Show 427, May 29, 2021: Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, 50th Anniversary Part One

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman of Summit Lake Vineyards

“2021 marks Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery’s 50th year (located on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley) and it is still family owned and operated. Founders Bob and Sue Brakesman’s three children, Heather, Brian, and Danny were all raised at Summit Lake and have worked hard to continue their parent’s legacy. Sue passed away in 2003 but you can still find Bob working hard repairing equipment and tending the vineyards. Brian has taken over the winemaking, Heather is the general manager and Danny caretakes the property.”

“In addition to Zinfandel, Summit Lake Vineyards produces estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel Port, Petite Sirah, a red blend and rosé. All are named for Bob and Sue’s granddaughters; Emily Kestrel, Clair Riley, Sophia Lynn, and Blythe Susan and grandsons Ben and Shane.”

A day of festivities to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Summit Lake is set for Saturday, August 7th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are available through the Summit Lake website.

“The story of Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery began some 50 years ago when Bob and Sue Brakesman, the original owners and operators, met at Jordan Junior High in Palo Alto, CA. In college Bob began brewing his own beer when a neighbor suggested he try “brewing” wine. After liberating some grapes from the surrounding areas and crushing fruit in open-top fermenters (new plastic garbage cans), their winemaking days had begun.”

“Post college Bob began to question if he wanted to be an engineer or to explore his growing passion for wine and winemaking. On Nov. 12, 1971 Bob put a deed to a property in Sue’s birthday card. It described 28 acres of land, eight planted in pre-Prohibition Zinfandel (their favorite varietal), fruit trees in the orchard, a chicken house, garage, redwood barn, and a house built in the 1880’s. Sue thought she was getting paradise!”

“On Christmas Eve, Bob and Sue packed up their lives and travelled to the new ranch. As they entered the gate and drove down the driveway, her heart sank. The deed had failed to mention the property had been abandoned for over 30 years, was completely overgrown and in disrepair. The next morning, they awoke to a fresh coat of snow which had transformed the place into a beautiful wonderland. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work on top of Howell Mountain in Napa Valley.”

“The gradual transformation and revitalization of Summit Lake couldn’t have taken place without the help of family, friends, and neighbors who rallied to help with planting, harvest, bottling and finally coming together to build a new winery in 1985.”

“In 1978 Summit Lake Vineyard’s first commercial release won the coveted double gold medal at the California State Fair. It sold out in just eight days. Summit Lake has 18 acres planted from which it now produces about 2,000 cases a year.”

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman join us to pull the cork on Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery.

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Show 427, May 29, 2021: Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, 50th Anniversary Part Two

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman of Summit Lake Vineyards

“2021 marks Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery’s 50th year (located on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley) and it is still family owned and operated. Founders Bob and Sue Brakesman’s three children, Heather, Brian, and Danny were all raised at Summit Lake and have worked hard to continue their parent’s legacy. Sue passed away in 2003 but you can still find Bob working hard repairing equipment and tending the vineyards. Brian has taken over the winemaking, Heather is the general manager and Danny caretakes the property.”

“In addition to Zinfandel, Summit Lake Vineyards produces estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel Port, Petite Sirah, a red blend and rosé. All are named for Bob and Sue’s granddaughters; Emily Kestrel, Clair Riley, Sophia Lynn, and Blythe Susan and grandsons Ben and Shane.”

A day of festivities to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Summit Lake is set for Saturday, August 7th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are available through the Summit Lake website.

“The story of Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery began some 50 years ago when Bob and Sue Brakesman, the original owners and operators, met at Jordan Junior High in Palo Alto, CA. In college Bob began brewing his own beer when a neighbor suggested he try “brewing” wine. After liberating some grapes from the surrounding areas and crushing fruit in open-top fermenters (new plastic garbage cans), their winemaking days had begun.”

“Post college Bob began to question if he wanted to be an engineer or to explore his growing passion for wine and winemaking. On Nov. 12, 1971 Bob put a deed to a property in Sue’s birthday card. It described 28 acres of land, eight planted in pre-Prohibition Zinfandel (their favorite varietal), fruit trees in the orchard, a chicken house, garage, redwood barn, and a house built in the 1880’s. Sue thought she was getting paradise!”

“On Christmas Eve, Bob and Sue packed up their lives and travelled to the new ranch. As they entered the gate and drove down the driveway, her heart sank. The deed had failed to mention the property had been abandoned for over 30 years, was completely overgrown and in disrepair. The next morning, they awoke to a fresh coat of snow which had transformed the place into a beautiful wonderland. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work on top of Howell Mountain in Napa Valley.”

“The gradual transformation and revitalization of Summit Lake couldn’t have taken place without the help of family, friends, and neighbors who rallied to help with planting, harvest, bottling and finally coming together to build a new winery in 1985.”

“In 1978 Summit Lake Vineyard’s first commercial release won the coveted double gold medal at the California State Fair. It sold out in just eight days. Summit Lake has 18 acres planted from which it now produces about 2,000 cases a year.”

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman pour a glass of their 2016 Zinfandel and continue with us.

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Show 394, October 10, 2020: Halleck Vineyard with Proprietor Ross Halleck Part One

Ross Halleck of Halleck VineyardHalleck Vineyard, known for their award-winning Pinot Noir’s, is a family journey of business partners Jennifer and Ross Halleck.

“They planted the Halleck Vineyard in 1993, the very first in the hills of Sebastopol, in western Sonoma County. Intended as a college fund for their infant son, two more sons and six years later until their first harvest, this seemed a flight of fancy.”

“A one- acre site, Halleck Vineyard is perched above the Russian River watershed and flanked on the west by the slopes to the Pacific Ocean. It commands an expansive view of the rolling Sonoma County hills to the northeast. A passion for Pinot leads the charge of the Halleck wines.”

“In 2019, Halleck Vineyard was again judged “BEST OF CLASS” in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition in North America. Sunset Magazine anointed the Halleck Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc “BEST OF CLASS” in the United States, and the California State Fair judged the Halleck Dry Gewurztraminer #1 White Wine in California.”

We’ll meet Owner & Vintner Ross Halleck.

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Show 394, October 10, 2020: Halleck Vineyard with Proprietor Ross Halleck Part Two

Ross Halleck of Halleck VineyardHalleck Vineyard, known for their award-winning Pinot Noir’s, is a family journey of business partners Jennifer and Ross Halleck.

They planted the Halleck Vineyard in 1993, the very first in the hills of Sebastopol, in western Sonoma County. Intended as a college fund for their infant son, two more sons and six years later until their first harvest, this seemed a flight of fancy.

“A one- acre site, Halleck Vineyard is perched above the Russian River watershed and flanked on the west by the slopes to the Pacific Ocean. It commands an expansive view of the rolling Sonoma County hills to the northeast. A passion for Pinot leads the charge of the Halleck wines.”

“In 2019, Halleck Vineyard was again judged “BEST OF CLASS” in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition in North America. Sunset Magazine anointed the Halleck Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc “BEST OF CLASS” in the United States, and the California State Fair judged the Halleck Dry Gewurztraminer #1 White Wine in California.”

“The Halleck Vineyard logo represents an H for Halleck. More importantly, it expresses “one-to-one”, depicted as Roman numerals. We hope to foster a personal connection with everyone who enjoys our wine. Hence we invite people to our home, travel to meet them, share meals, and invite them on trips around the world.”

“Viewing the dot as a grape, it has served as a plant of power for over 8,000 years, 1,000 years before Mesopotamia and the birth of civilization. It was most certainly in the realm of the spiritual practitioner, healer, or shaman. Wine is viewed as sacred in almost all the major religions. And for good reason. It has the unique ability to connect us, elevating a conversation and enhancing intimacy, building community.”

“The circle represents our community. Our mission is “Building Community Through Wine.””

Owner & Vintner Ross Halleck continues with us as he pours a glass of Hillside Cuvee Pinot Noir.

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Show 183, August 6, 2016: Kyle Meyer, The Wine Exchange, Wine Competitions at County Fairs

Kyle Meyer of Wine ExchangeCoveted Gold Medals won by wines at our area County Fairs used to have a tremendous impact on wine sales. Now, this is much less the case. Our resident wine authority, Kyle Meyer of Wine Exchange, has his informed perspective.

“As we were drifting through a few reflective moments about where the wine world has been, and where it was going, a question arose. What ever happened to fairs? You know, pig contests, funnel cakes, and wine judgings. As we think back to the early days of Wine Exchange (such as it was), we remember what a big deal fair judgings and gold medals used to be in the scheme of wine marketing. A gold medal at a wine competition like the Orange County Fair, L.A. County Fair, Sonoma Harvest Fair, and the California State Fair were kind of a big deal. Now, not so much. What happened?”

“Well, history happened. Now mind you we speak from a fair bit of experience having been involved with the local fair for nearly a decade and part of a few judging panels as well. Over the years we have been on both sides of the do-these-competitions-matter debate, and can play both sides. But ‘back in the day’, the results of a major competition used to resonate throughout the industry. Now the effect is pretty short term and localized. Why? There are lots of reasons.”

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