Balletto Vineyards & Winery
Russian River Valley
Beckman gave up a job as a news journalist in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia for a job in San Francisco with a biotech website. That led to his exploration of Sonoma wine and yet another career change: winemaking. He earned an enology degree at UC Davis and worked his way up to become Balletto’s winemaker in early 2009. His talent put two wines on our Top 100: a lovely 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir and a silky red Pinot Noir.
Trained in biochemistry, Ana Keller’s move to winemaking was a natural. A passion for plants didn’t hurt. Keller (seen in photo with her husband, Diego Tomda) works with her winemaking mate, Alex Holman, to produce brisk, focused Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Keller’s Petaluma Gap estate vineyard east of Petaluma, where wind and fog from the Pacific Ocean preserve the fresh acidity inherent in the grapes. The Keller 2012 La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, a Top 100 selection, reflects how fruit grown in a chilly climate can be transformed into elegant, food-friendly wines.
MacLaren Wine Co.
Born in Scotland, a resident of France for 10 years, and well-versed in French wine, Law brought a European sensibility to MacLaren, a small winery in Sonoma founded in 2007 by him and his wife, Heather.
Their focus is on cool-climate Syrah, although his 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley knocked our socks off to earn a Top 100 spot.
Brian & Janice Schmidt
Dry Creek Valley
“Who are these guys?” 2015 North Coast Wine Challenge judges asked when they learned they had awarded 97 points to the Estate 1856 Tzabaco Rancho Vineyard Duvall’s Prospect Cabernet Sauvignon from
Dry Creek Valley. The “guys” are the husband and wife team of Brian and Janice Schmidt; his family has farmed a portion of the former Tzabaco Rancho property in Dry Creek Valley for six generations, with Brian
helping his family transition to vineyards. Janice cut her winemaking teeth for 20 years at Jordan Vineyard & Winery, where she worked with its winemaker, Rob Davis, and legendary consultant Andre Tchelistcheff.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
Behind every executive winemaker — Bob Iantosca in this case — is a hands-on, day-to-day winemaker who doesn’t always get the credit deserved. Urberg is that guy, taking over most of the winemaking decisions at this sparkling- and still-wine producer. After 20 years with Gloria Ferrer, Iantosca has taken on more marketing responsibilities, but not before becoming the most-awarded sparkling wine maker in the U.S. Urberg, a Detroit native with a chemistry background, has filled Iantosca’s shoes admirably, as evidenced by his two bubblies that cracked the Top 100.