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Family of Wine — How a Creative Son Keeps the Pisonis’ California Legacy Going

in Business

I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, we trade stories about travel and soil types, terroir and residual sugar, and we talk of taste and food and restaurants. We recommend wines to one another, we drink, and we learn a lot.

In Wine Talk, I introduce you to some of my friends, acquaintances, and people I meet as I make my way around the world, individuals who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste, who farm and make wine. You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well. 

Pisoni is a name that needs no introduction — especially to lovers of wine. First, there’s Gary Pisoni, who, back in the 1980s, convinced his farming family to plant grapes on their land in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Those hallowed 40 acres of vineyards have been producing great fruit — syrah, chardonnay, and, of course, pinot noir — since then.

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Meet the New Guard of natural winemakers in Sonoma Valley

in People
Dan Marioni and his team working the harvest on Sonoma Mountain.

Natural wine encapsulates wine made from organically and biodynamically grown grapes – by winemakers working with naturally occurring native yeast – adding and taking away little throughout the winemaking process.

All natural wine begins in the vineyard with sustainably farmed fruit. Some winemakers dogmatically believe in an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to producing wine “naturally,” taking what is known as a zero/zero approach, meaning absolutely nothing is added nor subtracted throughout the winemaking process. Other winemakers are more loosely inspired by the natural wine movement, choosing to cherry pick practices like biodynamic and regenerative farming, spontaneous fermentation instead of inoculation, and very few additions in the cellar besides sulfur.

Over the past decade or so, natural wine has begun to catch on in a big way, with a growing portion of the wine drinking world falling for the liveliness and unique characteristics of natural bottles and new and exciting wine projects popping up throughout California and the rest of the world. Despite a relative dearth of winemakers working in a natural style in Sonoma Valley, this region happens to be home to some of the most renowned and longest-operating natural winemakers in the country.

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