Fog Crest Vineyard
Sonoma County region
10 acres of vineyards in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma county
James Manoogian is not the first former restaurateur that opted out of the restaurant world for the lure of the wine industry. In fact, the move was precipitated by the fact that Manoogian sought to be part of the viticultural aspect of the wine business, a side that offered him a great deal of personal satisfaction.
Manoogian (Man-ou-gee-an) is of Armenian descent, and originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in political science but, in 1989, he opened a restaurant in San Francisco called Limbo. The restaurant proved successful, but after a number of years, Manoogian found himself becoming more interested in the wine industry than the demanding 24/7 frenzy that was the restaurant business. He was also interested in starting a family and decided the restaurant environment wasn’t the best possible setting for that to happen.
In 1994 to 1995, Manoogian and his wife Rosalind began looking for property in the Sonoma County region where his mother and sister already resided. “We wanted a parcel of land that we could really develop into something,” he recalled. “It had to be big enough to meet our needs and also within our price range.” Eventually, the couple stumbled across a beautiful former apple orchard on thirty acres north of the town of Sebastopol that was only three to four miles south of the Russian River. After purchasing the property, the Manoogians planted the acreage and went about the process of producing first class grapes.
“We wanted to push the envelope with regard to our grapes,” added Manoogian. “We started selling to a top local winery (Stryker Sonoma) and were initially pleased with the results. When it became apparent that they were heading toward a red-wine oriented winery, we decided to go into business for ourselves.” Fog Crest Vineyard became a reality with the release of almost a thousand cases in 2005. Fog Crest has increased production slightly but is still under the 2,500 case level its permit allows.
“We have always worked under the philosophy that we make sure everything we do is the very best it can be,” admitted James Manoogian. “We have tried to not make any mistakes. We feel it is a great luxury to be able to pick the grapes and only have to move them 100 yards for processing.” He also was extremely pleased that Fog Crest Vineyard’s wines have been received so well. “When we started all this, I really didn’t know all that much about winemaking so I went out and hired some people who did.”
From the winery’s inception in 2005 until November of 2013, the Manoogians worked with winemakers Daniel Moore and David Ramey. Together, their excellent reputation and experiences helped solidify Fog Crest Vineyard as a major player of the boutique producers in the Russian River Valley. Today, winemaking duties are overseen by Jérôme Chéry, a native of France and an internationally renowned winemaker. Since 2005, Fog Crest wines have garnered prestigious ratings and medals, and they continue to do so.
Fog Crest Vineyard completed their winery facility in 2008, allowing the team ample space and state-of-the-art equipment to continue producing their estate wines. The fact that the company’s releases have been so heralded, simply means that Fog Crest will continue to work even harder going forward to excel in the competitive wine industry. “We are not in a position to make many mistakes,” Manoogian informed. “The business is just too competitive. We are delighted that we have been able to carve out a small niche and develop a small base of loyal customers.
Those loyal customers are also enjoying the recently opened Fog Crest tasting room, which opened its doors in early 2014. The new space offers sweeping views of the estate vineyard and the Russian River Valley, and gives visitors a premier location to enjoy Fog Crest wines. “The ground around here is mostly sandstone,” remarked Manoogian, “and perfectly suited to the type of grapes we want to grow. When you add the natural beauty of all the surroundings, Fog Crest becomes something really special.”
It is refreshing to find a winery owner so perfectly in tune to his surroundings and place in the business world. James Manoogian admits that the vineyards are his favorite part of the equation. While he enjoys drinking his wines (as well as the wines of others), he prefers to be “among the plants” when it comes to day-to-day activity.
James’ wife Rosalind has also become active in the Fog Crest Vineyard program and now handles all of the website updating as well as assisting in the sales and marketing efforts.
Winemaker Daniel Moore - Great person, great wines!
Fog Crest Vineyard’s esteemed winemaker Daniel Moore has made wine for nearly three decades in Sonoma County. Moore was an early champion of the Russian and his wines have been served in many of the finest restaurants in the United States.
Prior to his work at Fog Crest Vineyard, Moore was the founding winemaker at one of the most recognized entities in the wine business - Martinelli Vineyards - where he produced the company’s first eight vintages. He was also the inaugural winemaker for the prestigious Lynmar Estate, and went on to create his own label, ZMor, for which he still produces an elite flight of small production wines.
At Fog Crest Vineyard, Daniel Moore works alongside consulting winemaker David Ramey, and their benchmark style Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are continuously recognized with awards and accolades. Moore was also responsible for the design of the Fog Crest production facility, which has further enhanced his ability to create stunning Burgundian-style wines. Moore has served as the brand’s chief winemaker since its inception in 2005.