena, as well as the sculpture gardens located at Auberge Du Soleil in Rutherford, Solage in Calistoga, and MacArthur Place in Sonoma.  The I. Wolk Gallery merged with Ma(i)sonry to serve as Napa Valley’s premier destination for the appreciation of art and design and the galleries were renamed in 2014 under the ÆRENA Gallery & Gardens Brand in eight locations including a new location opened in 2014 on the Healdsburg plaza.

Philanthropically active, he is a founding board member of Festival Del Sole Napa Valley, which celebrates the art of life with components of music, art, food and wine.  He was also a council member of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think-tank in Washington, D.C. and remains as a board member of the Russian National Orchestra.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Since the 2009 Auction and I LOVE the Winemaker Dinners.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

 Entrepreneur in some lifestyle business like our gallery business or private club/hotels. 

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing? 

Love our Arriviste Rose with fish tacos and love Blackbird Paramour with lamb.

4. What’s the best part about your job? 

Using wine as a catalyst for change and philanthropy (we have helped raise well over $2 million though our charitable lots) and the friendships that develop out of these auctions.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world? 

In Atlanta: late nights at Hilton and Robin Howell’s wine cellar. In the world: at the communal table at Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley! 

Cliff Lede and Poetry

As Cliff Lede Vineyards’ Winemaker, Chris Tynan lets the grapes speak for themselves. Tynan estimates he spends about 90 percent of every work-week in the vineyard, getting to know the 60 acres that comprise Cliff Lede. His goal: To preserve the character of each vineyard, each block, each section, and to allow that character to come out in each and every bottle he makes.

More than a decade ago, after downing a number of well-cellared 1974 Napa Cabernets on a tasting in Texas, he was inspired to pack his bags for California and experience the Valley for himself. Like most wine country newbies, Tynan started slowly. He spent his first summers in Napa doing cellar internships at Cain Vineyards and Blankiet Estate, and doing irrigation management for vineyards all over Napa and Sonoma. In 2006, Tynan was hired as assistant winemaker at Colgin Cellars; during his five year tenure there, Colgin received seven perfect 100 point ratings from renowned wine critic Robert Parker, Jr.

Tynan says the philosophy at Colgin hinged on two main concepts: low-yield farming and no-compromise winemaking. These are the same ideas and ideals that led him to Cliff Lede Vineyards.

Currently, Tynan is in charge of every aspect of winemaking, from fruit selection to fermentation, lab-work to blending. In particular, Tynan is excited about getting to know the land — some of the best soil he’s ever had to work with. Three highlights of the bunch: Oakvilles’ To Kalon and viticulturist David Abreu-managed vineyards Madrona Ranch and Thorevilos, vineyards that Tynan considers three of the greatest vineyards in the Napa Valley.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

2015 will be my fourth year at the Auction. The Winemaker Dinners are great because you get to meet the truly great wine, food, and art lovers of Atlanta.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I can’t imagine doing anything else…

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Seared foie gras and quince paste on warm brioche with old Chateau d’Yquem. It deftly sates the inner caveman with layers of ethereal fat, salt, and sweet.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

It’s never the same day twice.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Bourbon followed by big red wines at Bones Steakhouse in Atlanta. Champagne followed by Hermitage at Bouillon Racine in Paris, France.

D.R. Stephens Estate

Justin Hunnicutt Stephens, son of Don R. Stephens, the founder of D. R. Stephens Estate, shares his father’s passion for creating world-class wines. After earning a business degree from University of California at Berkeley, Justin became a broker for Cushman Realty Corporation. It was on a business trip during this period when he realized that his true passion was grounded outside of the realm of commercial real estate.

“I had an epiphany on a flight back from the east coast. It occurred to me that if I were truly passionate about real estate, I would be reading real estate journals and reviewing building pro formas. Instead, I was engrossed in articles about winemaking, different varietals, and wine regions,” he says.

Justin moved to the Napa Valley and began learning the trade from the ground up. “My first job was working as a ‘cellar rat’ during the 2001 harvest at Miner Family Winery.” In addition to Miner Family, he has worked for several other wineries — including Saddleback Cellars, Venge Vineyards, and Seavey Vineyards — in various capacities of production, sales, and management. Justin joined the family business full time as General Manager in 2004 — the year he also released the first wines under his own label, HUNNICUTT. 

In 2007, Justin and Don Stephens formed a new company that owns D. R. Stephens Estate and HUNNICUTT. In 2008 Justin and Don formed Hunnicutt Wine Company to acquire and develop a winery to both produce their own wines and custom crush for other small brands.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I first went to the High Museum Wine Auction in 2007 after Charles and Kristy Abney convinced me to at D. R. Stephens Estate dinner during Auction Napa Valley the previous year. I had never been to Atlanta before and had no friends and few customers in the area so I was reluctant to go. At the first event there, I met West and Katie Johnson who introduced me to a handful of their friends, including the Howells. They couldn’t have been friendlier and made me feel more welcome. That weekend was the most fun auction experience I have had. Having spent very little time in the South, that was my first taste of “southern hospitality.”

My favorite event of the weekend is the Vintners’ Reception. We’ve met and established great relationships with so many people over the years at the Auction, and given the whirlwind of events, this tasting provides the perfect opportunity to reconnect and catch up with many of our Atlanta friends.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I can’t imagine doing anything else, but I would most likely still be in commercial real estate. Although I enjoyed where and with whom I worked, it never resonated with me and I felt a void. 

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

While my favorite varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, my favorite pairing is Chardonnay and, what Seana and I refer to as, a fig sandwich — sliced fresh figs, a bit of blue cheese, prosciutto, and a drizzle of olive oil and aged balsamic on a French roll. It’s pretty simple but perfect. We only get fresh figs for about three months in late summer and early fall so it’s a staple for us during those months.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

There are certain bottlings that really excite you — when you believe you’ve created something really special. So, at the time of bottling that wine, when you have done everything in your power from the vineyard to blend, to bottle to put together something you are really proud of, that is the best part. (Then you have to hope it sells!)

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Atlanta: West and Katie Johnson’s house. They have a fantastic wine collection and are two of the most generous people we have ever met — this is a dangerous combination!

World: Seana and I were fortunate enough to visit a place called Villa Feltrinelli on Italy’s Lake Garda. Sitting on two very comfortable Adirondack chairs, our feet inches from the water, looking over this incredibly peaceful lake was an unforgettable experience. I couldn’t tell you what we were drinking at that moment, but it sure tasted perfect! It goes to show that wine’s enjoyment is very much an experiential one.

Frank Family Vineyards

It’s no wonder that Rich Frank, one of Hollywood’s most creative, vibrant and ingenious players owns one of Napa Valley’s most unique wineries, Frank Family Vineyards. In the late ‘80s, Rich, a long-time Disney executive, couldn’t find the time to get away for long vacations. Soon he started coming to Napa on the weekends, realizing it was only a short plane flight away from Los Angeles. In 1990, he purchased a home in the eastern hills of Napa in Rutherford.

Two years later, in 1992, Rich received a midnight phone call at his home in Los Angeles from a friend telling him that the Kornell Champagne Cellars on the site of historic Larkmead Winery was for sale, and if there was ever a time to get into the wine business it was now. Rich placed a bid, and less than 24 hours later he was an owner of the Calistoga winery.

Never one to rest on his laurels, the former adman turned Hollywood film and TV exec stepped into his role as Napa Valley vintner with ease, and is actively involved with the winery operations. Rich is also currently executive producing Royal Pains on the USA Network, along with his son, Paul. Rich is the proud grandfather of four. Rich splits his time between Los Angeles and Napa with his wife, Leslie Miller, formerly an ABC7 reporter in Los Angeles.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Frank Family Vineyards has been involved with the event since 2008, and we try to participate at least every other year. And I can tell you that the High Museum Wine Auction is one of my favorite wine related events. I find that the people who attend are genuinely interested in both wine and art — two subjects I’m very passionate about. I love to connect with people and am very social, so the in-home dinners are my favorite. It’s a great opportunity to meet other people who have been very successful in their own careers, all the while having one of the country’s best chefs pair his or her cuisine to our wines.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I’ve spent nearly all my adult career in the entertainment business. I was President of Paramount Television Group, a co-founder of USA Network, President Disney Studios for nearly 10 years, and President of the Academy of Television Arts for six years (The Emmys). I left Disney in 1995, just a few years after founding Frank Family Vineyards, with intentions of doing wine full-time. It turns out, I’ve been a miserable failure at retirement! I love Hollywood as much as I love wine, and continue to involve myself in the industry — currently as Vice-Chairman of the American Film Institute (AFI) and executive producer of Royal Pains. If I left either of these industries, you’d probably find me and my wife Leslie on a white sandy beach or going on a cruise somewhere.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

My dad was a wholesale meatpacker in Brooklyn so I’m a beef connoisseur. I love our Winston Hill, which comes from the hillside vineyard surrounding my house in Rutherford, paired with a phenomenal steak charred rare, after having sliced tomatoes and onions to start. Oh, and put a great potato of some kind with the steak!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

I love wine, food, and connecting with people, so there is a genuine foundation of passion I’ve incited in the winery. I love that each year Frank Family wins polls for the best tasting room in the valley. The fact that we make people happy and they enjoy coming back and tell their friends to come and visit gives me great satisfaction. And the best part about running a small family business is that there are no corporate responsibilities such as having to report to shareholders. We have the opportunity to make a great product and sell it the way we want to sell it.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Hal’s at the Old Ivy. I’m a sentimental guy, and this place is obviously a classic and an institution in Atlanta. The steaks and lobster are great and the Southern hospitality really shines through — very professional yet friendly. Last time I went, my wife Leslie and I noticed that many people — young and old — seemed to be on dates. A couple next to us was sharing a bottle Frank Family Cabernet and the date seemed to be going well, which made our night.

 

In Los Angeles, I love sitting at the bar at Wolfgang’s steakhouse in Beverly Hills. When I’m not drinking wine, I love to get a great martini there — Belvedere straight up with an olive and an onion. In Napa, the bar at the restaurant at Meadowood is a cocktail destination now that mixologist Scott Beattie has joined the team, and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the area. The bar at Tra Vigne is where my wine destiny started, chatting with other vintners there — it has a very convivial atmosphere — so it holds a special place on my go-to list.

Iron Horse Vineyards

Joy represents the second generation as CEO of her family’s winery, Iron Horse Vineyards and is the newest member of California’s Food and Agriculture Board.

After attending Yale University where she studied history and economics, Joy went into journalism, first for United Press International, followed by local television, and ultimately, network TV news. At the age of 29, Joy was Deputy Bureau Chief for ABC Network News in Los Angeles. She was given numerous special assignments including coverage of the first Space Shuttle landings in California and Assignment Editor for ABC’s 1984 Olympic coverage.

Joy left ABC to join her family’s business and made headlines in1985, when the White House selected Iron Horse Sparkling Wine for the President’s toast to peace at the first summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva. She has also authored four books about what it is like to live on a vineyard and make wine. Joy took up the reins at Iron Horse in 2006, having spent 20 years traveling on behalf of the winery, personally introducing the wines to an impressive list of customers from Spago Beverly Hills to the Four Seasons in New York.

Also known as an adventurer, Joy has climbed Kilimanjaro, trekked in Tibet and Bhutan and run white water rapids on the Bio – Bio River in Chile and on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River in China. She sits on the Board of Trustees of the Leakey Foundation and spearheads an annual eco-fundraising event: Celebrate Earth Day in Green Valley.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

If memory serves, I was at the first one! My favorite event is the Vintners’ Reception right before the Auction because I get to see all my Wine Auction friends … especially Dick Denny. I traditionally pour our Wedding Cuvee, which is a perfect first sip of the day and I think an inducement to higher bidding. 

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

The beauty of what I do is that I can pursue all my interests while being in wine — environmentalism, philanthropy, history, science, art and travel.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Bubbles and popcorn.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of being in the wine world is meeting so many interesting, generous, fun-loving  people. Iron Horse is my passport. It takes me everywhere imaginable.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In Atlanta: Table 1280, of course. In the world: My favorite is sipping wine at the Iron Horse tasting room with the view all the way across Sonoma to Mt. St. Helena and the vineyards spilling out at you feet.

JARVIS

A decade of making wine in the Napa Valley following graduation from the world-renowned winemaking program at UC Davis led Winemaker Ted Henry to JARVIS where his job is hands-on, participatory and really about a close relationship with the wine.

It was during high school when Ted Henry had landed a job at a high-end health club cleaning locker rooms, that he became interested in wine. The club members discussed fine dining and wine, while Ted listened, learned and began to casually study wine varietals and vintages.

He started UC Davis as a pre-med major, not even realizing that a “degree in making wine” was possible. After a human anatomy course that left him a bit queasy, Ted immediately realized that a career in medicine wasn’t his passion. Still fond of science, and curious due to his background, he enrolled in his first viticulture and enology class. Completely fascinated with the subject, he changed his major to Fermentation Science, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree.

Ted worked at Trinchero and Artesa before joining JARVIS in 2008, where he appreciates the focused approach, not being removed from the wine and has the rare opportunity to be close to the wine every day. “At JARVIS I am immersed in the whole experience from the vineyard to the cellar to meeting our customers.”

When he’s not in the cellar, or amongst the vines, he can often be found spending time with his family at Lake Tahoe as he loves skiing, camping and the outdoors.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I’ve been to four Auctions and the main event (Live Auction) is always my favorite.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Trying to figure out how to get in the wine industry. Probably would be in the sciences somewhere.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?  

Champagne and potato chips.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Getting to share this great product with people from all over. Everyone seems to love wine.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Oddly enough, One Flew South at the ATL airport. They have poured my own wine, PRIME, since the beginning and hey, it’s the busiest airport in the world and I’m stuck there a lot. Worldwide I would have to go with Hank’s, a New Orleans style bar in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico. For every drink you order you get two!

Kosta Browne Winery

Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, Dan and Michael decided to venture into winemaking. They saved tip money for two months and eventually had enough to buy a half ton of Pinot Noir, a used barrel and an old hand-crank stemmer-crusher, a purchase that marks the beginning of Kosta Browne. Since that vintage, they have nurtured relationships with the best growers and honed their winemaking skills, making sure to focus on the vision and values with which they began.
Michael moved to Sonoma County in 1987 with the goal of becoming an architect. While working at local fine dining establishments to pay the bills, he fell in love with the local wines and was intrigued by winemaking and viticulture through his visits to local wineries and vineyards. The idea of being involved in agriculture, as well as the craft of winemaking, pushed Michael into the pursuit of producing fine wines.

Michael was in the restaurant industry for 15 years, fueling his passion for wine and food. The majority of this time was spent at John Ash where he waited tables, bartended and worked the line in the kitchen. The last two years at John Ash & Co. were spent on the floor as a sommelier.
While still working at John Ash, Michael started working with Deerfield Ranch Winery in 1997 as a volunteer. He became Co-Winemaker in 2000, and this is where his passion developed into a love of Pinot Noir. When not crafting rocking Pinot Noir or walking the vineyards, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife, Sarah and their children — Logan, Lauren and Livia.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I believe our first year was 2009. I have two favorites: the Winemaker Dinners and the Live Auction.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Living in a shack in a very cool part of Mexico, fishing. With a bar tending gig on the side to keep it real.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

A grand cru Montrachet with freshly caught seared sea scallops lightly touched by a lemon ber blanc.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Having the opportunity to produce a product which brings people pleasure.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In Atanta: Rathbun Steak. In the world: our winery with my friends and people we work with.

Lancaster Estate

Jesse’s desire to be a winemaker started at a young age traveling around the world with his photographer father, Andy Katz, as he created books on wine regions. Jesse was a young lab assistant who immediately fell in love with the art of winemaking and its interplay between science and nature. His experience led him to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree in Enology and minor in Chemistry from Fresno State University. “This was a great hands-on educational experience for me, because no one in my family had ever made wine before.”

After finishing school, Jesse surrounded himself with some of the most respected winemakers in the world. He worked six harvests in just three years, spending half the year in Argentina with Hans Vinding-Diers, Winemaker at Bodega Noemia in Patagonia and with Paul Hobbs in Mendoza at Viña Cobos. His internship experience in California included work for Bob Foley at Hourglass and most recently at Screaming Eagle in 2010, working alongside renowned Winemaker Andy Erickson.

Jesse now adds another world-class winery to his résumé as Winemaker at Lancaster Estate in Alexander Valley. As a true believer in terroir, Jesse’s goal is to highlight the best characteristics of the valley and Lancaster’s unique vineyard site. “Lancaster Estate offers the perfect opportunity for me to build upon my passion for estate focused wines and continue to explore and enhance the potential of our impressive hillside vineyards.”


Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Last year was my first year. The Live Auction was my favorite.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Professional snowboarder or travel photographer? Have not thought about being anything but a winemaker sense I was 18, so tough question.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

For me wine is a sense of place…not only where the wine was made but also where you enjoy it and who you enjoy it with. To me, these are just as important as what you may pair it with. I have to say one of the best food pairings I have ever had was with a 2010 Lancaster Estate Nicole’s Proprietary Red that I brought in my suitcase to the Galapagos Islands. Customs officials had attempted to seize the wine twice before we arrived but somehow it made it through. We opened it on the last night of the trip while on a live-aboard boat and paired it with grilled freshly caught fish. Yes, fish and cabernet…it was truly sublime.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Getting to work with creative, driven people, who are passionate about what they do. Also getting to combine art, nature and science into a single expression.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In ATL: Hal’s Steakhouse. In the world: the bar on top of Vail Mountain.

Lando Wines

Sam Lando developed an interest in wine in the early 1990’s during his college years in Sonoma County and was recruited into the wine business just prior to graduation. He started his career working for some of the large global wine producers, and soon identified his true love of working with and enjoying Pinot Noir.

While his emphasis was sales and marketing, he realized early on the need to understand as much as possible about differing winemaking and viticulture techniques. After working with and becoming friends with some of the best new world wine producers, it was a natural evolution to begin hobby winemaking.

After working for five years with Kosta Browne Winery, he departed at the end of 2012. His work with dear friends was a deeply rewarding experience…personally and professionally. They worked (and played) so well together because of a love and passion for what they did. In addition to their shared affliction for Pinot, they enjoyed the company of great people and food.

In the middle of the 2012 vintage, Sam and his wife Jennifer decided to make the leap and take the winemaking hobby to the next level. They borrowed against their savings and began building the foundation to develop a small Pinot Noir focused winery. The goal is to make intense, yet elegant and balanced wines from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. We push ourselves to make great wines that we enjoy drinking and take great pride in sharing with our dear friends.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I’ve been involved in the auction for the past seven years. My favorite events are the in-home Winemaker Dinners and the Auction day. Specifically, because each of these events allow for a good amount of time to get to know the guests.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

That’s a tough one. My entire career has been within the wine industry. However, if forced to choose, probably within the music industry in some capacity. Music to me is very similar to the wine industry — composing a great song is similar to orchestrating a great wine.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

A delicious, medium rare, dry aged, bone-in rib eye steak paired with an intense, yet elegant Russian River Valley Pinot Noir!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Sharing my wines with people who enjoy Pinot Noir. In my opinion, good wines are much better when they’re accompanied by great people and conversation. It becomes more experiential and memorable.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Favorite place to drink in Atlanta…I have two, Rathbun Steak, enjoying a bourbon on the patio with Kevin – always hits the spot. Or, the Tavern in Buckhead – great beverages and stellar people watching! As for the world, hmm. First, The Strand House in Manhattan Beach, CA. The roof top bar has an incredible view of the ocean accompanied with tasty beverages. And, I have to go a little local – John & Zeke’s bar in Healdsburg CA — a great dive bar!

LIOCO Wine Company

A late bloomer, Matt had his wine epiphany during the winter of 1995 while waiting tables in Aspen, Colorado to support a ski habit. It was a blind taste of Chambolle Musigny and the eloquent comments of Master Sommelier Damon Ornowski that sent him reeling. In short order Matt went to work selling wine for a Boulder-based, boutique wine distributor where he quickly became their top sales person. In 1999 Matt was recruited by Napa-based Italian wine importer Dalla Terra. He made annual pilgrimages to Italy and discovered Barbaresco and truffles. In 2001, North Berkeley Imports made Matt an offer he could not refuse: to represent several of the classiest French and Italian producers on U.S. shores. The love of Europe deepened, and Burgundy bit down hard. In August of 2005, after years of discussion with friend and colleague, Kevin O’Connor — the two founded LIOCO Wine Company.

Matt resides in San Francisco with his girlfriend Sara. Wine aside his passions include travel, surfing, skiing, and Widespread Panic.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite? 

Our first auction was back in 2012. As for my favorite event? The Auction naturally! Love the buzz, the excitement!

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Investment banking. So I could afford my wine habit.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Champagne + sea urchin.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Mileage Plus.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

ATL: Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium. WORLD: beach bar on Namotu in Fiji.

Lynmar Estate

Lynn Fritz purchased Quail Hill Ranch back in 1980, envisioning the Russian River property as an oasis away from a busy life as CEO of Fritz Companies, a global logistics organization. As Lynn spent more time in the vineyard during his visits, he realized that serendipity had handed him a gift: he had been given stewardship over a truly remarkable piece of land. Since the original purchase, Lynn had added six pieces of land, creating the 100-acre Lynmar Estate property.

In 2001, Lynn shifted professional gears, as UPS acquired Fritz Companies and he founded Fritz Institute, a group dedicated to assisting humanitarian organizations with the logistics of global disaster relief. Simultaneously, he oversaw the replanting of parts of the vineyard and construction of a state of the art winery, caves, and a tasting room.

In 2008, Lynn and his wife Anisya made Lynmar Estate their home, transforming themselves from absentee owners to resident proprietors. Lynn has orchestrated a unique relationship between winemaker Shane Finley and Vineyard Manager Jason Saling; Shane carefully defining what he wants from each vine and block and Jason pulling forth the extraordinary from the soil.

As part of the vision of the estate, Lynn felt that food could not be ignored. The lush gardens of Lynmar and Executive Chef David Frakes are a key part of the vision, primarily spearheaded by Anisya. After a long career travelling the globe, Lynn has truly come home – partnering with Anisya to create a unique community experience where wine and food are beautifully paired with friends and a breathtaking venue.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

We participated many years ago, and I have just returned in 2014.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Spending more time running our non-profit institute, the Fritz Institute, which supports the worldwide operations of humanitarian aid organizations.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Pinot Noir and a mushroom risotto

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Meeting people who visit the property.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?  

In Atlanta: 4th and Swift. In the world: The courtyard at Lynmar Estate

Memento Mori Winery

Memento Mori wine is named for a life-embracing philosophy born of a deep appreciation for the ties that bind. Each of its three founders has triumphed over adversity and learned to value not only life but the passion and hard work that drive it, making them uniquely qualified to launch an uncompromising brand. In 2007, the friends dove head first into Memento Mori, their goal to create a winery that would use all of Napa as its estate. For three years, they tasted and researched, combining a respect for tradition with their unique entrepreneurial energy. By 2010, they had signed contracts with legendary grape grower Andy Beckstoffer, hot young winemaker Sam Kaplan and renowned consultant Nancy Duckhorn. Currently, they source from multiple top-tier vineyards in Oakville, St. Helena and Rutherford to make one flagship product. No matter how much they lose in the process of blending, they will never compromise on quality. Life is too short.

Q&A
1. How long have y’all been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

2015 will be our second year involved with the High Museum Wine Auction. The actual auction is a blast, but the parties surrounding the event are really fun.

2. What would y’all be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

We all worked together with a technology company years ago. Now we have different “day” jobs. This wine project actually started in 2007 as a way for us to work together again. It has exploded into something pretty special. Now, I just wish we had more wine to sell! Btw, I love how your questions contain the phrase “y’all”. We don’t hear that nearly enough in California! It is very welcoming.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

A bone-in filet mignon and a Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon. Our 2011 Vintage is showing incredibly well right now!

4. What’s the best part about your jobs?

Without a doubt, sharing our wine with friends, old and new. We have met the most fascinating people in this business. Actually, some of the most knowledgeable oenophiles I have met have been in Atlanta.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

In Atlanta, either Prohibition or West Johnson’s private cellar ;-) As far as the world, there is nothing quite like tasting wine in the Napa Valley.

Peay Vineyards

Brothers Nick and Andy Peay wanted to make intense, expressive, and aromatic wines that engaged the brain as well as titillated the tummy. Though their preferences leaned to wines from the Old World, their parents somehow dropped the ball and did not leave them a Domaine in Burgundy or Chateau in Bordeaux. They determined this style was achievable in the New World, however, and in 1996 found a very cold, remote, fog-enshrouded hilltop along the San Andreas Fault four miles from the Pacific Ocean in the far northwestern corner of the West Sonoma Coast. Peter Michael Winery’s winemaker Vanessa Wong visited the young vineyard in 2000 to see what the brothers were doing in the hinterlands of the Sonoma Coast. She found the site very appealing and, apparently, Nick wasn’t too shabby, either. She left her position as winemaker at Peter Michael to join them in their pursuit of elegant and aromatic cold climate wines and married Nick soon afterwards.

Since then, Peay Vineyards has emerged as one of the cult-status wineries from northern California. Peay was selected as 2009 Winery of the Year by San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Top 100 wineries in the World for seven years in a row from Wines & Spirits Magazine, Top Pinot noir by Food & Wine Magazine, and was singled out by Eric Asimov from the New York Times and Jay McInerney from the Wall Street Journal for producing “excellent wines of rare intensity and precision.” And the wines taste good, too.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I have been coming for over five years. It is my favorite auction for the people and I love the enthusiastic response of the attendees. My favorites are the Thursday night dinners, as I am able to meet people and begin conversations that carry throughout the weekend. And the auction itself is a ball — an all-day roving party.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Cooking. I was headed in that direction when I was side-tracked by wine.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Hmm, no such thing in my mind. Right now I am interested in how earthy Pinot Noirs pair well with bitter flavors. Many chefs are using much more bitter and sour flavors in their food and it can be difficult to pair with wine unless the wine has a degree of tannins and earthy, green edge aromas. That is a hallmark of our estate pinots and this combination has surprised me.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

I talk about wine and food all day to people who love food and wine which is what I would be doing anyway if this were not my vocation. Somehow I do not think this would be as exciting if I made and sold hammers.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Charles and Kristie Abney’s cellar.

R. Stuart & Co.

After making wine for other people for more than twenty years, Rob Stuart and his partners founded R. Stuart & Co. in early 2002.

When he was eighteen, Rob visited his brother and his fiancée, now wife, in the United Kingdom. His future sister-in-law’s father, Jezdimer Miljkovic, was a Master of Wine, and introduced Rob to a1961 Bollinger Champagne in his picturesque home garden, which made quite an impression. Miljkovic convinced Rob to stay for the summer and work on his twenty-acre vineyard, and, in turn, Miljkovic would teach Rob about wine. Rob left the U.K. with an appreciation for fine wine, especially having developed a taste for Champagne. Rob has been searching for 1961 Bollinger ever since!

With a degree in biochemistry from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute in New York, and a short but eye-opening career in the labs at Baylor University in Texas, Rob started his winemaking journey on the bottling line at Hans Kornell in Napa, California. From there he went on to work in the cellar at Valley View Vineyards and then on to Staton Hills in Yakima, Washington where he made wine for 10 years.

Rob returned to Oregon in 1994 when he became the winemaker at Erath Vineyards until he started his current adventure at R. Stuart & Co. Rob’s winemaking philosophy continues to focus primarily on two principles: first, creating fruity, balanced, distinctive wines that reflect not the elusive concept of terroir, but the appellation itself, and, second, making exceptional Pinot Noir that is available to the everyday person.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

Since 1995 or 1996, when I was sent for the first time to Atlanta (very exciting) to represent Erath winery. 

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

Either being a RN in nursing or fishing commercially off the coast of Oregon. But I really can’t imagine anything else at this point in my life. 

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Rack of lamb and a properly aged Pinot Noir from Oregon or Burgundy.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

It changes seasonally and almost every day. Some days I interact with the public and some days I am in the vineyard and some days I am in the cellar either pushing grapes along or moving wine around.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

A) Commercially: ONE Midtown Kitchen later in the evening. B) Privately: With Joel Knox and Joan Marmo, in their backyard on a sultry night with a bottle of Pierre Moncuit 2002 Champagne. Mike Haney can come along if he’s not being bad. C) In the world, anywhere on a sultry night with a bottle of Champagne and my wife Maria.

Reynolds Family Winery

Steve Reynolds’ interest in wine started when he was living in Germany as a young teenager. Wine was always a part of his daily life and his father often took the whole family on wine tasting trips throughout Europe. At the time, he’d curse his father as he spent his day throwing rocks into a pond while his father tasted. Now, of course, Steve is grateful to his father for sharing his passion and infecting him with the same enthusiasm.

After leaving the field of dentistry, Steve Reynolds found his true calling in life, making wine, running a world-class winery, and having a great time doing it. The winery is run by his tight knit family and was built in a Tuscan style to honor his father’s favorite wine growing region.

Steve Reynolds, a mostly self-taught winemaker, has become one of the top winemakers in all of Napa Valley. He uses often complex and time-consuming methods of winemaking when making his Reynolds Family wines, and while they are not inexpensive processes, the results speak for themselves. Reynolds Family Winery is a true labor of love and we are thrilled to feature one of Steve’s celebrated releases.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I have been doing this wonderful event for over 10 years now. The event has made Atlanta like a second home to me (I think you even named a street after me, haha!). I have a hard time choosing the event that stands out the most but certainly all the Winemaker Dinners with old and new friends and the Saturday grand affair are hard to not select as tops.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I have tried ocean-related business, dentistry, and now wine. Wine is my life and it would be hard to pick anything else. Possibly producing my own tequila??!! It could happen!

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

I have had so many, it is hard to choose. A few of my “ahhh” moments have been Cabernet Sauvignon with my mom’s chocolate chip cookies and a seared scallop dish with an older white blend 4 or 5 years ago in San Francisco – life changing. And of course big meat and Cab all day long!!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of my job is “my job.” I am somewhat rare in that I am the owner and winemaker, which means I wear a lot of hats. My marketing hat is the fun, social part I really enjoy. I get to meet so many folks from all over. The vineyard side keeps me in touch and in tune. Grounded, literally. I get to walk with Mother Nature and that never gets old. The wine making side is so special and feels like a gift. I have so much riding on choices along the way, and mostly I won’t see the results for years. Patience and humility from this side for sure. I guess this says it all: the sum of all the parts makes me whole.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Oh, that is tough. I have old good memories at so many, but the first big memory is maybe Two Urban Licks. It’s tough to not pick old friends that have embraced our wines from day one. In the world, I would say the first margarita on any beach right after harvest with my wife :)

Tres Sabores

Julie Johnson is the winemaker at Tres Sabores, in the Napa Valley, which was founded in 1999.

She began her professional life as a public health nurse. A mother of three young adults at present, she is an optimistic and engaged winemaker and organic viticulturalist, married to winemaker, Jon Engelskirger.

Julie graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine and from Columbia University in New York. Along with her first husband, John Williams, and partner, Larry Turley, she founded Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981. In partnership with Michaela Rodeno, past CEO at St. Supery Winery, in 1990 she founded “Women for Wine Sense, an ongoing national organization whose “vision is to support the appreciation for and responsible consumption of wine”. She speaks and participates in seminars on the subject of Women in Wine for a variety of clients and at educational venues around the country.

Julie is a passionate gardener and cook. She moved to her Rutherford property in 1987. Diverse and integrated, it is organically certified (CCOF) for grapes, olives, pomegranates, olives, lamb and guinea fowl.  At the end of the day, she sleeps best if she feels that she has been a thoughtful steward of the land and has capped off the day with a very good glass of wine.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite? 

I had the pleasure of being at the first Wine Auction, so I guess that will always be my favorite. The atmosphere was exciting, electric even. I thought, “This will become one of the top wine auctions in the country!” And of course—that’s exactly what came to pass!

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I began my career as a public health nurse in Community Health. If I had finished my MPH (instead of marrying a winemaker and moving to the Napa Valley!) one of my goals was to join MSF (Doctors Without Borders). I’m proud to say that my middle son, Kylor, works for them today.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Impossible to limit to one: Sauvignon Blanc with grilled Maine scallops fresh out of the Atlantic, Rosé with Oysters, Zinfandel with a roasted guinea fowl, autumn vegetables and chutney, Petite Sirah with Mole.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

Harvest time—finding the perfect time to pick out my ranch and take the berries all the way through a natural fermentation (getting my hands purple).

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta?

In Atlanta: Muss & Turners, SIP, and Holeman & Finch. In the world: Frankly, love the bar at Mustard’s in Napa (love dining right at the bar as well). Most recently exotic, incredibly beautiful and cultural place to get a drink of late?  At the Chichu Museum on Naoshima Art Island in Japan (it was a Sancerre—beautiful with the local seafood).   

Vineyard 7 & 8

Wesley moved to the Napa Valley in 2001 just after graduating top of his class at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Upon moving to Napa, he spent almost two years working for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. Building on a passion of food and wine, Wesley left the kitchen in 2002 to try his hand in winemaking as a harvest intern under Bob Levy at Harlan Estate Winery.

Wesley spent four harvests at Harlan Estate, where he gained a deep appreciation and understanding of the entire winemaking process. Getting his hands wet was only the beginning. With his passion for learning and drive for perfection, Wesley was promoted to the role of Cellar Master. While working in the winery, the Harlan Family asked Wesley to also take on the role of Estate Chef, where he was able to uphold the same level of attention to detail as he did in the winery.

Wesley joined the family winery at Vineyard 7 & 8 in 2006, with the goal of completing the construction of the new winery facility, and putting together a world class team. Since then, Wesley’s daily duties include the General Management of business operations, as well as overseeing the daily winemaking duties working with Winemaker, Martha McClellan.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

We have participated in the Wine Auction for almost five years, and have really enjoyed the partnership between the vintners and the museum, and all of the guests attending the weekend. No single event stands out as my favorite, as I believe they all offer a chance to meet new friends, and catch up with others.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

That’s a tough question as I am truly blessed to be doing what I do for a living, where I do it, and with the people I share the experience with. I guess I might spend a little more time on the golf course!

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

Simple. I’m a steak and Cabernet guy!

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The flexibility to be involved with all aspects of the business. One moment I am out walking the vineyard, the next I am able to share a glass of wine with great guests, and the next I am on the road outside of Napa meeting more great people, and sharing our wines.

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Favorite place in Atlanta: The Iberian Pig. The world: Hmmm… cold beer while walking a spectacular golf course!

Whetstone Wine Cellars

Born in Florence, SC, Jamey grew up the son of a Baptist preacher and moved around quite a bit before settling in Wilmington, NC. He relocated to Napa in 1996 to manage Mustards Grill, figuring he’d gain restaurant experience before heading back home to the Carolinas to open a restaurant of my own. Napa had other plans for him. His winemaking education began in 1998 at Turley Wine Cellars, where learning how to change the clutch on a tractor was more valued than knowledge of Bordeaux First Growths. Jamey had the opportunity to take a summer sabbatical working for the Seysses family at Domaine Dujac in Morey-Saint-Denis, which cemented his love for Pinot Noir. After returning from France, he founded Whetstone Wine Cellars in 2002 while continuing my apprenticeship at Turley. In 2005, he left Turley in order to take the leap toward growing the Whetstone brand.

Whetstone Estate was purchased in February of 2011, and opened its doors in July of 2013. The centerpiece of the property is a 19th century French-style chateau, now the tasting salon, which sits on two acres located at the base of Atlas Peak Road in Napa. Other than gaining a physical location, the most significant change in the trajectory of Whetstone Wine Cellars was the full-time addition of Jamey’s wife, Michelle. She’s behind the overall operations and aesthetic of their brand, and introduced the simple but effective sales motto: to be more in touch with the lost art of face-to-face communication. With the touch-screen ease of the digital sales world, they’ve made this grassroots approach a priority at Whetstone.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

I honestly cannot remember how long we have been attending the Auction but needless to say it is an annual highlight for me and Michelle! Charles and Kristie Abney made it all happen and we owe them a large debt of gratitude. I think the actual day of the Auction is what we look forward to most: the marching band coming through the room Pied Piper-style, eating all the killer bites from the local restaurants, and drinking beer from Sweetwater to help with my hangover.

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

No idea what I would be doing, but for sure something that involved creative sales based around food, booze, and the surf industry.

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

I worship the pig and one of my favorites over the past year or so has been charcoal grilled ribs with a dry rub of garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary coupled with anything red from Sicily adhering to the old world, rustic style of winemaking.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

I get so much stoke from being able to move between the vineyard, cellar, and sales road. Working with my girl is icing on the cake (although she might couch it differently). ☺

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

Good grief! In ATL?! I have so many faves from private homes of friends to several establishments depending on the time of day or night. King Neptune in Wrightsville Beach, NC is where I feel a lot of nostalgia and comfort; Low ceiling, feels like you’re inside an old wooden boat, a local version of ring toss, and a straightforward selection of bottles of beer and whiskey. 

ZD Wines

Brett deLeuze is a lifetime veteran of the wine business. In 1978, when ZD moved from The Sonoma Carneros to Rutherford, the heart of Napa Valley, his grandparents, parents, siblings, in-laws and friends all came together to build the new winery. Brett gained a hands-on appreciation for winemaking while working in the cellar and contributing to the production of ZD’s award winning wines. Racking barrels, bottling wine and helping out with punch downs during harvest were a memorable part of his childhood.

Before joining the family business on a full time basis, Brett earned a degree in business from California State University, Sacramento. Following graduation, he spent a month in Europe visiting winery’s in the Burgundy and Champagne regions of France as well as Germany and Switzerland to gain a greater understanding of the world of wine.

Upon his return, he teamed up with his mother, Rosa Lee, to develop the marketing and sales of the winery. They worked together as an effective duo, growing ZD’s presence as one of Napa Valley’s top producers of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Today, he works closely with three generations of the deLeuze family as well as the ZD extended family on all aspects of running a small family winery. Brett has been happily married for more than 20 years to his wife Natalie. Together, they are raising three children Connor, Kayla and Alexandria. Connor is in high school and helps out at the winery with bottling in the summer and his two sisters are close behind.

Q&A
1. How long have you been involved with the Wine Auction and which event is your favorite?

ZD Wine has participated in the Wine Auction since the very beginning. It’s a must attend premier wine auction that sets the bar across the country both for wineries and attendees, alike. We enjoy attending each year and visiting with our Wine Auction friends. It’s truly wonderful to be part of the Atlanta community for the weekend focusing our efforts on raising proceeds for the High Museum. If I had to choose my favorite event or day, it would be Saturday for the Vintners’ Reception and Live Auction. The energy in the room is electric!

2. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine industry?

I can’t imagine not being involved in my family’s business. But, I have to admit if a spot opened on a Major League Soccer team it would be a tough call!

3. What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

I love to cook and entertain both at home and at the winery. ZD Chardonnay and scallop puff pastries are a perfect way to kick off any occasion. Call me and I will be right over.

4. What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of what I do at ZD Wines is being able to work with my family on a daily basis. No,seriously!  As we approach our 46th harvest, three generations of my family continue to be dedicated to producing world class wines. And, I have to admit the view from my office is pretty sweet.  

5. What’s your favorite place to get a drink in Atlanta? What about the world?

There are many loyal restaurants in Atlanta that support ZD Wines. However, Tom Cathrell and Here to Serve Restaurants have faithfully poured ZD Chardonnay for nearly 20 years. They are top-notch. In the world, it would have to Napa Valley! There are many great restaurants to choose from, and I try to dine at all of them. It’s my job!