As soon as you start thinking that all winery owners in Napa and Sonoma must be old enough to be your parents, think again!  We’re in the 21st century now and a new generation of intelligent, savvy, hard working, and highly motivated winemakers and owners has emerged on the scene.   Who are they and what is their story?  In the newly released book, Rock and Vine: Next Generation Changemakers in America’s Wine Country, you can discover who, under 35 years old, is poised to influence the industry with their own character, style, and winemaking acumen.

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a book signing by Chelsea Prince, the gorgeous and enthusiastic author and publisher of Rock and Vine.  I purchased the book after chatting with Chelsea, enjoying  the professional photographs by Mary Steinbacher, and noting that several of the eleven winemakers profiled were those with whom I was familiar:  Morgan Twain Peterson of Bedrock (I am on their list and purchase wines), the three bachelors from Envolve (I have purchased wine through their wine club, visited their tasting room in Sonoma,  and written about their Epilogue line), and Christina Turley from Turley Wine Cellars (I have been to their tasting room in Templeton).

Simply stated, this book is terrific.  By sharing the stories of the young winemakers, Chelsea indirectly addresses what so many people are thinking.  What is the future of the winemaking industry in California?  Who will maintain the legacy?  Who will make it even better?  The writing flows naturally with a plethora of anecdotes from each and the beautiful photographs enhance the words to visually share more of the story.  Commentaries by Dennis Kelly, MS of the French Laundry, Philip James of Lot 18, Paul Roberts, MS of Bond Estates, and Shannon Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards add further insight and perspective to the wine industry from people who know it inside and out.

So who are these passionate winemakers?  Ben Flajnik, Mike Benziger, and Danny Fay of Envolve Winery have helped bring media recognition to Sonoma and to their own biodynamic practices coupled with hands-on community involvement. Tony Leonardini of BNA Wine Group is not only a creative and experimental winemaker but a volunteer fireman and true family man.  Free Flow Wines’ Jordan Kivelstadt started not only a first rate wine-kegging business but is owner/winemaker of Qualia wines.  Winemaker Jason Exposto of Futo is making some amazing estate grown Cabernets and describes his techniques with the key words “gentleness” and “preservation”.  The story of Nicole Marchesi’s winemaking journey to Far Niente is inspiring…just as much as her efforts to balance her choice of being a mom as well as a winemaker.  With family roots in the industry, Dalia Ceja of Ceja Vineyards is assuming a prime role in continuing the tradition of the first Mexican owned winery in Napa.  Joe Wagner, a fifth generation winemaker, makes wine for Caymus Vineyards and owns two award winning Pinot Noir labels, Meiomi and Belle Glos.

From Turley Wine Cellars, Christina Turley has an East Coast education, Sommelier experience, and a strong desire  to create an “American wine culture through Zinfandel”.  Co-founder of the Historical Vineyard Society and proponent of ancient vines, Morgan Twain-Peterson, Winemaker at Bedrock Wines and son of Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood Winery, made his first wine at five years old and the rest is, well, history. Do you know the name Sebastiani?  August Sebastiani and his company, The Other Guys, a brand marketing and sales company, also included craft beer and spirits.  And Angelina Mondavi makes wine for Dark Matter which she owns with her three sisters.  Her goal?  This fourth generation winemaker wants to create a 100 point wine, an achievement no Mondavi has yet accomplished.

Each generation makes its mark on whatever they accomplish and those in the wine industry are no exception.  It’s time to welcome and appreciate these passionate and talented young winemakers who are bursting onto the scene and either creating their own or continuing the legacy with character and spirit.  Thanks to Chelsea Prince’s Rock and Vine, the story is being told.

Cheers~ Cindy

Rock and Vine is a perfect coffee table book, gift for a wine loving friend, or let’s face it, one which you’ll want to keep for yourself and actually read!  The retail price is $28.95 and orders can be taken at rockandvinebook.com.   A portion of every book purchase will be donated to Wine to Water, a non-profit organization focused on providing clean water to people in need around the world.

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