David Vergari takes a non-interventionist approach to winemaking, and succeeds
in producing distinctive, unique bottlings of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon
from some of northern California’s top vineyard sources.
From the time he was five, David Vergari knew that wines held a special interest for him. As a youth, Vergari vividly remembers sampling his great uncle’s homemade red wine when he and his parents visited his family in San Francisco. Born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to Atomic Energy Commission-employed parents, the Vergaris moved back to Northern California’s East Bay in the mid 1950’s. David attended and later graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Latin American History. He served as a Navy corpsman attached to Marine units during the latter stages of the Vietnam War and returned home to enter the financial business. At one point, while he was pursuing a masters of business degree in college, his girlfriend at the time asked him what he really wanted to do with his life. Vergari thought for a second and blurted out, “why make wine, of course.” Vergari now explains that while his answer surprised him, it really could have been expected. “Since I basically grew up in and around wine country, I guess my heart was there all the time. My parents had a place across the road from Korbel in Sonoma County and I had hung around wineries and vineyards since I was a kid.”
Once he made the decision to enter the wine arena, David Vergari really did it in the right manner. In 1989, he enrolled at UC Davis to learn “both the theory about winemaking and grape growing and also to achieve the credibility that a degree from UC Davis brings with it.” He worked at a number of internships while at UC Davis including the likes of Sonoma Cutrer and The Hess Collection. He also gained a great deal of practical experience from the esteemed Sullivan Vineyards of Rutherford, Napa Valley, and its iconic owner, the late Jim Sullivan. In 1992, Vergari took a job in Australia with legendary Australian winemaker James Halliday at his well-known Coldstream Hills Winery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, not far from Melbourne. Upon leaving down under, he worked his way through Europe’s wine regions and finally landed in Spain where he produced wine for a startup winery before finally returning home in 1993. A ground level job opened up at the legendary Joseph Phelps Vineyard in Napa Valley and Vergari jumped at the chance. He stayed there four years and was eventually named Research Enologist for the classic winery. Stints at P.H. Phillips, Rutz Cellars and finally the Riboli Family Vineyard gave Vergari an incredible resume from which to draw. A number of top ratings for wines he made caused Vergari to carefully consider his future. In 2003, David Vergari made a most important decision to begin making wines under his own Vergari Wines label. The first year’s production was a microscopic 167 cases that was followed the next year by around three hundred cases of mostly Pinot Noir. “I have always been interested in Pinot Noir because of the difficultness of growing the grapes and making the wine,” he confessed. “When the movie Sideways came out, Pinot Noir’s statue rose considerably and a number of people jumped into the race to make it. The film was really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the publicity it generated was wonderful for the grape and the wine business, but at the same time, the exposure attracted a number of vintners who just wanted to capitalize on the publicity.” Vergari Wines’ production has risen to around 750 cases for this year, and David Vergari doesn’t see a great deal of growth for the future since he is the winery’s only employee. “If I was to reach, say 1500 cases in the future, that would be just great. 2,000 cases would be off the chart.” Vergari has no plans for a winery, preferring to put his money into the best possible grapes. He uses the facilities of Oak Ridge Wines Services in Sebastopol, Sonoma County that is owned by close friends who cater to his every need. He and his wife Katie Orth, live in Sierra Madre, part of Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, but Vergari’s heart remains close to his wines up in Northern California. By making some Chilean wines in 2005, Vergari added a fourth continent on which he has made wine, a rarity among modern winemakers. He possesses a world-class amount of wine expertise that is definitely apparent in his remarkable wines
Vergari Wines - Sonoma Coast - Northern California
94 Points - Pinot Report, 91 Points Stephan Tanzer
David Vergari takes a non-interventionist approach to winemaking, and succeeds
David Vergari takes a non-interventionist approach to winemaking
David Vergari is an incredibly talented, engaging winemaker with an enthusiasm for life and wine that’s simply contagious. Growing up in an Italian family, homestyle winemaking was a way of life and it instilled in him a lifelong interest in wine. After deciding to pursue a career in winemaking in the late 1980s, Vergari took courses at UC Davis with many of his classmates who are distinguished winemakers today. Vergari gained hands-on winemaking experience working on three different continents, which truly paved the way for his own label, Vergari Wines. In addition to handcrafting his own wines, Vergari is now consulting for other small wineries and teaches wine courses at UC Irvine Extension. Vergari Wines reflect David’s philosophy: ‘Give every lot of grapes the attention and careful handling it needs to fully express its character; let the wine find its ‘voice’ while knowing when to stay out of the way; and, always remember that wine is something to be enjoyed like the company of an old friend.”
About The Region
David Vergari enjoys seeking out growers who share his philosophy and he currently
works with family-owned vineyards throughout Sonoma County, Marin County, and Napa Valley. This month’s Pinot Noir Series selection comes from Sonoma’s Sangiacomo Vineyard. The Sangiacomo family has been farming their land for three generations and is, without a doubt, one of the top grape growers in the region. Situated in the Petaluma Gap, this vineyard produces cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These wine grapes are slow to mature in the Petaluma Gap and are usually some of the last berries harvested in the region. They provide some of Sonoma County’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes with incredibly complex, elegant flavor profiles. Vergari consistently earns world-class recognition for his Pinots, especially those crafted from the Sangiacomo Vineyard.
Pork Tenderloin with Dried Cherry Sauce
Dried Cherry Sauce
2 Shallots, chopped
1 cup Dried Cherries
1 Tbsp. chopped Gingerroot
2 cups Rich Chicken Stock
4 pieces Pork Tenderloin
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Curry Powder
1 cup Dry Red Wine
2 Tbsp. Butter, unsalted
1 tsp. Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
For the sauce, place wine, shallots, garlic, cherries and ginger root in a large saucepan. Over high heat, boil to reduce the mixture until about 1/4 cup of wine remains (4 to 5 min). Add chicken stock and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 5 min. Puree the reduced mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return it to the saucepan and, over medium heat, whisk in butter and season with salt and pepper. Keep sauce warm while preparing the tenderloins.
To prepare the tenderloins, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the tenderloins with curry powder, salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat oil in a large, ovenproof saute pan until smoking hot. Add port and sear on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes total. Place pan in over for 5 to 8 minutes for medium doneness, depending on the thickness of the tenderloin. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a minute. Slice the pork and divide among 4 plates. Serve hot with the Dried Cherry Sauce.
Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
2/3 cup chopped Plum Tomato
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded part-skim Mozzarella Cheese
1 tsp. Olive Oil, divided
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh or 1/8 tsp. dried Rosemary
1/8 tsp. coarsely ground Black Pepper
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
4 (5-inch) Portobello Mushroom caps
2 Tbsp. fresh Lemon Juice
2 tsp. low-sodium Soy Sauce
2 tsp. Fresh Parsley, minced
Prepare the grill. Combine the tomato, cheese, 1/2 tsp. oil, rosemary, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Remove brown gills from the undersides of mushroom caps using a spoon, and discard gills. Remove stems; discard. Combine 1/2 tsp. oil, juice, and soy sauce in a small bowl; brush over both sides of mushroom caps. Place the mushroom caps, stem sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 5 min. on each side or until soft. Spoon 1/4 cup tomato mixture into each mushroom cap. Cover and grill 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.