North Coast AVA
Grandmaster wines are made in small quantities, and only produced when exceptional fruit is available.
It is vitally important that any new winery be properly conceived. It must fit into a specific niche, and should not attempt to be everything to everybody. By following certain parameters, i.e., pricing, availability, marketing potential and capital, the winery should have more than a fair chance of eventually succeeding. Such is the case with Grandmaster Winery, a relatively new entity (2010) in Northern California that specializes in the production of small lots of extremely high quality wine.
“Grandmaster is actually a virtual winery,” declared Richard Mansfield, the company’s general manager as well as winemaker. “We source small lots (usually under 1,500 cases) of wines from anywhere we feel can produce outstanding quality. Other wineries might try and do likewise, but the small amount of wine we actually select acts as an advantage to our program. Cost efficiencies and certain other factors would make such low pricing impossible, but our broad resources give us a definite advantage.” The ‘broad resources’ include a mother company that produces hundreds of thousands of cases of wines for a broad market of customers that includes both on and off premise sales.
“But,” Mansfield reiterated, “all that does not make Grandmaster Winery a negotiant brand, a wine that is made for a specific customer. Grandmaster Winery is our top level, small lots product that is only made when I find exceptional fruit or a partially finished wine that I consider way above the rest of the possible choices.” Grandmaster Winery first saw the light of day in 2010 with an initial production of around 1400 cases. Since it is dedicated to securing and producing small lots of wine, its production will only increase when other wine treasures are unearthed by Richard Mansfield.
Its labeling is classically simple and provides an unusual amount of information for a front label. A relatively intricate description of the wine is accompanied by the appellation, and number of cases produced, quite unusual for value-priced wines. Since the acquisition aspect of the Grandmaster operation is not bound by any geographical or appellation issues, the entire winegrowing spectrum is open to Grandmaster. This provides a high degree of flexibility that few winery operations can enjoy.
“I can literally seek our wines anywhere, even in some areas that are not known for certain varietals,” Mansfield added. “Take the Knight’s Valley Sauvignon Blanc, for example. The area is prime for Cabernet growing. I happened upon some unusual Sauvignon Blanc and thought it was wonderful. The result is the wine you are offering this month.” Such entrepreneurial endeavor is seldom found in Northern California; where price value relationship is often idle thinking. What Grandmaster Winery has provided is the exception to the rule, great wines at truly affordable prices.
We salute Grandmaster Winery and its wonderful wines.
About the Vineyard
As explained above (see main story) the choices of near-perfect fruit is practically endless. Any top growing area or region is potentially available and many wineries over produce their grapes in order to protect themselves from accidents or unforeseen circumstances.
The wine regions of this month’s Gold Series selection, Grandmaster Winery, are two of the top growing areas in California. Sonoma Country’s Knights Valley is the hottest and driest in the area, and has long been famous for its superior Cabernet Sauvignons. Sauvignon Blanc is a rarity in Knights Valley but the potential for excellence is high. Sauvignon Blanc from this region makes for a fruit forward wine and must be tasted to be believed.
The Paso Robles red blend makes use of the area’s extremely hot days and cool nights. Red varietals from Paso Robles tend to produce robust wines that literally attack the palace with supple ripened fruit as well as sustained elegance.
The Art of Fine Wine
"A Tuscan Vineyard Sunset"
Painted by Karen Winters, a native Californian artist who actively travels and enjoys finding inspiration in the natural world.
Her style combines impressionism and realism.
Richard Mansfield - Owner & Winemaker
As winemakers go, Richard Mansfield (see spotlight) comes bearing impeccable credentials. He also carries the most important element of any successful winemaker, that of having worked for a number of other successful wineries. As far as style goes, Mansfield is all about quality and doesn’t particularly care about the wine’s appellation.
‘When I taste from 200 to 300 wines each week,” he stated, ‘it becomes a simple case of extremely high quality. While I taste literally hundreds of wines weekly, the fact is that I seldom buy more than a few.”
More about Richard Mansfield
At 55, Richard Mansfield admits his present position at Grandmaster Winery is the job of his dreams. Since he is the Grandmaster by all accounts, it is quite natural for him to be almost giddy about his present work.
‘Throughout my career, the quality of my wines has been most important,” he modestly admitted. ‘Here at Grandmaster, it’s all about quality and only about quality. When I think about it, I have died and gone to heaven.” The Newport, Oregon native has been in the wine industry for the last thirty-plus years, covering an amazing number of locales and businesses.
He received his initial degree in chemistry from the University of Oregon and took an adventuresome route to the wine business through Germany. First he apprenticed to a master winegrower/winemaker and then received dual masters in enology and viniculture from German’s famed Institute of Winemaking in Geisenheim. Mansfield returned to the United States and opened his own winery, Callaghan Ridge, which he made into Oregon’s fifth largest. An unfortunate partnership forced the winery’s closure; this proved to be Oregon’s loss and California’s gain.
In 1995, be began a succession of winery posts that included Stag’s Leap Winery, Bradford Mountain Winery and the highly respected Palmaz Vineyards. He also began consulting with the likes of GV Cellars, Lapis Luna, Murphy Vineyards, Peripoli Estate and Oliver Estate.
In 2008, Mansfield accepted a position with the Worldwide Wine Exchange, a large international company that produces quality wines for customers all over the world. The company operates on three continents and sixteen countries, certainly the most diversified business of its type in the world. Richard Mansfield became the company’s winemaker for North America (one of only three around the globe) and was charged with finding, finishing and producing a wide variety of wines for the company’s myriad of customers.
‘The job is quite a challenge,” he admitted, ‘but it has its own rewards. I get to taste thousands of wines each year, so I have my finger on the pulse of vineyard and winery production from just about everywhere.” He also admits that being the living figurehead for Grandmaster Winery is at the top of his list for being able to enjoy his profession and also having a bit of fun.
‘Being able to single out extremely small lots of truly high quality wine is an undertaking unto itself. I’m not bound by where the wines originate, just by my own quality standards. When you consider just how many wines I taste to pick out the very few that become Grandmaster selections, the number is mind-boggling,” he added. Mansfield concentrates on the growing areas he is most familiar with. He might choose a mountain grown Napa or Sonoma Zinfandel (he stays away from grapes originating on the valley floors) or a Russian River Chardonnay. Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is one of his personal favorite growing regions.
‘We in the United States are blessed that our vineyards lie between the 42nd and 45th Parallels. Those areas are particularly well-suited to growing high quality grapes. The temperatures are mostly moderate and the grapes grow fairly well each season,” he continued. Mansfield’s wines have won numerous awards in most of the major competitions, a fact that Richard Mansfield feels is a reward in itself.
‘I feel particularly blessed,” he confessed. ‘I have always worked in completely beautiful settings all around the world. This is a key ingredient to my ability to really enjoy my life. What’s more, there are virtually no commutes within the wine regions, another important aspect in one’s life plan. The sunsets are also spectacular, certainly among the most beautiful in the entire world. What more could anyone in their right mind ask for’” Mansfield’s wife Leslie is a star in her own right in the world of cookbook writing. Leslie Mansfield is the author of no less than 17 cookbooks. Her latest effort for Random House is the Lewis and Clark Cookbook: Historic Recipes from the Corps of Discovery and Jefferson’s America. Richard Mansfield is also an amateur brew master, a fact that has made its way into one of Leslie’s former books. That would make him a grandmaster/brew master, or one of a very few select individuals to hold that title.
It is easy to envy Richard Mansfield and his way of life. He is however, a most serious businessman that is blessed with a marvelous palate that has born him well throughout his career. We know you will enjoy his wines.