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Lambert Bridge - Dry Creek Valley - Sonoma


Sonoma's solid producer of classic varietal wines.

One of the premiere wineries that seem to abound in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley is the historic Lambert Bridge Winery, located not far from the town of Healdsburg. Named after an old trestle bridge that still exists intact near the property, Lambert Bridge was initially part of the C.L. Lambert Ranch, a large holding that was developed in the early 20th Century. The unique bridge holds the distinction of being the only single lane, public bridge still in use in the valley that still provides passage across the relatively named Dry Creek.

Lambert Bridge Winery evolved when Gerard Lambert, no relation to the founder, purchased part of the original property and planted vineyards along West Dry Creek Road. Lambert constructed a modern winery in 1976 and released his first wines to excellent reviews. By the mid-1980's, the winery had grown to over 20,000 cases and had earned a reputation as a cutting edge winery with incredibly rich and complex wines. In 1993, the Chambers Family of Morristown, NJ became interested in Lambert Bridge and eventually purchased the property. They had been attracted by the area's natural beauty and its promise of a truly bucolic lifestyle.

'My husband had first interested me in wine,' offered Lambert Bridge's owner Patti Chambers, 'it was just so incredibly beautiful and so in tune with nature. We had been coming to the wine country for several years and Lambert Bridge was the nicest place we had visited. We loved its specific history, natural charm and the rustic nature of the winery.' Once the winery's sale was finalized, Chambers started to return Lambert Bridge to the status it formerly enjoyed under its founder---that of a small family-owned winery.

'We were determined to produce wines that emphasized quality, and that meant controlling our production,' Chambers explained further. 'We gathered together a first class production team and then set a realistic level of production.' That level is currently around 18,000 cases, and Patti Chambers even sees possible downsizing in the future.

'Our intention is to be able to grow all our grapes,' she added. 'But we're not there yet and we still buy a relatively small portion of our grapes.' Lambert Bridge Winery owns three separate planted parcels in Dry Creek Valley that total some 50 acres. The property also includes an old farmhouse that has been carefully renovated and serves as the Chambers' family home when they visit the winery.

While the Dry Creek valley area has been primarily known for growing some of the worlds' best zinfandel, it is the compelling Merlot grape that Lambert Bridge has chosen to feature. To that end, Patti Chambers has assembled a meticulous management team to help Lambert Bridge Winery in its quest to produce some of California's premier wines. Lambert Bridge is currently the handiwork of general manager and winemaker Julia Iantosca, a dedicated professional who oversees the winery's entire operation. Julia's specific challenges include combining grapes from different areas of Dry Creek Valley to produce her trademark Merlot and Bordeaux varietals blends.

'Different parts of our valley tend to provide unique characteristics to the grapes,' Iantosca explained. 'Our northern fruit is juicy and provides excellent acidity to the wines. The southern fruit is from a cooler climate that gives it rich flavors and ripe tannins that provide structure to the wine. I always try and put the two together to make a truly balanced and delicious wine. It seems to have worked thus far.' This professional arrangement pleases Patti Chambers who calls her Julia and her staff 'truly wonderful' and people, 'whose input we really depend upon to make the correct decision.' Chambers said that she and her family spend an average of one week per month at the winery and that she personally oversees all major decisions.

But she also conceded that she doesn't consider herself a wine expert in any sense of the matter. She sees her relationship with her staff as a shared responsibility that has provided Lambert Bridge Winery with some compelling results to this time. Such feelings are most refreshing in this world of sometimes-idealistic winery owners. We're quite sure that Patti Chambers and Lambert Bridge Winery will be around for the long, long haul. In fact, we're even willing to bet on it



Lambert Bridge winemaker duo, Julia Iantosca and Jill Davis.

Perhaps the linchpin of Lambert Bridge Winery's operation is the formidable winemaking duo of Julia Iantosca and Jill Davis. Julia arrived at Lambert Bridge a dozen years ago from William Wheeler Winery while Jill arrived in 2005 from notable stints at Buena Vista and William Hill Wineries. The selection of Julia Iantosca to be winemaker at Lambert Bridge has proven to be inspired. She has demonstrated both her remarkable knowledge of local vineyards and her extraordinary talent for creating memorable wines.

A native Californian who was active in 4-H as a child, Julia became fascinated with wine early. Her interest broadened while attending San Jose State University, when she began tasting fine wines with a friend who managed a wine shop. Following her transfer to the University of California at Davis to study microbiology, a faculty advisor suggested she consider a major in fermentation sciences. She enjoyed the course work, but her decision to become a winemaker was cemented during a six-month internship at Dry Creek Vineyards, in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley. 'I appreciated that winery work followed the cycles of the seasons'always changing, yet ultimately familiar. The sense of community and easy camaraderie within the local winemaking community was also a revelation. I felt I'd found my destiny.'

Julia graduated from U.C. Davis in 1979 and immediately went to work as winemaker for Stevenot Vineyards, in the Sierra foothills of Calaveras County. In 1982, she returned to Dry Creek to become winemaker at William Wheeler Winery, a position she would hold for the next 11 years. Working both with grapes grown on the Wheeler estate and grapes purchased from carefully selected local vineyards, she produced a series of award winning Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. Since being appointed winemaker at Lambert Bridge in 1993, Julia has personally supervised virtually every aspect of wine production, from vineyard care to bottling. She has cemented the foundation for fulfilling the mandate of Lambert Bridge's owners, to produce wines equal to the very best from Sonoma County.

After a period of time, the winemaking responsibilities will be handed off to industry veteran, Jill Davis. Jill is a native Californian, born and raised in the small, northern town of Eureka. At the age of twelve her family moved to the Sacramento area just a short distance away from the famous winemaking school of U.C. Davis. At that point, the Davis family had no ties to the wine industry and certainly Jill had no inkling that wine would soon take a significant role in her life. That is until an acquaintance of her Dad's called to offer him some Zinfandel grapes that were left in his vineyard after harvest. After picking the grapes Jill and her Dad borrowed a How-To book, bought a garbage can, found some yeast in the kitchen and tried their hand at home winemaking. 'I knew nothing about wine let alone winemaking and it really piqued my curiosity,' Jill said remembering that watershed event in her life.

After a few years her Dad handed the winemaking reins over to Jill who had already set her sights on the eonology program at U.C.Davis. Upon graduation Jill landed a job at Beringer as a Lab Technician until moving on to Buena Vista Winery. At Buena Vista she had the unique opportunity to tutor under wine-industry giant, Andre Tchelistchefff for a dozen years. 'That was an incredible experience and profoundly influenced my winemaking,' recalls Jill. In 1994 Jill was hired away to William Hill Winery for eight years before striking out on her own as a consultant. One of her consulting clients was Lambert Bridge whose owners twisted her arm to come on board full-time in 2005. Jill's immediate mandate at Lambert Bridge is to re-energize the brand while putting more focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends. The winery's flagship, Merlot will always remain a significant part of their identity but eventually Cabernet will takes its place at the helm.

With the brilliant quality of recent releases to build from and Jill's commitment to excellence, the future of Lambert Bridge looks very exciting.


Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Portabella Mushrooms


Ingredients

Serves six

4 pork tenderloins, trimmed
6 large portabella mushrooms, washed and trimmed

Marinade:
4 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1/2 cup Merlot
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper


Instructions

Whisk together all marinade ingredients. Place the pork tenderloins and mushrooms into two separate Ziploc bags and evenly distribute marinade. Refrigerate for at least two hours and no more than eight. Preheat grill to medium heat. Cook pork for about 8-10 minutes per side. Add mushrooms and cook about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove meat and let rest. Slice across the grain. Cut mushrooms in half and serve alongside the pork. Serve warm with polenta or pasta, and/or saut�ed vegetables.




Jim May's Chicken Breast stuffed with Italian prosciutto and Asiago cheese


Ingredients

Serves four

3 whole boneless chicken breasts, halved
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup asiago cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh black pepper
6 thin slices prosciutto


Instructions

Finely chop garlic in food processor. Add basil and gradually add oil, process until smooth. Add pine nuts and asiago cheese
and mix in short pulses until just blended. Season with salt and pepper. Lay chicken breast flat on cutting board and make a horizontal cut, creating a pocket without cutting all the way through. Place 1 slice prosciutto in each pocket. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of pesto mixture on top of prosciutto. Close pocket and spread 1/6th of remaining pesto under the skin of each breast. Place skin side up on a baking sheet and place in pre-heated 400� oven for 30 minutes until starting to brown. Serve warm with polenta or pasta, and/or saut�ed vegetables.



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