June 9, 2018
Lexi: What is your favorite aspect of this business and why?
Greg: It's hard to put my finger on my one favorite aspect of this business, but certainly what gives me the most pleasure is the farming part of the vineyard operation. The satisfaction of preparing new ground, analyzing the lay of the land for vineyard orientation, planting, staking, trellising, and then seeing it come into production is difficult to put into words. It is a combination of initial enthusiasm and then a quiet contentment as the vineyard develops and starts producing its first crop and we get an indication of the quality of future vintages.
April 20, 2018
Lexi: What was the worst thing or moment that ever happened in the business, grape growing or winemaking over the last 45 years?
Greg: There is no singular event that stands out to me as a disaster or worst moment, but rather events or situations that we've had to deal with and overcome. Changes in the general marketplace or a downturn in the economy can be distressing but rarely are momentous or catastrophic and can be handled by changing marketing strategy. And in wine making we've never had a situation that has been disastrous on any scale. Perhaps some years and some varieties are not ideal, but the fact that we grow over 30 varieties mitigates the chance of having a completely poor year.
February 1, 2018
Our first year of planting was 1973 and we planted 2-1/2 acres of Merlot, 4 acres of Zinfandel and 3-1/2 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. The next major planting was 1975 with 2-1/2 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, 2 acres of Chardonnay, and 1/2 acre of Flora. In 1975 we also made our first Barbera from a small experimental vineyard in Placer called Bald Hill. This ignited our love affair with what would eventually become our flagship wine.
5) Which grape variety, of the over thirty types you've grown and worked with, would you say is the "best" for this specific property and why?
It's difficult to select any one variety as "the best" for this property since so many do well at this location given its multiple micro-climates, slopes and exposures. But if pressed I would be inclined to prefer the Italian varieties which would include Barbera, Primitivo, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Aglianico all of which have performed well and have made intense, flavorful wines. In terms of a white variety, Sauvignon Blanc has been the most impressive.
September 28, 2017
LEXI: What were those first couple of years on the property like? Describe the people and work that went into getting the winery started.
GREG: The first few years were challenging and demanding, but in retrospect not stressful. We had both left our jobs and were working for ourselves. Well, technically we were working for Sue's father Dr. Babbin, being 10% owners in the B&B ranch making $500/month farming pears and planting vineyards. But all the decisions were ours; Dr. Babbin gave us free rein to develop the business as we saw fit. It wasn't until 1981 that we became 50% owners and subsequently majority owners.
Initially we were essentially pear farmers but clearing and planting 10 acres of vacant land to vineyard. Part of the orchard was 3 acres of peaches that was more demanding than any other aspect of the operation. Elmo had a list of customers that would purchase the peaches but only on the same day they were picked. So up at 5:00am every day to pick and pack fresh peaches for eager, but discriminating customers. After one summer of this abuse, Sue decided that the peach orchard had to go and it became the site of our first vineyard, Merlot, planted in 1973. There was another 5 acres of Empress plums that were picked and sold to Blue Anchor packing in Loomis, but were quite profitable and easier to handle than the peaches, so we continued to farm them until 1990.
March 27, 2017
1) What inspired you to be a winemaker?
There were multiple factors that played a role in my becoming a winemaker. Probably the most significant was spending a lot of time at the winery and vineyard founded by my grandfather Anton Nichelini in Napa Co. in 1890. When I was growing up my cousin, Jim Nichelini, ran the winery and I spent time helping during harvest as well as winter pruning. This experience laid the groundwork for my initial love of growing grapes and making wine.