Blossom Hill Winery - Inheritance Wines
Central Valley region
Blossom Hill uses an innovative approach to debut Inheritance Wines
The introduction of Inheritance wines by Blossom Hill Winery utilizing Gold Medal Wine Club’s far-reaching exposure consummates a most novel approach to a winery introduction within the modern wine industry. The move is the result of a lengthy series of negotiations between the Gold Medal Wine Club and one of the winery’s top management. That executive is one Donn Berdahl, 37, who serves as both winemaker and winery consultant to Inheritance Wines by Blossom Hill Winery, wines that are produced from vineyards located within the Lodi area of California’s seemingly boundary-less Central Valley. Berdahl is a savvy wine industry veteran who possesses an extensive resume including a stint as a wine buyer for a 5-Star, 5- Diamond hotel/restaurant located in Beverly Hills.
The saga of the national introduction of this new line of wines actually began several years ago when its owners, the Beard Family, obtained a number of acres of high quality vineyards as part of a much larger orchard and vineyard acquisition. After producing wines under a critically successful boutique concept called Silkwood Wines, the Beard Family patriarch decided he wanted to change direction sometime during late 2003 or early 2004.
“We were faced with a number of decisions,” informed Berdahl. “First, we knew the grapes the Beards were growing were almost unique to the area, really rich, intense varietals that you don’t usually find originating in the Central Valley. And, we also knew that these grapes could be made into top class wines because we had done so successfully in the past. In fact, we had won so many top awards it was difficult to put the juice to another usage.” Berdahl approached vineyard owner Rodney Beard and was pleased to find that Beard wanted a hand in the future of the vineyards he owned. Beard wanted to produce a wine that everyone could enjoy and a wine that was priced to be affordable.
Beard contacted a custom crush facility called Omega Winery and began the framework that would eventually emerge as Inheritance Wines. He decided to include some fruit from a growing area known locally as the Delta Breezes, so called for its proximity to the natural winds and weather of nearby San Francisco Bay, the largest natural bay area in the world. After several harvests, a number of wines were prepared and presented to Gold Medal Wine Club. The process took the better part of a year to complete until the new Inheritance blends finally met the Club’s exacting quality standards.
According to Berdahl, the entire process was truly challenging. “The prospect of actually introducing a new line of wines through a wine club was itself a major challenge,” he explained. “First of all, the concept actually bypasses the distribution level of the wine industry, in many people’s opinion, the most important level for a brand’s future. A number of people familiar with wine told me it couldn’t be done. I listened to their advice and went ahead anyway.” Berdahl received a great deal of encouragement from Beard and his family who simply wanted to offer a great product without the expensive bells and whistles.
“Rodney actually came up with the concept for Inheritance and even had a hand in the label design. He has been so successful in his other businesses; I think he considered a winery as his ultimate challenge, and that was okay with me,” he Berdahl added.
Initial production of Inheritance wines by Blossom Hill will be limited to around 4,000 cases and will never exceed the 8-9,000 level informed Berdahl. And, as word has trickled out even before the wine’s introduction, a number of distributors across the country have already called inquiring about availability. To his credit Donn Berdahl has stuck to his guns and provided Gold Medal Wine Club with an exclusive opportunity to introduce his wines, a scenario that is unduplicated in the premium-quality wine world. Berdahl is incredibly optimistic about Inheritance’s new wines and the winery’s future after its introduction.
“What could be better than having a representative sampling of our wines by some of America’s most interested consumers through America’s finest wine club?” he posed the question. We at Gold Medal Wine Club enthusiastically agree!
Enjoy the wonderful wines of Inheritance by Blossom Hill Winery.
Map of the area
Rodney Beard - Proprietor
From the outset, it can be easily stated that Rodney Beard is one of the most engaging personalities in the entire wine industry. At the tender age of 70, Rodney Beard seems to have it made. He and the Beard Family own somewhere around 3,000 acres of land in and around California’s Central Valley, acreage that is planted mostly in walnuts, almonds, apples and, lastly, grapes. Rodney Beard’s great-great-grandfather was named Elihu Beard and he emigrated from Kentucky in the 1850’s, shortly after gold was discovered in California.
The first Beard and his family were farmers by trade and soon settled around the small town of Lodi, where they began acquiring small parcels of land. A few years earlier, another Beard relative had been part of the famous Bidwell Expedition of 1841, this country’s first ever wagon train from Missouri. That relative eventually settled in and around the town of Yountville in the Napa Valley. For his efforts, the earlier Beard relative was awarded some 1,000 acres around Yountville, property that he later sold. There is no estimate as to the value of that property on today’s market.
Rodney Beard’s family also owns a railroad, the M & E T (for Modesto and Empire Traction Company) that still operates 5 miles of mainline track that connect the Burlington Northern RR to the Santa Fe/Southern Pacific tracks around Modesto. Additionally, the Beards can lay claim to the fact that they rented the gigantic Gallo Wine Company its first warehouse facility in the form of an old lathe (packing shed) way back in 1932. Rodney Beard himself attended UC-Davis in the late 1950’s, but studied Pomology (the study of fruits and nuts) rather than Oenology (grapes).
‘I always tended to stay away from grapes,” Beard admitted recently. ‘I really didn’t drink wine except on rare occasions and didn’t know a thing about grapes. I thought I should let well enough alone and never really considered grapes for our family.” That all changed almost a decade ago when Beard bought a ranch that included a little over thirty acres of grapes, planted in Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. For a number of years, the grapes were sold in bulk to large wineries. When another winery venture he invested in proved to be less productive than expected, Rodney Beard decided he had had it with the wine business.
‘Back then, I was upset with the big wineries like Gallo that wouldn’t pay me a fair price for my grapes and also more recently with the boutique approach that really wasn’t profitable. It was my money and I decided to do it the way I wanted. I took the approach that since I wasn’t a real wine drinker I could actually tell when a wine tasted good, at least on my palate.” Beard also took to teasing around his family that the way he was going in the wine business, ‘he would soon use up his grandchildren’s inheritance, and from there was born the name and idea for the new brand.
Rodney Beard’s wine philosophy is incredibly simple. He picks his grapes when he thinks the time is right and is willing to suffer the consequences. ‘Besides,” he adds, ‘growing grapes isn’t all that different from growing almonds and walnuts if you take into consideration the more subtle aspects of the former.”
He knows he grows really great fruit and can point to a hefty number of accolades the wines made from his vineyards have won. He will concentrate on consistency with his new Inheritance Wines and will strictly limit both the tonnage from his vineyards and case levels of his new brand. He never intends to build a wine dynasty and finds that idea quite absurd.
He feels that there are a greater number of people in his own category (people who don’t drink wine frequently but who can recognize a good wine when they taste it) than in the more frequent wine drinkers category and that is whom Rodney Beard is out to please. He insists on making his wine affordable and will remain consistent with his initial pricing.
‘I want to really enjoy this little experiment,” he finalized. ‘All I’m really sure of is that Inheritance wines will taste good to virtually everyone.”