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How we got here

WINEGROWING USED TO BE THE SOLE PROVINCE OF FAMILIES WHO WERE ANCHORED TO THEIR PLOT OF LAND FOR GENERATIONS. BUT TODAY, IT’S NOT UNCOMMON FOR A PERSON OF MEANS TO PARACHUTE INTO, SAY, NAPA VALLEY, ERECT AN ESTATE AND FASHION A LUXURY WINE. THAT IS NOT OUR PATH. THIS IS . . .

FIRST TASTE

SOME EARLY EXPERIENCES THAT SET THE TABLE FOR SOSIE.

Regina: When I was eight or so, my maternal grandmother used to prepare wine for the kids during our Sunday lunches. She would mix red wine and fizzy water and we would drink our wine while the adults were enjoying theirs. This was their way of letting us participate in the experience and it became something of a ritual. It has stayed with me ever since.

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Scott: My grandfather owned a farm in upstate New York with a large vegetable garden. I spent summers there as a kid. I learned to drive a tractor, learned how good vine-ripened vegetables taste, learned how astonishing Nature is.

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Regina: My father was a doctor who worked for the World Health Organization. Being part of the UN they somehow had the right to import things wherever in the world they were, tax-free. One of those things was Chateauneuf du Pape. I remember the shape of those bottles and the crossed-keys of the papal crest. It was a symbol you could trust, my mom used to say. I never forgot that and as a young adult one of the first places I had to visit in France was Chateauneuf. To this day I still love those wines.

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THE GRAND TOUR

OLD WORLD LESSONS WITH NEW WORLD APPLICATIONS.

Regina: In 2006 we took a trip to the Loire in western France, which turned out to be quite an adventure. We rented a houseboat on the river Sarthe, a tributary to the Loire, and set sail for Le Mans. Scott acted as skipper, a role he had zero training for, except for a 30-minute lesson given in French, a language he had zero fluency in. Luckily there was a manual on board that I was able translate and read from each time we got into a pinch. We didn’t hit anything but we surely struck panic in many of the locals. 

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Scott: In 2008 we spend 10 days traveling the Côte de Nuits, walking the vineyards and tasting the wines. We had the honor of a private tour at Domaine Henri Gouges whose wines date back to the 1910's. I learned that even the great wines of Burgundy don't sell themselves.

On another leg of this trip we finagled an invitation to Domaine Matrot in Meursault. This is an extraordinary family business and has been for six generations. Thierry and Pascale Matrot have been joined by their daughters, Adele and Elsa. Elsa was leaving soon for an internship at Domaine Serene in Oregon. That a French vigneron believed she could learn from Americans was encouraging, to say the least.

 

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In 2016 we visited both northern and southern Rhone. We worked our way down from Côte-Rôtie to St. Joseph, where we spent an afternoon with Pierre Gaillard. Pierre is both supremely talented and insanely generous; he poured every wine he makes—61 in all—from every appellation, including Côte-Rôtie, Cornas and Condrieu. Overwhelming doesn’t begin to describe it!

Perhaps the most colorful and unexpected property we visited was Domaine de Gouye, also in Saint Joseph. It’s owned by Sylvie and Phillippe Desbos. There is no tractor here, just a plow horse named Ramses, who pulls his way through the individually staked vines. In the cellar is a vertical press from 1886. To witness the winery in action is to think you’ve traveled back in time. This was Syrah d’antan – made as it was 100 years ago with no modern frills. 

 

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CREATING OUR OWN BRAND

THERE’S A LOT MORE TO IT THAN WHAT GOES IN THE BOTTLE.

Regina: When we got into this business, it was with the conviction that our wines would stand for something. That they would not just have a style, but a purpose. We were going to craft our wines to be food-friendly. So: lower in alcohol, higher in acid, structured and layered and made in small batches with minimal intervention and the lightest touch of oak. What name might convey all that?

We went round and round until we ran out of ideas. So we hired a writer and gave him a brief: New world wines for old world palates. He gave us 50 names, about half of them French. This made our heads swim. But when we evaluated them based what the words mean, how they sound, how distinctive they are, Sosie (so-zee) rose to the top. It’s French for “twin or spitting image,” which neatly summarized our winemaking aspiration. The fact that it sailed through the trademark gauntlet proved just how original it was. 

 

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Regina: From the beginning we wanted to communicate the French influence on our California-grown wines. That influence lives mostly in the cellar and it’s mostly intangible. The design team came to us with a curious juxtaposition of a rooster and a bear, one to symbolize France, the other California. It was playful and original and—with Chris Wormell's artistry—beautiful.

 

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Scott: At one point or another all of us have had to get up in front of a room full of people and present something. It doesn’t matter if you’re pitching an idea, teaching a skill or reporting progress (or lack thereof). It’s terrifying at first but you suck it up, you master the material, you work the room.

You’d think after all these years I’d have no fear walking into any wine merchant, pouring my wine, telling my story and closing the sale. But when it’s your dream that you’re selling, your palate, your sweat, the stakes are much higher. It’s personal.

While we are not trying to make wines for everybody, we genuinely care what the trade thinks. They’re the ones who will help us build an audience for Sosie. There are no PowerPoints for that.

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2 VINTERS, 1 WIZARD & 4 GROWERS

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO TURN GRAPES INTO WINE.

There are thousands of decisions to make when you make your own wine. A few are monumental – what to make, where to grow it, when to pick it – but most are mundane. So much about wine is nuance. It’s the subtle accretion of lots of tiny decisions that is ultimately revealed in the glass.

It starts each year in the vineyard and doesn’t end until you pull the cork. (The choice of cork being yet another decision.) We are in the vineyards throughout the growing season and at the sorting table when the fruit comes in. We taste the berries, we check the sugars and acids, we call the pick. We pick which blocks will go into our wine (that’s what we’re doing in the photo). We choose the barrels – the cooper, the forest, the toast level.

The thing about making wine is, each vintage you start the process over again. So you’re never done making decisions. You’re always wondering what could be better, what could be different, what new thing is worth trying. If you’re into wine, you probably ask yourself these questions every time you shop. That’s just how it is.

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He’s a conjurer of Cabernet, a swami of Syrah, the pope of Pinot Noir. But you can call him Kieran. We met Kieran Robinson through one of our growers, Joe Vivio, who’d been supplying his Syrah for several vintages. Kieran had done a turn at Domaine Pierre Gaillard and had a deep appreciation for French viticulture and winemaking. Really, the decision to work together was a no-brainer

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Gabrielle is the Head Viticulturalist at Stagecoach Vineyard where she minds 200 distinct blocks subject to many variables and microclimates. She works tirelessly to fine-tune the care each vine receives so every vintage yields flawless fruit. As a level 3 Sommelier, she knows a good wine from a great one and brings that much more the job. When she isn’t tending world class grapes bound for 80 other wineries, she applies her Midwestern work ethic and UC Davis education to her own line of wines, Gamling & McDuck, which specializes in Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc.

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Growing grapes isn’t Joe’s job; it’s his passion. That’s not hyperbole; Joe actually has a day job working in tech. He’s an enterprise consultant for Dell. That’s how he and Scott first met. Joe would bring wines from his property to dinner. One evening Scott confessed his own interest in making wine. The timing was fortuitous, as one of Joe’s vineyard clients had just moved on. At Vivio Vineyards all the work is done by hand, by a local crew that’s there year-round. The attention to detail verges on obsessive. That’s what happens when growing is your passion.

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Elliott’s career in wine runs the gamut from marketing to publishing to retailing, ultimately returning to the land itself as a grower. Perhaps his most lasting contribution was founding the Wine Appreciation Guild, an imprint that has published over 150 titles pertaining to wine, from enology to art. This was a precursor to the Wine Institute, an advocacy group for the California Wine Industry, as well as a retail outfit selling wine racks, coolers and accessories. Elliott has crossed paths with every wine luminary you can name and has an anecdote for every one of them.

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