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Manzoni Family Estate Vineyard - Monterey County


A story of three generations with a grand vision

The Manzoni family has been farming in Monterey County for several decades, beginning in 1921 when Joseph Manzoni emigrated from Switzerland in search of a better life. Like many Swiss immigrants, Joesph grew up with the Old World traditions of making homemade wine and Grappa, practices that would eventually grow into what is now the small, premium winery of Manzoni Family Estate Vineyard.

Like many other Swiss immigrants, Joseph got into the dairy business for a time, but ultimately ended up with a crash crop farming practice in the Salinas Valley. He brought his son Louis and grandsons Mark and Michael on board, making the Manzoni farm truly a family affair. Joseph kept his home winemaking traditions alive, introducing it to friends and fellow workers, while passing on the traditions to his family as well.

In 1990, the Manzonis found themselves with five extra acres of land that didn’t suite for vegetable growing, and decided to plant rootstocks to sell to neighboring wineries. After nine years, they were ready to try their own hand at grape growing and planted their first few acres of Pinot Noir in 1999.

“We sold a few tons from the first harvest to wineries close by, but kept the rest of it for ourselves,” Mark Manzoni explained. “We made our first homemade wine and it did really well in a tasting competition, so we decided to keep moving forward. In 2003 we officially made our start and released 197 cases of Pinot Noir.”

Mark Manzoni, now 46, oversees the vineyard management at Manzoni Family Estate Vineyard and shares ownership with his brother Mike, working together to make the family winery a success.

The winery, which produces less than 2,000 cases annually, has a small portfolio of wines including two Pinot Noirs, a Syrah, Chardonnay, and an upcoming limited release (100 cases) of Pinot Gris expected for this summer. The Pinot and Syrah come from the estate vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands region, while the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are sourced from nearby boutique family vineyards. All of the wines are made with distinction in mind, keeping a close eye on flavor development and barrel selection to give each wine and vintage its own unique character.

“We like to choose wine styles that set us apart,” says Mark Manzoni. “Our winemaker, Steve Pessagno, has been with us since the beginning and together we’ve been experimenting with different oaks and blending techniques to find the style that’s right for us. We want to be different from our neighboring wineries, so customers have a reason to come visit us and see what we have to offer.”

What Manzoni Estate Vineyard has to offer are truly impressive wines that showcase some of the best winemaking practices of the region. Their strong family philosophy and meticulous vineyard methods set them apart from the crowd and create a memorable experience for winery visitors and local enthusiasts.

Unlike many winery owners who often spend years studying viticulture and enology at prominent universities, Mark Manzoni credits his knowledge and success with the vineyard and winery to his neighbors and family friends in the industry – learning as he goes and experimenting with different techniques to learn first hand what works and what doesn’t. It is an impressive quality when you consider the caliber of wines Manzoni continues to turn out year after year, and the collection of accolades that only seems to keep growing.

Like many small businesses, surviving the economic recession has been a challenge for Manzoni Family Estate Vineyard, but with new wine projects on the horizon and incredible determination, the family is poised and ready.

“It has really been a struggle for us wineries



Pessagno, Jekel, Lockwood, a relentless passion

Stephen Pessagno was first introduced to winemaking by his grandfather, Anthony Escover, in 1974. Although he pursued a career as a mechanical engineer, Stephen’s relentless passion for making wine continued to grow. This home hobby, however, quickly outgrew the confines of his garage, and he decided to further his studies earning an Enology degree from California State University at Fresno. Since graduating, Stephen has been VP and winemaker for Jekel Vineyards and in 1991 to 2004 for Lockwood Vineyards, where he shared an acquaintance with the Manzoni family. His knowledge and experience have been applied to produce extremely limited-edition wines of distinction, character, and elegance for Manzoni Family Estate Vineyard and his wines have garnered numerous accolades over the years.

Stephen also owns and operates his own winery, Pessagno Winery, which is conveniently located just one mile down the road from Manzoni.


Grilled Chicken Ratatouille


Ingredients

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs. chopped fresh marjoram
1 tsp. salt
Olive oil cooking spray
1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise,
stemmed and seeded
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise
4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch
thick rounds
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about
1 1/4 pounds), trimmed and tenders
removed
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar


Instructions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Combine oil, basil, marjoram and salt in a small bowl and reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture in another small bowl; set aside. Coat both sides of bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, tomato and onion pieces with cooking spray.
Grill the vegetables, turning once, until soft, and charred in spots, about 5 minutes per side for the pepper, 4 minutes per side for the eggplant and zucchini and 3 minutes per side for the tomatoes and onion. As the vegetables finish cooking, place them in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Rub the tablespoon of reserved herb mixture on both sides of chicken and sprinkle with pepper. Grill the chicken until cooked through and no longer pink in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Meanwhile, transfer the grilled vegetables to a cutting board and chop into 1-inch pieces. Return to the bowl and toss with vinegar and the remaining herb mixture. Serve the grilled chicken with
the ratatouille.



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