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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Von Holt Wines - Russian River Valley, Sonoma

One of the tiniest producers of single-vineyard Pinot Noir

The secret is out! One of the tiniest producers of single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Syrah from the coolest regions of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, Von Holt Wines delivers some of the vintage’s best with their inaugural release!

This month’s Pinot Noir Series selection comes from tiny winery newcomer Von Holt Wines, one of northern California’s latest premium producers of vineyard-designated wines from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley. Strategically positioned amongst California’s premier winegrowing valleys, Von Holt Wines secures top notch fruit and crafts artisan wines of unique Sonoma character. With the inaugural vintages just released to the press and public, this infant winery won’t remain a secret for much longer. From 90 plus ratings to glowing reviews by top periodicals, these small production wines are making a serious first impression and owners Chris and Pam Von Holt couldn’t be happier. “We are extremely pleased with our first releases,” says Chris. “Not only were we able to purchase the grapes we wanted, we were able to work with a great winemaker, John Fones, who produces our wines at a first-rate facility in downtown San Francisco.” Von Holt currently makes just 600 cases annually of cool-climate Syrah and Pinot Noir from carefully selected Sonoma vineyards. By specializing in single-vineyard designate- wines, the team can concentrate on the terrior of each site, and craft wines that truly encompass what the vineyards are all about. Being a small producer also allows Von Holt to pay “artisan attention” to winemaking techniques, ensuring the wines are made with the highest quality in mind. Paying close attention to detail and following meticulous plans comes quite naturally to Chris Von Holt, whose first career required those skill on a serious level. Chris was once a United States Secret Service Agent, providing service to the Executive Branch of government and serving his country for more than twenty years. His duties included protecting four presidents, four vice presidents, their immediate families, foreign heads of state, and even senior members of government. While acting as a Secret Service Agent, Chris also had the opportunity to travel to more than 40 foreign countries, during which time he witnessed the “high life” of heads of state and observed important cultural differences and culinary traditions. It was also during this time that Chris developed a special interest in winemaking, specifically of ultra premium wines.

Chris’s wife Pam, on the other hand, found her connection to wine much earlier on. As a young girl, Pam became intrigued by how wine represented a celebration of life and food. Her closest childhood friend was a young French girl whose father would let them sip red wine with each meal. As she grew up and lived in San Francisco, Pam enjoyed being close to wine country and further developed her knowledge of wines and winemaking. With degrees in Dance and Accounting, as well as a minor in Art History, Pam brings an eclectic background, unique business perspective, and an artistic flair to Von Holt Wines. Chris and Pam founded Von Holt Wines in 2008, once Chris had retired to the San Jose area. They both decided it was “now
or never” to pursue a future in the wine business, and thus Von Holt Wines was born.

One thing the couple had learned from their conversations with various winemakers was that wines with good, but not overpowering acidity were the most food friendly and grapes grown in cooler regions tended to have higher levels of acidity than grapes grown in hotter regions. Settling on buying grapes from some of nearby Sonoma County’s cooler growing regions seemed like the natural choice.

According to Pam Von Holt, “Chris and I had tasted so many wines over the years that simply overpowered our favorite foods, so we consciously focused on making wines with elegance rather than brute strength. Good acidity can be a source of that elegance and freshness we were looking for.” The Von Holts also wanted to make wines with personality - wines that tasted like they came from a particular spot, so they focused on making wines from single vineyards rather than several vineyards blended into a single bottle. The response to their first wines has been overwhelming, and the Von Holts have found the experience to be incredibly rewarding. We are happy to introduce our Pinot Noir Series members to this latest artisan producer, and specifically, their highly allocated inaugural release. Enjoy!

  1. Von Holt
    2009 Pinot Noir
    Von Holt
    Russian River Valley


    92 - Wine & Spirits
    id: 921
    Pinot Noir

Winemaker John Fones

Von Holt wines are produced under the watchful eye of winemaker John Fones, who was once an attorney in Baltimore’s judicial system for sixteen years. John decided to follow his passion for wine by selling his law practice and convincing his wife Katie to move to San Francisco. During his last few years practicing law, John learned as much as he could about wine, reading everything he could get his hands on. Once in northern California, John spent a few years working harvests at Sebastopol’s Freeman Winery and it was there that his passion for wine really started to become a reality. He also found a respect for cool climate vineyards and developed a minimal interventionist approach to winemaking. John built on his experience at Freeman Winery by enrolling in oenology classes at nearby U.C. Davis and signed on with Von Holt Wines in 2008. He is excited to work with Chris and Pam and build on the foundation they have started, making premium cool-climate wines from some of the best vineyards in California.

About The Region

For Von Holt’s inaugural vintage of Pinot Noir, Chris and Pam Von Holt carefully selected the Sonoma Coast’s Suacci Vineyard as the source for the premium Pinot Noir fruit. Truly a unique site located southwest of Sebastopol in the Blucher Valley, where the Sonoma Coast AVA overlaps with the western edge of the Russian River Valley AVA, Suacci Vineyard is a cold, windy property that encourages a wonderful balance of acidity and fresh, exotic fruit flavors in the finished wine. This tiny 6.5 acre vineyard has the potential to produce world-class fruit and has been the source of a number of award-winning wines. The Sonoma Coast is among Sonoma County's coolest regions, with a viticultural area of 750 square miles, dozens of wineries, and hundreds of vineyards. The AVA stretches from the Sonoma-Marin border in the south, to the Mendocino county line in the north, overlapping Carneros and intersecting Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Mountain, and the Russian River Valley.

Braised Cinnamon Short Ribs


12-16 short ribs, ‘short cut”
or 8-10 regular cut beef short ribs
1 gallon apple juice/cider
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbs. red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt & pepper
olive oil


In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and pour over short ribs; marinate overnight in a large bag, pot, bowl, or baking vessel. Next Day: preheat oven to 350 degrees. When ready, remove short ribs from marinade and pat dry (save marinade - do not discard); season generously with salt and pepper. Place a roasting pan over two stone burners (or do this in batches in a saute pan) and turn heat on to high; add olive oil to lightly coat bottom of pan and begin adding each short rib; brown on each side (about 4 minutes per side) until all ribs are browned. Add reserved marinade to the pan and bring to a boil on stove top; once boiling, remove roasting pan from stove and tent with foil; place pan in oven for about 4-6 hours, checking often. Remove the ribs from the pan and allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!

Grilled Asian Salmon


1 side fresh salmon, boned/skin on (3 lbs.)
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
3 Tbs. soy sauce
6 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic


Light charcoal briquettes in a grill and brush the grilling rack with oil to keep the salmon from sticking. While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don’t worry, it will keep cooking as it sits. Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Enjoy!