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Sbragia Family Vineyards - Sonoma&rsquo,s Dry Cree

93 Points, Wine Spectator magazine

As a student, Ed Sbragia (pronounced Spra-ghia) tried to get out of being in the wine business, but his effort in that regard failed. Simply stated, the Sbragia family has been in the wine business for generations, first in their native Italy (in the North, around Lucca) and lately in the confines of Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

Ed Sbragia’s grandfather came to the United States in the very late 1800’s. He married and parented Ed’s father, Gino, who eventually returned to Italy. Then, in 1927, Gino returned to California for good and began raising his own family. Now 62, Ed Sbragia insists he has been in the wine business his entire life. Gino was a noted winemaker and the family always assumed Ed would follow in his father’s footsteps. However, Ed decided differently. He graduated from UC Davis with a degree in chemistry, not enology, and attempted to find work in a field unrelated to wine. Jobs were hard to come by at the time, but he finally landed a position as a research chemist with E. & J. Gallo Winery. The experience changed Ed Sbragia’s attitude about wine and the wine industry.

“I saw for the fist time what the combination of science and agriculture could accomplish,” he recalled recently. “I had grown up in a farming environment and even though my dad made terrific wines, I didn’t see the connection. Then I decided to go to Cal State Fresno and get my masters in enology and stay in the wine industry.” After graduating in 1975, Ed returned to Sonoma Valley and signed on with Louis Foppiano at his Foppiano Vineyards winery in Healdsburg, one of California’s oldest family wineries. Two years later, he became assistant winemaker to Myron Nightingale at prestigious Beringer Brothers Winery in St. Helena, one of the most respected wineries in Napa Valley. In 1984, Sbragia was named wine master at Beringer and stayed until opening Sbragia Family Vineyards at the turn of this century.

“I genuinely loved Beringer and all the people there,” Sbragia added. “When I told them what I wanted to do about starting my own family winery, they helped me a great deal. I was able to crush our fruit at Beringer and other parts of the process. They also agreed to fulfill my sales and marketing functions, something that they still do today.” Over the years, Sbragia invested in vineyard property and today owns 47 acres that he calls the Home Ranch. In 2001, Sbragia family Vineyards acquired the old Lake Sonoma Winery at the end of Dry Creek Road that immediately became its new home. Located on the eastern hills, the winery sits on bench land surrounded by mature Zinfandel grapes. It offers unparalleled views of the entire Russian River Valley and also the nearby Warm Springs Dam and its fabulous aquatic landscape. In addition to a splendid tasting room, Sbragia Family Vineyards offers a private tasting facility called The Ark, named after a former Sonoma restaurant owned by Ed Sbragia’s parents. Sbragia Family Vineyards’ first releases came in 2001, about 1,000 cases of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Production has risen slowly and today the facility produces over 10,000 cases annually, with a goal of doubling its size in about five years.

“To make our winery really practical, it is necessary for us to produce about 8 – 10,000 more cases,” explained Ed Sbragia. “We have all the equipment and a corresponding permit. With the vineyards I own and the great fruit sources I have in Napa Valley, I think this is a very doable number.” Sbragia Family Vineyards is indeed a family affair. Son Adam, 32, is the winemaker/director of operations. Son Kevin,22, works all harvests and Adam’s wife, Kathy runs both the tasting room and the office side of the business. Wife Jane and daughter Gina help out in the tasting room or wherever needed. Ed Sbragia says that approximately 80% of his wines are from Sonoma, the remainder from Napa Valley. He is most pleased with the acceptance of his winery’s style that he describes as, “a little more elegant than some of the Napa wineries.”

Reception of Sbragia Family Vineyards has been remarkable since its inception with high marks and numerous medals to its credit. Plaudits aside, Ed Sbragia feels that his operation is still a small family winery that produces excellent wines through great care and attention. He believes this is the way all wines should be made.

  1. Sbragia
    2007 Zinfandel
    Dry Creek Valley


    93 - Wine Spectator
    id: 753