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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Dragonette Cellars - Santa Ynez Valley

92 Points Wine Enthusiasts, 91 Point s Wine & Spirits

As with many small wineries, it might be considered something of a cliché to say the owners of upstart Dragonette Cellars all love wine. A thorough examination into the new winery has proved beyond a doubt that those same owners really love wine. In fact, their love of the almighty grape governs their every action.

To set the facts, Dragonette Cellars is the product of brothers John and Steve Dragonette, and their best friend, Brandon Sparks-Grillis. It seems that John and Brandon found themselves working for famous Los Angeles wine retailer Wally’s and formed a bond that would eventually lead to the establishment of Dragonette Cellars. John’s younger brother Steve came aboard and the entity were soon in the business of making wine.

“We all come from different business backgrounds,” confessed Brandon Sparks-Grillis. “John was a lawyer taking a wine hiatus from his career and Steve was working as a computer engineer. I was a geology major in college, but I had already turned to the wine business and had worked in various capacities for some significant wineries both in California and abroad.”

The plan hatched by the three friends was quite simple. Establish a winery that would use prime Santa Barbara County grapes and hand produce the finest wines possible. The trio figured they had something of a leg up since they had a wealth of experience between them. John had studied wine on his own for the past ten years and had apprenticed at renowned Fiddlehead Cellars. He had also worked for three years for one of the area’s top vineyard management companies, and had developed great relationships with a number of the leading growers in the area. Sparks-Grillis’ experience included the cultish Sine Qua Non Winery of Manfred Krankl and the highly-rated Torbreck Vintners of the Barossa Valley in Australia.

The name Dragonette was selected for the winery because it carried a certain panache of mystery and uniqueness. The family name was originally Italian (Dragonetti) but was changed when the family emigrated from Italy in the 1930’s.

“We all thought that Dragonette was perfect for our new venture,” continued Brandon Sparks-Grillis. When Steve’s wife Jen came up with the logo that looked and felt medieval, we knew we had something special. Graphic artist Jon Krauss took it from there and our labeling worked out much better than expected.”

The Dragonette Cellars logo is a story in itself. The logo is actually an old alchemist symbol for the ‘elixir of life’ or ‘drinkable gold’. During medieval times, it was believed that gold contained certain medicinal properties and the alchemists sought a process by which gold could be dissolved into a liquid that could then be ingested to obtain healing properties. For Dragonette Cellars, the symbol was a perfect fit.

“We have been told that many of our customers identify with the story behind Dragonette Cellars, and that is exactly what we had hoped for,” added Sparks-Grillis.

Dragonette Cellars’ first release was a miniscule 300 cases just three years ago. Aided by exceptional scores and medals, the tiny winery has expanded and will produce a little under 2,000 cases this year with a two-year goal of 3,000 cases as its ultimate goal.

“Since we do all the work ourselves, from vineyard to bottle, we feel that the 3,000 case level is all we can handle,” Sparks-Grillis continued. “With us it is all about hand growing and hand producing our wines. We even have long-term relationships with some of our growers that allow us to go into their vineyards and perform the maintenance work ourselves. That way we are assured of getting exactly what we want from the vines, and I can’t begin to tell you how important that it to making great wines.”

Dragonette Cellars’ trio of owners says they are truly humbled by the public’s response to their wines as the new kid on the block. They produce all wines at their smallish winery in Lompoc, California and have recently opened a sparkling new tasting room in nearby Los Olivos across from the Corner Coffee House.

The arrangement between the three close friends has worked to perfection and more accolades can be expected in the future. “We all grow, crush, taste and decide on each wine,” Sparks-Grillis concluded. “Along the way we have met some really wonderful people who really enjoy our wines. I ask myself, what more can you ask for? Somehow, I never seem to get an answer.”

  1. Dragonette
    2007 Syrah
    Santa Ynez Valley
    Santa Barbara County


    92 - Wine Enthusiast
    id: 635