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Charles Creek Vineyard - Sonoma Valley


95 Points, Wine Enthusiast magazine

When Bill Brinton took stock of his red wines’ most recent scores, he was pleased that he had five current releases with a score of 90 or higher, the mark generally considered to convey superior praise on a particular wine. What’s more, the elevated scores indicated a change in statue that the co-owner of Sonoma Valley’s Charles Creek Vineyard can truly relish. “When we started all this,” the 62-year-old Brinton recently remarked, “my wife (co-owner) Gerry and I made some promises to ourselves. We really wanted to do it right and make some really remarkable wines. It has taken us a while to do this, but I think we have really persevered in style.”

Brinton and his wife are both transplanted mid-westerners, from Illinois and Iowa. They met in San Francisco and decided to marry. In the spring of 1984, the Brinton’s purchased a second home in Sonoma to be able to spend some quality time with their two sons, Charley and Bobby. The house was neatly set in a hilly 10-acre parcel that shouted ‘plant me’ to its new owners.

It took the Brintons another five years to actually plant some vines on the property. By 1995, their grapes produced enough fruit that the first vintages of Charles Creek became a reality. The first vintages were tiny, 75 of the 1995 harvest, 125 of the 1996 and a whopping 225 of the bountiful 1997 crops.

Meanwhile, Bill Brinton was also busy developing a natural product and nutritional beverage firm in San Francisco, a task that occupied most of his available time. Gerry had also secured her Harvard MBA and was employed full time in the accounting business. While the initial acceptance level of Charles Creek Vineyard and its small production could be considered remarkable, the simple fact was that the Brinton’s did not have the time to produce any further wines and the Charles Creek Vineyard was temporarily suspended. But the idea of a first class producing winery remained foremost in the back of the minds of the Brinton’s.

By the year 2001, Bill Brinton had sold the beverage company and was prepared to resume operations for Charles Creek Vineyard. With Gerry’s aid, the pair carefully gathered together a number (thirteen to be exact) long term leases on some of Sonoma’s top producing vineyards. With their supply of top fruit guaranteed, Charles Creek next employed noted winemaker Kerry Damskey to produce its wine.

Damskey’s first competition wine was the now famous 2002 Las Patolitas Vineyard Chardonnay that captured Best Wine at the Annual Sonoma Harvest Fair. In that single occurrence, Charles Creek Vineyard had established itself as a major player on the Sonoma wine scene.

In the ensuing years, Charles Creek Vineyard has grown to a 10,000-plus case producer. “Depending on the fruit we get,” informed Bill Brinton, “we might produce as much as twelve or thirteen thousand cases, but no more. We are completely comfortable that we can handle the quality aspects of our wines at this level, and quality is what we are all about.” For the record, the name Charles Creek Vineyard originated from the Brinton’s oldest son Charley’s first name and also Bill’s grandfather, Charles Deere Wiman, a direct descendent of the founder of the John Deere farm machinery company.

A beautiful tasting room facility was added recently that is located on the Plaza in the City of Sonoma. “The facility offers us great exposure and also serves as a laboratory for our wines,” explained Brinton. “We are able to get a number of our consumer’s input into our small production wines and that input is really useful in our making decisions about future wines.” Bill and Gerry Brinton also believe that they are consumers first and winemakers second. They have always viewed the business in that mode and the practice has proven successful.

“When we look at a wine and its price, we both feel there are certain aspects that must be met before we can actually enjoy the wine. If the consumer feels that the wine and its taste are justified as far as its price is concerned, then they will purchase additional bottles and cases and the winery will eventually prosper. If anything is out of line, then the winery will suffer. We are determined not to let that happen.”

Judging from the awards and accolades that continue to roll in, there is little chance of that happening


  1. Charles Creek
    2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
    Charles Creek
    La Vista
    Napa Valley

    $49.50

    $55.00
    95 - Wine Enthusiast
    id: 266
    Special
    Platinum


Risotto with Fresh Peas and Mushrooms


Ingredients

Serves Six

1⁄4 Cup unsalted butter
2 Medium shallots, finely chopped
1 Cup Arborio rice
2 Cups shelled fresh peas (about 2 pounds unshelled)
1⁄2 Teaspoon salt
1⁄4 Teaspoon finely ground pepper
3 Cups hot chicken stock
1⁄4 Pound mushrooms, sliced
1⁄4 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in heavy saucepan. Add shallots and cook over low heat until soft but not browned. Stir in rice and sauté lightly until rice is coated with butter. Add peas, 1⁄4 t salt, 1/8 t pepper and 1⁄2 c stock. Simmer over medium heat stirring often, until stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock 1⁄2 c at a time until it is absorbed. Stop adding stock when rice is tender - should take about 20 minutes.
Heat 1tablespoon butter in skillet. Add mushrooms, remaining salt and pepper and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned. When rice is done, gently stir in mushrooms, remaining butter and Parmesan cheese with a two pronged fork. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.




Charles Creeks†Crab Soup


Ingredients

Serves Six

1 Large can chicken broth
1 #2 can creamed corn
2 Eggs, beaten
1 Green onion chopped
6-10 oz. fresh crab meat


Instructions

Heat broth to a boil, add the creamed corn and boil again. Add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly. They will blend in with the soup and give it a little more body. As you stir they feather out in the liquid. When the eggs are cooked - just a minute or two, add the crab and heat through. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped green onion.



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