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Gold Medal Wine Club
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Fog Crest Vineyard - Sonoma County

93 Point Winner from Wine Enthusiast!

James Manoogian is not the first former restaurateur that opted out of the restaurant world for the lure of the wine industry. In fact, the move was precipitated by the fact that Manoogian sought to be part of the viticultural aspect of the wine business, a side that offered him a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Manoogian (Man-ou-gee-an) is of Armenian descent, and originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in political science but, in 1989, he opened a restaurant in San Francisco called Limbo. The restaurant proved successful, but after a number of years, Manoogian found himself becoming more interested in the wine industry than the demanding 24/7 frenzy that was the restaurant business. He was also interested in starting a family and decided the restaurant environment wasn’t the best possible setting for that to happen.

In 1994 to 1995, Manoogian and his wife Rosalind began looking for property in the Sonoma County region where his mother and sister already resided.

“We wanted a parcel of land that we could really develop into something,” he recalled. “It had to be big enough to meet our needs and also within our price range.”

Eventually, the couple stumbled across a beautiful former apple orchard on thirty acres north of the town of Sebastopol that was only 3 to 4 miles south of the Russian River. After purchasing the property, the Manoogians planted the acreage and went about the process of producing first class grapes.

“We wanted to push the envelope with regard to our grapes,” added Manoogian. “We started selling to a top local winery (Stryker Sonoma) and were initially pleased with the results. When it became apparent that they were heading toward a red-wine oriented winery, we decided to go into business for ourselves.”

Fog Crest Vineyard became a reality with the release of almost a thousand cases in 2005. Fog Crest has increased production slightly but is still under the 2,500 case level its permit allows.

“We have always worked under the philosophy that we make sure everything we do is the very best it can be,” admitted James Manoogian. “We have tried to not make any mistakes. We feel it is a great luxury to be able to pick the grapes and only have to move them 100 yards for processing.”

He also was extremely pleased that Fog Crest Vineyard’s wines have been received so well. “When we started all this, I really didn’t know all that much about winemaking so I went out and hired some people who did. I can’t tell you how happy I am with our winemaker Daniel Moore and our consulting winemaker David Ramey. They bought into our quality expectations and took it from there. I had the comfort of sitting back and letting it all happen.”

Fog Crest Vineyard has recently completed a new winery facility that will allow it to produce estate wines for as long as the Manoogians wish. The fact that the company’s early releases have been so heralded simply means that Fog Crest will continue to work even harder to excel in the competitive wine industry. “We are not in a position to make many mistakes,” he informed. “The business is just too competitive. We are delighted that we have been able to carve out a small niche and develop a small base of loyal customers.”

Fog Crest also intends to construct a hospitality segment as part of its operation that will make use of its marvelous location on the Wilson Grove section of Sonoma County. Completion date on the new hospitality wing isn’t until 2011, when enough positive cash flow should be available from the small winery.

“The ground around here is mostly sandstone,” remarked Manoogian, “and perfectly suited to the type of grapes we want to grow. When you add the natural beauty of all the surroundings, Fog Crest becomes something really special.”

It is refreshing to find a winery owner so perfectly in tune to his surroundings and place in the business world. James Manoogian admits that the vineyards are his favorite part of the equation. While he enjoys drinking his wines (as well as the wines of others), he prefers to be “among the plants” when it comes to day-to-day activity.

James’ wife Rosalind has also become active in the Fog Crest Vineyard program and now handles all the website updating as well as assisting in the sales and marketing efforts.