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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Lambert Bridge Winery - Sonoma County&rsquo,s Dry

Sonoma's Lambert Bridge - solid Producer of Classic Varietal Wines

One of the premiere wineries that seem to abound in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley is the historic Lambert Bridge Winery, located not far from the town of Healdsburg. Named after an old trestle bridge that still exists intact near the property, Lambert Bridge was initially part of the C.L. Lambert Ranch, a large holding that was developed in the early 20th Century. The unique bridge holds the distinction of being the only single lane, public bridge still in use in the valley that still provides passage across the aptly named Dry Creek.

Lambert Bridge Winery evolved when Gerard Lambert, no relation to the original owner, purchased part of the property and planted vineyards along West Dry Creek Road. Lambert constructed a modern winery in 1976 and released his first wines to excellent reviews. By the mid-1980’s, the winery had grown to over 20,000 cases and had earned a reputation as a cutting edge winery with incredibly rich and complex wines.

In 1993, the Chambers Family of Morristown, NJ became interested in Lambert Bridge and eventually purchased the property. The family already owned vineyard land in nearby Alexander Valley. Yearning to complete the cycle of grape-to-bottle, they had searched for several years for a winery to acquire. Lambert Bridge was a perfect match. The winery was situated near the family vineyards and in the premier growing region of Dry Creek. It was appealingly small, beautifully designed and had a great reputation with which to gain instant access into the marketplace. “The acquisition of Lambert Bridge presented us with a fantastic opportunity to do everything right and expand the reputation of an already great winery,” says winery President, Patti Chambers.

“My husband had first interested me in wine,” offered Lambert Bridge’s owner Patti Chambers, “it was just so incredibly beautiful and so in tune with nature. We had been coming to the wine country for several years and Lambert Bridge was the nicest place we had visited. We loved its specific history, natural charm and the rustic nature of the winery.”

With the experience and local knowledge gained from owning the vineyard in Sonoma County, the new proprietors secured the best in the wine business to run the winery. Among them, winemaker Julia Iantosca, who established her reputation during 11 years at nearby William Wheeler Winery where she produced a series of award-winning Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. The mandate was simple—produce wines comparable to the very best from Sonoma County.

“We were determined to produce wines that emphasized quality, and that meant controlling our production,” Chambers explained further. “We gathered together a first class production team and then set a realistic level of production.” That level currently hovers around 10,000 to 12,000 cases, and Patti Chambers even sees possible downsizing in the future.

“Our intention is to be able to grow all our grapes,” she added. “But we’re not there yet and we still buy a relatively small portion of our grapes.” Lambert Bridge is currently the handiwork of managing partner and grape grower, Greg Wilcox and his son Andy who oversee the winery’s entire operation. Julia Iantosca and veteran Napa Valley winemaker, Jill Davis work in tandem to craft all of Lambert Bridge’s critically acclaimed wines. They combine old world craftsmanship with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment, utilizing low-yielding estate-grown fruit that is hand sorted. Specific challenges include combining grapes from different areas of Dry Creek Valley to produce her trademark Merlot and Bordeaux varietals blends.

“Different parts of our valley tend to provide unique characteristics to the grapes,” Iantosca explained. “Our northern fruit is juicy and provides excellent acidity to the wines. The southern fruit is from a cooler climate that gives it rich flavors and ripe tannins that provide structure to the wine. I always try and put the two together to make a truly balanced and delicious wine. It seems to have worked thus far.” This professional arrangement pleases Patti Chambers who calls her staff “truly wonderful” and people, “whose input we really depend upon to make the correct decision.” Patti concedes that she doesn’t consider herself a wine expert in any sense of the matter. She sees her relationship with her staff as a shared responsibility that has provided Lambert Bridge Winery with some compelling results.

Such feelings are most refreshing in this world of sometimes-idealistic winery owners.
We’re quite sure that Patti Chambers and Lambert Bridge Winery will be around for the long haul, continuing to perfect their wines and garnering praise from the wine-drinking public and wine industry media along the way.

Perhaps the linchpin of Lambert Bridge Winery’s operation is the formidable winemaking duo of Julia Iantosca and Jill Davis. Julia arrived at Lambert Bridge a dozen years ago from William Wheeler Winery while Jill arrived in 2005 from notable stints at Buena Vista and William Hill Wineries.

The selection of Julia Iantosca to be winemaker at Lambert Bridge has proven to be inspired. She has demonstrated both her remarkable knowledge of local vineyards and her extraordinary talent for creating memorable wines.

A native Californian who was active in 4-H as a child, Julia became fascinated with wine early. Her interest broadened while attending San Jose State University, when she began tasting fine wines with a friend who managed a wine shop.

Following her transfer to the University of California at Davis to study microbiology, a faculty advisor suggested she consider a major in fermentation sciences. She enjoyed the course work, but her decision to become a winemaker was cemented during a six-month internship at Dry Creek Vineyards, in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. ‘I appreciated that winery work followed the cycles of the seasons—always changing, yet ultimately familiar. The sense of community and easy camaraderie within the local winemaking community was also a revelation. I felt I’d found my destiny.”

Julia graduated from U.C. Davis in 1979 and immediately went to work as winemaker for Stevenot Vineyards, in the Sierra foothills of Calaveras County. In 1982, she returned to Dry Creek to become winemaker at William Wheeler Winery, a position she would hold for the next 11 years. Working both with grapes grown on the Wheeler estate and grapes purchased from carefully selected local vineyards, she produced a series of award winning Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays.

Since being appointed winemaker at Lambert Bridge in 1993, Julia has personally supervised virtually every aspect of wine production, from vineyard care to bottling. She has cemented the foundation for fulfilling the mandate of Lambert Bridge’s owners, to produce wines equal to the very best from Sonoma County.

After a period of time, the winemaking responsibilities will be handed off to industry veteran, Jill Davis. Jill is a native Californian, born and raised in the small, northern town of Eureka. At the age of twelve her family moved to the Sacramento area just a short distance away from the famous winemaking school of U.C. Davis.

At that point, the Davis family had no ties to the wine industry and certainly Jill had no inkling that wine would soon take a significant role in her life. That is until an acquaintance of her Dad’s called to offer him some Zinfandel grapes that were left in his vineyard after harvest. After picking the grapes Jill and her Dad borrowed a How-To book, bought a garbage can, found some yeast in the kitchen and tried their hand at home winemaking. ‘I knew nothing about wine let alone winemaking and it really piqued my curiosity,” Jill said remembering that watershed event in her life.

After a few years her Dad handed the winemaking reins over to Jill who had already set her sights on the eonology program at U.C.Davis. Upon graduation Jill landed a job at Beringer as a Lab Technician until moving on to Buena Vista Winery. At Buena Vista she had the unique opportunity to tutor under wine-industry giant, Andre Tchelistchefff for a dozen years. ‘That was an incredible experience and profoundly influenced my winemaking,” recalls Jill.

In 1994 Jill was hired away to William Hill Winery for eight years before striking out on her own as a consultant. One of her consulting clients was Lambert Bridge whose owners twisted her arm to come on board full-time in 2005.

Jill’s immediate mandate at Lambert Bridge is to re-energize the brand while putting more focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends. The winery’s flagship, Merlot will always remain a significant part of their identity but eventually Cabernet will takes its place at the helm.

With the brilliant quality of recent releases to build from and Jill’s commitment to excellence, the future of Lambert Bridge looks very exciting.