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the creek boutique Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Rolling Vineyards in Sonoma

Sonoma Winery Delivers Quality with Value
— An Interview with the Proprietors of Charles Creek Vineyard

I'm normally very cautious about making sweeping generalizations when it comes to wine.  As an artisan-driven product with a dizzying array of styles, production techniques, regions of origin, distribution channels, and variations stemming from climate and soil, wine is entirely too complex to sum up with a single turn of phrase or flourish of hand.  But when it comes to the wines of Northern California, namely from the likes of Napa and Sonoma, there's one generalization that I have no hesitation with asserting: they are expensive.  That is, of course, if you're looking for wines of quality.  Granted, it might be stating the obvious that a price tag must be high for something well made.  But if we take a good look at the continuum of wines produced in this region, many will agree that below $30 per bottle retail, their quality sharply plummets into a category overwhelmingly dominated by the uninspired and insipid.  Much of it frankly verges on plonk.  There are, however, a few regional producers who manage to make wines of exceptional value in the $20 to $25 range, one of which is Sonoma's Charles Creek Vineyard.  In an effort to learn the story behind the portfolio of wines I admire so much for its remarkable quality in the context of great value, I spoke with the winery's proprietors, Bill and Gerry Brinton, over a casual lunch on Sonoma's main square.

[After working for some time in the corporate world, following their respective stints at ivy-covered business schools on the east coast, the Brintons moved to California and bought their property in Sonoma in 1984.  It was a return to the Golden State for both of them.  Gerry, though an Iowan by birth, had lived here many years prior, while Bill himself had been born and raised in the area.  The experience was a new one, however, for the recent additions to the family and impetus for ultimately leaving city life behind: their two toddlers.  Once their two sons had become old enough, the seed of a wine dream that had been planted years prior finally began to sprout.]

BB: The dream really started about doing something in the wine business when we first moved up here.  But we weren't really ready to do it while the kids were still young because, you know, family comes first.  We let them get though college before we got into the wine business.  In the meantime, we actually had a beverage company that was headquartered down in Brisbane; it was a fresh juice and nutritional drink company.  But we couldn't really do both at the same time (we had had it since 1993), so we sold it in 2000 to Naked Juice in Los Angeles, and then moved up here [to Sonoma].  By that time, with our kids away at college and having sold the [drink] business, were were free of a lot of our entanglements and we were then able to focus on making wine.  We had planted [Chardonnay] grapes on our property in '92, and had our first harvest there in '95.  But I just wasn't happy with the quality of the Chardonnay that we were getting from our vineyard there, so I budded over to Merlot.  But then I still wasn't happy with the Merlot, so I took it all out and cleared the area of the vineyard, and we've since decided to put a solar farm in there!  {laughter} This is only a little parcel…

GB: … It's only a one-acre vineyard; it's not a big deal!

BB: So we want to get off the [power] grid.  We'll use the vineyard for helping to save money on our electrical bills!  We also realize that we're not farmers.  Even though we have a farming background from our families, from our roots, we like to let the best people do their thing for us, and we like to partner with different vineyards — people like the Sangiacomos, people over in Napa, the Stagecoach, the Krupp family; we had some relationships with Hyde, with Dutton, with lots of different and really well-known growers.



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