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Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery - Sierra Foothills


Highway 12 explores six world-class wine regions and a viticultural heritage dating back to 1825.

It is a roadway that is every bit as legendary as Napa Valley’s esteemed Highway 29. Beginning in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, Highway 12 winds and bends its way westward through the vineyards and marvelous landscapes of the Foothills Region, through Lodi and its venerable growths of old Zinfandel and then further west down through Napa and Sonoma’s famed Carneros Region. After its transverse of the entirety of Sonoma Valley, Highway 12 winds up at the bluffs of the Pacific Ocean and the rapidly emerging appellation that covers the Sonoma Coast.

Actually, wine was first planted in the present Highway 12 corridor in 1825 by the Franciscan padres of the Sonoma Mission, the northernmost mission in the series of missions that transgressed California in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Commercial vineyards first began appearing in the mid-1800's almost simultaneously all along the current route as far east as the legendary '49er Gold Country.

It took Paul Giusto and Michael Sebastiani, co-founders of the rapidly growing Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery, to embrace this wonderful stretch of highway by naming their fledgling winery after its legendary stretch of roadway. Giusto is a Sonoma State communications and marketing graduate who formerly worked with Sebastiani during his tenure at the well-respected Viansa Winery.

“To us it sort of seemed quite simple,” noted Giusto, 39, and a San Francisco native. “Sometimes, the most opportune facets of a business are those you find right under your nose. All the great wineries that are located on or just off Highway 12 are what have helped make this area so wine famous. We just decided to dedicate our place to it and show just how wonderful wines made from Highway 12 fruit can be.” Giusto banded together with Michael Sebastiani of the noteworthy Sonoma family to start Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery back in 2003. With Sebastiani as the winemaker and Giusto as the sales and marketing figure, they first produced a smallish 650 cases of their first release to the general public. Production started out slowly and over the past few years really started to pick up, topping out at 20,000 cases for this vintage, a level that Giusto feels is comfortable for the operation.

“We wanted to run a lean business for the first few years,” confided Giusto. “We will eventually reach somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 cases, but the exact date is yet to be established. It is entirely up to our ongoing sales and the confidence the general public has in our wines.” Judging from Highway 12’s initial successes, their wines are already held in extremely high regard by the trade press and in the opinion of wine competition judges who have awarded a number of Gold Medals to the winery’s first few years of entries.

“It sort of helps that we utilize just about every varietal that is grown in Sonoma,” added Giusto. “So many different varietals give us a great deal of flexibility and allow us to do things other wineries that are more restricted regarding their fruit simply cannot do.” Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery has also come full bore with the opening of its incredible tasting room, just two years old and situated on the southeast corner of Sonoma’s famous plaza. Considered the last piece of the puzzle, the tasting room offers visitors to the historic area a glance inside the real character of the winery.

“Our tasting room allows us to be competitive with the other more established wineries,” Giusto concluded. “It took us a while to complete, but we think it is on a par with many of the other finer wineries. It is the showcase we have been waiting for.”

Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery is atypical of other area wineries in that it makes use of a number of different growing appellations to present its portfolio of wines. Its wines offer insight into these various growing areas while maintaining a unique style that sets it apart from other wineries. We congratulate this exciting new winery and its diverse programs of wine innovation on its impending success. Would that more wineries emulate this kind of unique wine originality.


  1. Highway 12
    2007 Merlot
    Highway 12
    Sonoma County
    Sonoma County

    $18.00

    $22.00
    Gold Medal
    id: 858
    Special
    Gold
  2. Highway 12
    2008 Chardonnay
    Highway 12
    Carneros Region
    Napa Valley

    $17.00

    $20.00
    91 Points - Exceptional
    id: 859
    Special
    Gold

Michael Sebastiani

Like many of the other modern winemakers, Michael Sebastiani graduated from nearby UC Davis with a degree in winemaking. However, Sebastiani explained that while the degree most certainly covers the technical side of winemaking, he feels that the subtleties gleaned from years of family winemaking and the close associations he has had with other winemakers have helped mold the skills that make him a leader in his field.

Michael Sebastiani

At the ripe old age of 38, Michael Sebastiani has performed nearly all jobs related to the wine industry. As the fourth generation of his iconic family, he has worked in the vineyards since he was nine and has been a noted winemaker for more than a decade. Michael is a product of the Sebastiani/Viansa winery progression that has chosen to go out on his own with the formation of Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery. Even though he left Viansa a number of years ago, he waited until the right situation came along to try a new venture.

‘Everything in the wine business works extremely slowly,” Michael recently pointed out. ‘I took a long time to look around and see what might ultimately work.” Even though Michael and co-founder Paul Giusto had worked before at Viansa, it wasn’t until years after leaving the winery that Giusto and Sebastiani’s paths crossed again.

‘One day we were sitting down together discussing some ideas and the same thought came to each of us at about an identical time. The prospect of building a winery around a series of vineyards along Highway 12 was both engrossing and challenging to us.” Sebastiani and his partners used a small town family-style approach toward developing their winery style.

‘To me, winemaking is much like cooking. A good cook prepares food he knows his guests will enjoy. It is much the same for me as a winemaker. I want our customers to really enjoy our wines as much as possible. I also consider wine a living entity, one that somehow always seems to figure itself out. My partners agreed with me that we should let our wines express themselves in their own manner,” he further related. Michael Sebastiani has also welcomed the chance to work again with many of the growers he first knew through his family’s wineries. He has worked with these farmers since his youth and appreciated the work that went into producing world-class fruit suitable for making great wines. He considers these vineyards the true foundation of Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery and is dedicated to establishing his mark with his new entity.

‘I am aware of the fact that the general consumer wants a certain type of wine,” Sebastiani confessed. ‘These same consumers are forcing wineries to make their wines a certain way if they want to be successful. I am of the hope and belief that we can return to some of the original approaches to winemaking that were in use when I first started in the business when I was a youth.”

To make his point, he points out the different types of Chardonnay being made. ‘Basically, there are two styles of Chardonnay I really prefer. One is the cleaner style made back in the 1980’s and second is the newer style that combines butter and oak to produce a specific mouth feel. I believe we can make both of these wines side-by-side and make both into incredible wines.” While Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery surges ahead, Michael Sebastiani feels the large number of wines still unreleased by the winery will bode well for the near future. He singles out grapes originating from Serres Vineyards and Sangiacomo Family Vineyards as the ultra quality fruit he has to work with. Both have sold their grapes to the highest-level wineries in the past with incredible awards and respect from around the wine world.

‘I have been lucky to work with these growers in the past,” he added. ‘They are among the best possible suppliers and I want to make them proud and add to their list of awards. I really want to put Highway 12 on the map (no pun intended).” Michael Sebastiani seems to have found a comfortable niche for his remarkable winemaking talent, a talent he knows can lead his new company in practically any direction.

‘Our future is wide open,” he finalized. ‘We are on a course that could take us anywhere.” Make that Highway 12 and Michael Sebastiani could be quite correct.

About The Region

True to the name on the bottle, all fruit that goes into Highway 12 wines must come from what the owners term, ‘a stone’s throw from the actual Highway 12,” that curves its way through Carneros and Sonoma Valley. While it might seem to some potentially confining, Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery has lined up some of the finest vineyards in the Sonoma Valley and connecting appellations from which to draw its fruit, a move that basically guarantees quality and name recognition. Such an arrangement also offers a degree of micro-climatization that allows a unique insight into fruit that can change its character with the curve of the road.

‘It is part of our tribute to the great growing prowess of the area that we choose specific vineyards that possess certain characteristics,” offered co-founder Paul Giusto. ‘In our role as vintners, it is our job to bring together this myriad of fruit in a style that is specifically Highway12’s, and no one else’s.”


Grilled Skirt Steak with Spicy Lime Marinade


Ingredients

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 ½ lbs. skirt steak


Instructions

In a shallow dish or 1 gallon zip-top bag, place oil, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin and salt, and stir or shake until well blended. Lay the skirt steak in the dish or bag and turn a few times until coated. Marinate in refrigerator for two hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Lightly oil the grill grate and pre-heat a med-high grill. Pat the steak dry and grill for 8-10 minutes, turning once for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice skirts into 3 inch pieces. Serve immediately with a black bean, corn and chopped heirloom tomato salad, dressed with a cilantro/red onion vinaigrette.




Green Curry Salmon


Ingredients

2 cups jasmine rice
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. minced ginger
1 Tbs. Thai-style green curry paste
½ red bell pepper, julienned
1 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
½ cup chicken broth
3 Tbs. fish sauce
1 Tbs. lime juice
2 tsp. sugar
2 lbs. filleted salmon, skinless, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 15-oz. can Asian straw or button mushrooms, sliced
1 8-oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
Cilantro for garnish


Instructions

Cook rice according to directions and keep warm. While rice is cooking, heat oil in a wok or large deep-sided skillet over med-high heat. Add ginger and curry paste and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Add the salmon, green onions, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until salmon is just cooked through — about 5 minutes.Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro. Serve over rice. Enjoy with a glass of Highway 12 ‘Napa Valley’ 2008 Chardonnay.



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