Mendocino’s Next Generation of Star Winemakers

Mendocino's Next Generation of Star Winemakers
Photos by Alanna Hale

Maria Testa, Testa Vineyards

More than 100 years ago, Testa Vineyards was planted in Calpella, a town between Ukiah and Redwood Valley. The founder was Gaetano Testa, who had emigrated from Italy to San Francisco to clean up after the massive 1906 earthquake.

Today, Maria Testa keeps alive the tradition that her great-grandfather established.

She farms the 25 old-vine acres of Carignan, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Charbono, Zinfandel and Barbera, all certified organic, head-pruned and lightly irrigated. Some of the vines are more than a century old.

She uses some of the fruit to make 2,000 cases of Simply Black, a Cabernet blend, and Simply White, a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.

She sells the rest to Horse & Plow, Coturri Winery, Graziano and Sonoma-based winemaker Leo Hansen, who makes Leo Steen Calpella Red Table wine, a delicious field blend of Testa Carignan and Petite Sirah.

Alex MacGregor, Saracina Vineyards

The oldest of 11 children born to Fetzer Vineyards founders Barney and Kathleen Fetzer, John Fetzer founded Saracina Vineyards in 2001 on the site of the former Fetzer Sundial Ranch. In 2002, he hired winemaker Alex MacGregor to work alongside famed consulting winemaker David Ramey.

MacGregor focuses on making great red blends, tapping nearby blocks of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel planted in the 1940s, as well as the winery’s own Malbec. Saracina also produces Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, the latter from a block John planted in high school, and buys Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.

“John wanted to show people we could compete on a stage with Sonoma and Napa,” MacGregor says. “I think we’ve succeeded.”

Jason and Molly Drew, Drew Family Cellars

In 2004, Jason and Molly Drew drove up a long, twisty road along the Mendocino Ridge to look at a remote coastal property overgrown with heirloom apple trees. They bought a hillside spot elevated at 1,200 feet and planted seven acres of Pinot Noir.

“Everything added up for greatness,” Jason Drew says.

A Mendocino-only brand, Drew makes Pinot Noir, Syrah and Albariño, producing about 1,500 cases a year.

“I saw a lot of wines from Mendocino that had very nice structure, and to me, structure is a big, important part of the way I want to make wine,” Jason says. “I also saw a certain element of finesse. You’d have that ethereal quality, but also have all the richness I thought was there to make high-end Pinot Noir, but not too much.”

Jake and Ben Fetzer, Masut Vineyard and Winery
Photo courtesy Masut Vineyard and Winery

Adrianna Oster Gozza, Oster Wine Cellars and
Jake and Ben Fetzer, Masút Vineyard and Winery

Adrianna Oster Gozza is the daughter of Teresa Fetzer Oster and granddaughter of Barney and Kathleen Fetzer.

That makes her a third-generation winemaker on her mother’s side and fifth-generation grape grower through her father, Ken Oster. With advanced degrees in viticulture and enology, she’s the assistant winemaker at Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley.

Gozza worked briefly for several of her uncles at Jeriko Estate, Saracina and Ceàgo. She now works with her parents at Oster Wine Cellars, in Redwood Valley, producing organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon from their 40-acre estate vineyard. Gozza grew up close to her cousins Ben and Jake Fetzer (left), sons of the late Bobby Fetzer. The brothers were raised on the famed Home Ranch in Redwood Valley, where Fetzer Vineyards began.

After their father died in 2006, Jake and Ben continued to farm their parents’ 1,500-acre Redwood Valley ranch, which borders the old Home Ranch. Set on the western side of the valley, the property is largely planted with Pinot Noir.

After selling the grapes to wineries like DeLoach and Paul Hobbs, Ben and Jake produced their own wine in 2009, Masút, named after a former Pomo Indian settlement meaning “dark, rich earth.”

Published on November 20, 2015
Topics: California Winemakers