For over 18 years, Jeff Runquist wines grew no grapes. However, an opportunity to purchase the 12-acre property adjacent to the winery presented itself and we couldn’t turn it down. We still know our strengths and prefer to focus our resources on producing wines that reflect the passion of the growers with whom we partner. Rather than limit ourselves to the varieties that grow well on our property and in our neighborhood we search throughout California for the ideal match of grape to soil climate and personality. I am often asked how I decide which grapes to purchase. The answer is that the grapes made that decision years ago. For nineteen years I made wine for other wineries before launching our own. During that time I made wine at Montevina, the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery, J. Lohr, and McManis Family Vineyards and I discovered the growers that produced fruit that was successful. Over the years I developed my favorites, and it was an easy choice to return to these friends to fuel our production.
When one looks at the portfolio of wines we offer, one sees a roadmap of my career. We produce six wines from the Sierra Foothills, two from the Napa Valley, and four from Paso Robles. My time in the northern interior introduced me to the grapes and growers of the Lodi, Clarksburg and River Junction appellations. These regions provide us with another nine different varieties. It seems that every year brings a new grape or opportunity to us, and our exploration and adventures with these new varieties and growers keep us fresh and alive. And because of the new property purchase, we now produce an Estate Bottled Zinfandel from the grapes that were planted in 1890.
Many times it is assumed that I direct the vineyard operations, and most folks are surprised that I don’t. In fact, some are flabbergasted to learn that I don’t tell most of our growers when to pick. While my ego is plenty big, I am not arrogant enough to think that I will know a grower’s vineyard better than they do. Our relationship is a partnership and we work with growers that share our passion and know the value of harvesting grapes and their peak of flavor, color, and character. When to pick is their decision and part of their contribution to our wines. From every vintage, the first case of wine we bottle is returned to the grower and we perpetually refine our efforts to deliver the flavors distinctive to their vineyards. This partnership is declared on every bottle of our wine. After the varietal, the vineyard is identified along with its appellation; next comes the grower’s name and then mine as the vintner. For a long time, I have felt that the growers don’t get the credit they deserve and this is my way of publically recognizing their expertise and contribution to the wines.
This unique and untraditional business model allows us to be nimble and pursue the flavors in vogue in the marketplace. When a venture is successful we can often grow production to match demand and when it is not we have not invested the capital to establish a vineyard and an exit is less traumatic. By not having resources tied up in vineyards we are able to provide our wines the finest treatment in the cellar and provide our clientele a distinctive wine with merit.