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Fiddlehead Cellars - Sta. Rita Hills


93 Points - Wine & Spirits magazine

There are many things to note about Fiddlehead Cellars and its engaging owner Kathy Joseph, the least of which is her appealing personality and ability to relate her winery’s most appealing story.

Starting at the beginning, Kathy Joseph is originally from Evanston, IL, and chose to enter pre-med while attending the University of Wisconsin. At UW, she found micro-biology and chemistry to be fascinating studies and excelled in their seriousness and content. When it came time for med school, Kathy decided against the field of medicine but sought solace in other industries that could afford her the chance to work in her cherished scientific fields.

It was 1980, and the wine industry beckoned to Kathy Joseph. She had been familiar with wine and was more than a casual drinker of the glorified grape. She applied to UC Davis for graduate school and made a trip to Sonoma to interview with some possible wineries.

At Simi Winery, Kathy had the good fortune to interview with Zelma Long, the iconic female winemaker and a leading figure in bringing female winemakers to the fore in the wine industry. Six months later, Kathy was offered a job with Simi and her career in the wine industry had begun.

“I told my husband about the job offer and he agreed to move,” she recalled. “We were just young enough to pick up and move across the country. It was a wonderful opportunity that I couldn’t afford to miss.”

The new job allowed Kathy to apply her scientific skills and also attend to her graduate studies at UC Davis. During this period and immediately after, Kathy’s keen perception of what it took to be successful in the wine business reached high levels.

“I always believed in hands-on approach to anything I attempted. I worked on several internships and saw exactly why everything happened the way it did. Attention to detail, various way of doing things – it all made up just why things happened to the wines.”

A stint at Robert Pecota Winery near Calistoga made her aware of the business side of wine, the side of the business that wasn’t taught at Davis. From this experience, Kathy was able to write the business plan for her own winery, Fiddlehead Cellars.

It was 1988 when Fiddlehead Cellars first saw the light of day.

“I spent a lot of time developing the business plan,” she went on. “I felt I needed to create a niche for the new entity, one that didn’t exist. It needed a purpose so that others would take interest in it and me.”

Joseph decided to concentrate on two varietals, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, both of whom were undeveloped to their potential in her mind.

“I realized that it would be a great challenge, but that’s what I am all about. I approach most things with eagerness and energy and I really don’t see many limitations,” she added. “I also set about to find a locale that was also underrated as far as growing was concerned. That was a lot harder but I think I managed to be successful in the end.”

Joseph chose the Santa Rita Hills area for her vineyards, the district that has recently become the darling of the lower coast growing area. There she planted her Fiddlestix Vineyard, where she now resides in a small house on the property along with the winery.

For the record, Fiddlehead as a name wasn’t decided until the project was almost two years old. One day, Kathy was gardening in her fern bed and recalled the simple, melodic and memorable botanical term that describes the coiled frond of an emerging fern leaf….a fiddlehead! Well, fiddlehead led to fiddlestix and Kathy considers herself ‘Head Fiddle’. It somehow all seemed to make great sense.

From a miniscule 150 cases in 1991, Fiddlehead Cellars has grown to around 5,000 cases annually, a level Kathy feels is perfect for her operation. Any larger case production and she senses she would lose the close control she now enjoys over her most productive wine portfolio.

Fiddlehead Cellars’ industry attainments have come frequently and from many sources. Fiddlehead is now considered a formidable player in the boutique category of California wineries.

This is exactly what Kathy Joseph had in mind when founding the business. She admits she still feels a remarkable experience in retelling the story of her winery from its inception to what goes on today.

Her winery’s achievements couldn’t happen to a more pleasant and personable individual


  1. Fiddlehead
    2008 Pinot Noir
    Fiddlehead
    Seven Twenty Eight - Santa Rita Hills
    Santa Barbara County

    $39.00

    $42.00
    93 - Wine & Spirits
    id: 1236
    Special
    Platinum

Kathy Josepth - Owner/Winemaker

Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members,

When it comes to my wine, a few things matter the most: it has to taste good, it has to make me want to take that second sip, and the journey to make the wine has to be rewarding. My love of making wine must be reflected in every sip!

Fiddlehead is a happy family of hard workers who love the challenge of making great wine, who share my commitment to sustainable farming and operations and who thrive on sharing the pride of our handmade approach. Together, we nurture the vines, we invest in the highest quality barrels and equipment and we don’t release our wines until they taste absolutely delicious.

It’s exciting for me to share with you my flagship Pinot Noir. This wine, called ‘Seven Twenty Eight,’ embodies my dedication to seeking out extraordinary places that allow this grape to show its true colors as a most versatile and appealing wine. In recognition of its “roots,” it purposefully bears its place name after the mile marker, 7.28, of our Estate Fiddlestix Vineyard, on Santa Rosa Road, which is smack dab in the middle of the glorious Sta. Rita Hillas AVA. This wine captures the cool coastal influence on Fiddlestix fruit and is a blend of all six clones planted in my little piece of paradise. It delivers year after year, has silky textures, great concentration of spice, luscious body and that all important sex appeal for with this Burgundian-based wine is famous. It’s incredibly true to its varietal, true to its roots and always aged for several years in the bottle prior to release for your ultimate enjoyment.

Around the country, from New York to Hawaii, it warms my hear that this wine is celebrated as a favorite. Our annual virtual toast of ‘728’ Pinot on 7/28 has made wonderful friends around the globe, and I invite you to join us this year and raise a glass of ‘728’ on Sunday, July 28th.
From our Vineyard to your glass – With Cheers!

Kathy Josepth
Owner/Winemaker
Fiddlehead Cellars ~ Specializing in sustainably produced Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc
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