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Highway 12 Winery - Sierra Nevada Foothills


93 Points at the Beverage Tasting Institute’s World Wine Championships

It is a roadway that is every bit as legendary as Napa Valley’s esteemed Highway 29.

Beginning in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s, 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.” They have welcomed the chance to work with many of same growers Sebastiani 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. Guisto and Sebastiani now consider these vineyards the true foundation of Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery and are dedicated to establishing their mark with this new entity. Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery has also come full bore with the opening of its incredible tasting room, just a few 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.


  1. Highway 12
    2006 Proprietary Red Blend
    Highway 12
    Sonoma Valley
    Sonoma County

    $48.00

    $55.00
    93 - BeverageTesting Insti
    id: 929
    Special
    Platinum

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