Gourmet and Grapes - Vintners



rob davis of jordan vineyard and wineryRob Davis Winemaker

Rob Davis holds the rare distinction in California of serving as winemaker at a singular winery for more than 35 years. He arrived in the Alexander Valley in 1976 to oversee production of Jordan's inaugural vintage: a Cabernet Sauvignon made in the Bordeaux style. By 1979, Davis introduced a Chardonnay with the hope of someday discovering in Sonoma County a distinct minerality similar to the great white wines of Burgundy. His tremendous technical background, empirical wisdom, desire for discovery, and meticulous quality standards remain a guiding force in the vineyards and cellars at Jordan.

Immediately after receiving a bachelor's degree in fermentation science from the University of California Davis, Davis accepted the winemaker position at Jordan, excited about the opportunity to apprentice under a man considered America's most influential post-Prohibition winemaker, Andre Tchelistcheff, who had been hired by the Jordan family as consulting enologist. "I went to two schools to learn about winemaking," Davis says. "The school at Davis and the school of Andre Tchelistcheff." From 1980 until Tchelistcheff's retirement in 1992, the two winemakers took trips to countless chateaux, domines and caves in France that influenced all aspects of winemaking at Jordan. The two became close friends and found that they shared a common philosophy of balanced winemaking, and an appreciation for the relationship between food and wine in everyday life in Europe.

When second-generation vintner John Jordan took the reins in 2005, Davis was thrilled to accept Jordan's challenge to elevate quality even higher. Fruit sourcing became Davis's first objective, identifying top growers whose exceptional fruit could complement the best blocks of Bordeaux varieties planted on the Jordan Estate. Davis and the winemaking team also extended bottle age of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon to two full years beginning with the 2006 vintage, launched an extensive soil mapping study, and decreased the malolactic fermentation on Jordan Chardonnay to retain even more minerality and acidity. His inner scientist keeps experiments constantly in progress in the vineyards, laboratory and cellars.

Davis's commitment to the timeless qualities of balance and elegance has never wavered. While many winemakers have followed the trend of making overripe, heavily oaked, high-alcohol wines to wow critics in blind tastings, Davis continues to pick his Cabernet Sauvignon grapes at optimal sugar levels that preserve acid and keep alcohols near 13.7 percent. His philosophy of aging in a combination of new and used barrels helps create a wine that is complex but not over extracted. Thanks to Davis's tenure, the consistent characters delivered in every vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay - beautiful fruit, silky tannins and a lingering memory - have made Jordan an icon and one of the most popular wines on restaurant wine lists for two decades.

Born and raised in Sacramento, Davis remains active in cooperative research at UC-Davis, the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the Sonoma County Technical Tasting Group. He is an avid swimmer, cyclist and runner, competing in several triathlons each year. Similar to his mentor, Andre, he continues to travel throughout the world in an effort to learn more about the mirracle of wine.


gustavo gonzalez of mira wineryGustavo Gonzalez

mira-wineryWith two decades of fine wine production experience, Gustavo brings a unique integration of all facets of winemaking to Mira Winery. After completing a very broad university education, Gustavo began his professional winemaking career as a laboratory technician at Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa. Demonstrating both an expedient assimilation of the winemaking process as well as creativity and innovation, Gustavo's zeal for winemaking was recognized early in his pursuit. The result was ever increasing winemaking responsibilities, assignments abroad (Gustavo speaks English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German) and an uncanny intuition that makes Gustavo the expert winemaker he is today.

An accomplished winemaker responsible for some of the most famous wines in Napa Valley, Gustavo has gained a well-earned reputation around the world: his wines consistently receive high marks. In fact, one of Gustavo's wines, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 2001 Masseto, was described as "perhaps the greatest Tuscan red ever" and was awarded a perfect 100 point rating by Wine Spectator. During Gustavo's tenure at Robert Mondavi Winery all of his Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve wines achieved at minimum a 95 point rating from the top publications, a point streak never before accomplished by this winery.


sarah halstead with laurent perrierSarah J. Halstead

laurent-perrier-us Sarah J. Halstead was born and raised in the small town of Flushing, Michigan. Trained as a classical pianist from a young age, Sarah has always been invigorated by performing and entertaining. As dreamers do, she ventured to The Big Apple to pursue her passions.

While braving the NYC acting world, Sarah immersed herself in the restaurant scene and developed a new passion: wine. In pursuit of establishing herself as a wine representative, Sarah began her career at Winebow serving the city's most persnickety wine directors. She worked simultaneously as a Sommelier at Del Friscos Steakhouse in Rockefeller Center, while successfully completing the Wine, Spirits, Education & Trust higher certificate.

With her reputation flourishing, The Hess Collection recruited Sarah as their New York State Manager. Under the tutelage of Donald Hess she spent two years enhancing her expertise before seeking out new horizons to soak up. Sarah settled in Miami Beach, Florida, and joined Allied Domecq (now Pernod Ricard), as Champagne Ambassador for Perrier Jouet and GH Mumm. During this eight-year tenure Sarah's fixation for golden bubbles grew to trump all other passions.

Now in her third year with the highly esteemed Laurent Perrier US, Sarah feels like a Champagne flute overflowing with joy and fulfillment. She believes her journey to discovering her ultimate passion is reflective of how the Champenoise discovered Champagne - infinite patience in the face of trials and tribulations, and glorious happenstance.


thom horsey with ste michelle wine estatesThom Horsey

Thom Horsey, National Wine Educator for Ste Michelle Wine Estates, is a 35 year veteran of the wine industry having begun his career in a retail wine shop in Ellicott City, MD in 1978.

Since getting the wine bug at 19 years old, Thom's efforts were focused on a career in the wine industry. While getting a BS in Business Management at Virginia Tech, he taught wine classes to the student population thru the university short course program and also made a wine in the University's Food Science & Technology Department's Wines & Vines class.

After graduation he spent 2 years at the distributor level in Maryland before joining Robert Mondavi Winery in 1988 as the DC Market manager. After several promotions and 16 years he transitioned to Constellation Wines after their purchase of Mondavi where he spent two years before joining Rodney Strong Wine Estates in 2007. Thom joined Ste Michelle Wine Estates in 2013.

Thom has conducted well over 1200 training's, seminars, dinners and tastings on almost every aspect of wine. He founded the Ladybug Wine School in Richmond, Virginia, which helps raise money for the Ladybug Fund, an effort to ensure Children with Special Needs get the therapy and services they need. Thom lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.