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Sojourn Cellars - Sonoma County


96 Points! - Pinot Report

After the infamous dot-com crash of 2000, many in the high tech world were left scrambling, but amidst the bust came a very unexpected success story that’s the basis for this month’s Pinot Noir Series selection, Sojourn Cellars.

Ex-computer software salesman Craig Haserot decided to move to Sonoma County after the crash, hoping to pursue a new career path while escaping the cold weather of San Francisco. Haserot began playing tennis at the local Maxwell Farms Regional Park and struck up a friendship with doubles partner, Erich Bradley, who was then the winemaker at Arrowood Winery and Audellsa (both in Sonoma) where he specialized in producing Cabernet Sauvignon from select local vineyards.

Haserot and Bradley bonded over their passion for Pinot Noir, and began playing with the idea of making their own wine. Haserot had the background in sales and marketing, while Bradley was happy just making wine – without all the business details. It was the beginning of a wonderfully successful friendship and business partnership.

In 2001, the two made 150 cases of project Cabernet from Sonoma’s Glen Ellen vineyard – and the finished product was better than they could have anticipated.

“When we released the Cab, it was actually really good and we realized there was potential with our wines,” Haserot explained. “The following year, we upped the Cab production to 250 cases and then to 350 cases in 2004.”

With Bradley’s experience in making Sonoma Cabs, it was only natural that Cabernet Sauvignon would be the first endeavor for Sojourn Cellars, but it wasn’t long before their love for Pinot Noir lead to new experimentation.

“Our real passion was always Pinot, so in 2004 we decided to make 210 cases of Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir,” Haserot stated. This first Pinot release took home 95 and 92-point ratings and really set the stage for the caliber of wines produced thereafter.

What Haserot and Bradley didn’t anticipate was the reaction 2004’s Sideways movie would have on the California Pinot Noir industry. “Our sales literally took off!” Haserot enthused. The two increased their Pinot production tenfold and what started out as an avid hobby had become an incredibly successful business move.

When Haserot and Bradley brainstormed names for their budding winery, a friend aptly suggested Sojourn, which actually has two significant meanings: the French sojourner refers to a journey, vacation or road trip, while the English sojourn implies rest, relax and respite.

“That’s how we came up with the lawn chair,” Haserot explains about the wine label’s simplistic depiction. “People really like it, too! It’s how drinking a glass of wine should be.”

Sojourn Cellars’ new Tasting Salon concept in downtown Sonoma further promotes the winery’s appealing philosophy with a living room-type setting of cozy furniture and a dining room table (no tasting bar). Both Haserot and Bradley join guests for private 45-minute seated sessions to taste their limited production, highly rated wines – with no tasting fees.

“It’s a part of what we do,” Haserot explains. “We’re like, ‘Come on into our house! Sit down, relax…enjoy yourself. If you want to buy something, that’s great. If not, that’s OK too.’”

At a current production level of 3,600 cases, Haserot is comfortable with the size of Sojourn Cellars and would like to only slightly increase the production size in the coming years.

“The goal is to reach 5,500 cases and then lock it down. Our wines are made in an artisan fashion in really small lots to ensure the highest quality and I’m unconvinced we can make more than 5,500 cases and keep the quality level the same,” Haserot revealed.

Sojourn Cellars’ most recent portfolio includes 6 Pinot Noirs and 3 Cabernets from some of Sonoma’s most highly coveted and desirable vineyards.



Erich Bradley

A native Californian from the San Francisco Peninsula, Erich Bradley became interested in wine when his family bought a twenty-six acre ranch in Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon in 1998. Since then, Bradley studied winemaking at U.C. Davis and viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College before gaining incredible experience from winemakers (and mentors) Richard Arrowood and David Ramey.
In 1999, Bradley started as a harvest lab technician at Arrowood Vineyards and Winery that eventually lead to a full time winemaking position. He also began making Cabernet Sauvignon for Audelssa Winery and worked closely with winemaker/consultant David Ramey for a couple of years. Bradley continues as winemaker for Audelssa today.
He found a great partnership with Haserot when forming Sojourn Cellars in 2001, and the two continue to enjoy experimenting with small lots of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon each harvest.
In his free time, away from the winery, Bradley enjoys playing tennis and golf with friends and family.

About The Region

Sojourn Cellars is fortunate to obtain excellent fruit from a number of highly desirable Mendocino and Sonoma County vineyards, including Sangiacomo Vineyards, which is the source for this month’s featured 2006 Pinot Noir. The historical Sangiacomo family has been maintaining a number of vineyards for over 80 years, and this vintage is a blend from two of their most distinctive sites (80% Roberts Road Vineyard and 20% Lakeville Vineyard).

First planted in the mid 1990s, these vineyards experience cool, sunny weather in the early fall, which allows for ample hang time, slow ripening, and the retention of wonderful natural acidity. Blending the fruit together into one wine simply made a better Pinot Noir and this vintage is among Sojourn’s most highly rated releases.

Sojourn’s Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinots have consistently garnered the most critical acclaim among their Pinot profile — which explains why this wine continues to be their flagship release.


Garlic Prime Rib


Ingredients

1 (10 pound) prime rib roast
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme


Instructions

Place the roast in a roasting pan with the fatty side up. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Spread the mixture over the fatty layer of the roast, and let the roast sit out until it is at room temperature, no longer than 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the roast for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue roasting for an additional 60 to 75 minutes. The internal temperature of the roast should be at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare.

Allow the roast to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving so the meat can retain its juices.



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