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von Strasser Winery - Diamond Mountain, Napa Valle


"One of the top Cabernet Sauvignon producers" - Robert Parker

For a man who has already accomplished a great deal for his 42 years, Rudy von Strasser might seem a great deal older to the casual observer.

A relative newcomer to the wine industry, von Strasser entered the wine business in 1989 via a rather circuitous route. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1980 with a thesis on hard-cider production under his belt, he set about to rejuvenate the cider industry. After a stint with Robert Mondavi, he was instead drawn to the wine industry and enrolled in UC Davis, graduating in 1985.

A family friend offered him an introduction to Baron Eric de Rothschild at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Rudy became the first American intern at the venerable chateau. After his year was up, Rudy returned to Napa Valley and worked for both Trefethen and Newton. In 1989, immediately after his marriage to his wife Rita, the couple began looking for a vineyard property on which to make their home.

A small block of property came on the market on Diamond Mountain that was originally planted in 1970 and was known as Roddis Cellars, but was currently being used by its then owner the British Gilby Gin Family as a corporate retreat. In 1990, the von Strassers bought the estate and began the task of renovating and modernizing the property. After several acquisitions, today’s von Strasser Estate comprises approximately fifteen acres of prized vineyards.

Several years ago, Rudy von Strasser began the problematical task of petitioning the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to acknowledge Diamond Mountain as an official (AVA) American Viticultural Area. He enlisted the help of many of his neighbors in the project and doggedly pursued his task. In late May of 2001, the undertaking was completed and the resultant Diamond Mountain Region wines are allowed to use the “Diamond Mountain District” appellation on their labels. By doing so, the BATF acknowledged both the history (138 years of grape farming) and the great quality of the wines produced by Diamond Mountain’s vintners.

von Strasser is of Hungarian/Austrian descent and doesn’t feel that he has made his mark at this point in his life. Some observers might disagree, but von Strasser’s resolution is persuasive.

He and Rita have three small children aged 6, 4 and 2 and therein lies the motivation for Rudy von Strasser’s present aspirations. His family life is all-important to him and his winery’s current 14,000 total cases (8,000 Freestone, 6,000 von Strasser Estate) provide him with ample outlets for his enthusiasm and energy. He never regrets his exodus from the Eastern environment his Wall Street father offered him and his proximity to big business.

With Rudy von Strasser, smaller is better as long as smaller is considered in concert with quality. His station within the confines of the Diamond Mountain appellation (comprising only 5300 total acres, of which approximately 465 are actually under vine) assures that his desire for a diminutive, high quality facility will be fulfilled.

Perhaps most importantly, Rudy von Strasser is still a full-time winemaker and is gifted with the ability to test accepted winemaking mores and techniques. He has always been infatuated with the Petit Verdot grape, of which he has 1-½ acres under vine. Most of his reserves and self-phrased “ultra wines” have a massive dose of the varietal. He feels that Petit Verdot contains the darkest color and most intense blueberry-like aroma of any Bordeaux varietal, in addition to the most viscous mouth feel. This all adds up to powerful, stimulating wines and that description brings a smile to Rudy von Strasser.

“Quality cannot be disguised,” he points out simply.

That benchmark embodies Rudy von Strasser’s efforts and his life. Try the 1998 von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon and you will see what we mean.



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