North Coast AVA
92 Points Wine Enthusiast - an extremely food-friendly wine.
Of all the wineries in Northern California, none can lay claim to have waited longer for certification than Oakland’s Lost Canyon Winery. That statement, however, needs a great deal of explanation.
It all started back in 1978, when two friends and business associates, Jack States and Randy Keyworth, who had pioneered schools for handicapped children in the Bay Area, decided to make some barrels of wines for their own consumption and share with a small circle of friends. The resulting wines were well received and over the next two decades, the amateur winemakers continued their efforts of buying small lots of selected grapes from specific vineyards and producing for their friends and acquaintances a limited amount of high quality wines.
However, it wasn’t until Bob Riskin entered the picture that States and Keyworth even considered taking Lost Canyon Winery into the commercial wine arena. Riskin was a high level alumnus of the apparel industry with more than thirty years of expertise with such entities as GAP, Levi Strauss and others. He accepted an early retirement in 1999 and went into the consulting business, helping top executives of Fortune 500 companies motivate their sales forces.
During that time, Riskin utilized the services of Randy Keyworth’s wife, Peggy Klaus, herself an internationally renowned communical consultant and best selling author. A friendship resulted and Riskin was invited to dinner at the Keyworth home. Naturally, two bottles of Lost Canyon wines were served and Riskin was totally impressed.
“I really wasn’t expecting that much from homemade wines,” Riskin confessed, “But the wines we had were both fabulous wines, something truly special. The guys eventually asked if I would be interested in coming aboard and taking the winery to the next level. I considered the challenge and consequences of such a project and finally said yes.”
In 2001, the first commercial release of Lost Canyon Winery became a reality, all 400 cases of it. “We were hoping to do well with the wine, but we never expected such immediate success,” Riskin recalled further. “We were up and running and the wines sold out rather quickly. Along the way, we managed to receive a wonderful number of accolades and awards.”
With its initial success in the marketplace neatly tucked under its belt, Lost Canyon Winery set out to finding itself a permanent home. At the time, the rundown area along the Oakland waterfront was beginning a major renaissance. It is now known as Jack London Square, a fabulous collection of stores, hotels and restaurants. Lost Canyon was able to secure a wonderful space for their business only a block away and has seen the entire area develop into a full commercial success.
“I suppose locating our winery just off the Oakland waterfront was something of a gamble,” Riskin conceded, “but it really seemed like good things were happening there. And when you consider that there are now 14 wineries in the East Bay, including the likes of Rosenblum Cellars and Dashe Cellars, both of whom are extremely well known, you would have to say that we are located in a rapidly growing area of wine interest.” In the past seven years, production at Lost Canyon has risen to about 3,500 cases and Riskin feels the entity will top out around 4,000 cases either this year or next.
“The reason for that ceiling is that we all want to be engaged in the entire process of making our wines,” he added. “When you exceed a certain level, such intimacy starts to go away. Also, there is a special serendipity that we all associate with Lost Canyon, and it matters a great deal to each of us. It is how we’ve all gotten to where we are in life, and its meaning is quite special.”
When asked to compare the successes he experienced in the apparel business to those at Lost Canyon Winery, Riskin added, “It about the emotion and passion that it involved with something you own and love. If you didn’t have those feelings you wouldn’t work so hard. With Lost Canyon my partners and I am dealing with something that we own rather than another person’s business.”
With Jack Streets overseeing the winemaking, Lost Canyon even has 1 ½ employees to help with the general cellar chores. Lost Canyon Winery stands as an excellent example of what people with a passion for something can achieve if they put their collective minds to it.