September 2020 is California Wine Month
This gives us a great opportunity
to highlight some of the many
incredible wineries we’ve visited
over the years.
We look forward to visiting these
wineries again very soon.
We are featuring Carlisle Winery & Vineyards, located in Sonoma County.
Mike Officer started with five gallons of Zinfandel in the kitchen. Over the next several years, he made a barrel of Zinfandel each vintage with the help of some friends and his wife, Kendall Carlisle. The results were encouraging. They moved to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County to be closer to the “source”. He was increasingly drawn to the old-vine vineyards of Sonoma County. He found something special, even magical, about those ancient, twisted vines with their deep roots and long histories. By 1997 they were producing over 300 cases of “garage” wine, mostly vineyard designated old-vine Zinfandels, and winning numerous gold medals in amateur competitions.
With meager savings and some family support they launched Carlisle Winery & Vineyards in 1998, concentrating on two loves, old-vine Zinfandel and red Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah). The goal was simple but ambitious: to create small lots of distinctive, world-class wines from some of California’s most exceptional vineyards. With the belief that great wine begins in the vineyard, they sought out Zinfandel from some of the finest vineyards in the county, planted between 1888 and 1934, including an estate vineyard planted in 1927 by Alcide Pelletti. For Rhône varieties, they contracted with small, family growers, just as dedicated and passionate about growing grapes as they were about making exceptional wine.
Using vacation from his “real” job in San Francisco, they produced 650 cases in the first vintage, 1998. However, after growing to nearly 1000 cases in 2000, Mike found myself over-extended in trying to balance the demands of a growing business and his career as a software developer. It was obvious that if he wanted to be a full-time winemaker, production needed to increase. The catch, however, was that in order to increase production, a salary was needed! The solution? Enter Jay Maddox, an old college friend who had just finished getting a second degree in viticulture and enology (with honors!) from U.C. Davis. Jay joined Carlisle in February 2001, bringing a wealth of knowledge, a keen palate, and a desire to produce nothing but the best without compromise. Together, they have been able to grow to nearly 10,000 cases, garnering high praise from wine critics and consumers alike. With the increase in production, Mike finally shed himself of the commute, saying goodbye to corporate America in March 2004, with Kendall following suit soon after.
Learn more about Carlisle Winery & Vineyards here.