On Point Wines
Sierra Foothills AVA
On Point Wines’ owner-winemaker is candid in his message: grit and determination are the deciding factors in a winery’s success.
The initial production of On Point Wines was a tiny 120 cases, a small amount by wine industry standards. The year was 2008 and owner-winemaker David Rossi had decided to make the giant leap from home winemaker to commercial winery.
“I had been making wines in my basement for several years and had received some really supportive feedback from knowledgeable wine consumers that my wines were really good,” informed David Rossi. I had a great deal of business background in the food industry and felt I could produce top quality wines on a consistent basis.”
The initial offering was deemed a success and Rossi’s investment in the competitive California wine industry was off to a flying start.
“Even though our small production was well-received, it took us more than a decade to reach the 1100-case level we now produce,” Rossi continued. “I always considered myself a strategic planner when I was growing up and in my early business career. Slow, carefully considered growth — that was my plan.” The On Point wines can be tasted at the Fulcrum Tasting Room located in Sonoma. Upon entering the modern-style tasting room, your eye is drawn to a grand painting in the center of the room titled “The Acrobat”. It adorns the front of the On Point label and represents the guiding principle of balance, which can be noted in their wines. Rossi conceded that his thinking has changed during the past decade plus. “I’m more of a hippy these days. I just want to make great wines that will allow me to get to the next level in the wine business. Whatever the Wine Gods decide, I’m happy with that.”
Interestingly, On Point Wines’ reputation has long been associated with the temperamental Pinot Noir. Numerous high scores and awards have accumulated in what many wine insiders consider the most challenging grape in winemaking.
“I love Pinot Noir for the challenges it presents,” added David Rossi. “Anything that is hard is worth doing and that fits the Pinot Noir perfectly. But, at this time, I am looking at different, somewhat obscure varietals to produce some incredible wines. I just love the On Point 2018 Sangiovese, it’s one of my favorite wines. Great flavors and complexity, it has it all.
The On Point label is another wonderful story. New York City Artist Stephen Hall painted a unique representation of an acrobat balancing a wine bottle while on point. The label ties into the principle of balance, the motivation for sister winery Fulcrum Wines.
“In my mind, On Point and Fulcrum are interchangeable,” related Rossi. “Some wines will bear the On Point label, some will be Fulcrum. I make those decisions when it’s time to bottle.”
Map of the area
David Rossi - In The Spotlight
David Rossi is now 51 and has made a remarkable name for himself within the wine industry in a most unorthodox manner (see Winemaker Section).
To explain that last statement, let’s start from the beginning. Rossi’s family was originally in the restaurant business in Southern Arizona and Rossi started his fascination with food and wine at an early age. He attended the University of Arizona and received a degree in finance as a result. He entered graduate school at Pittsburgh’s celebrated Carnegie Mellon University where he received his master’s degree. Immediately after school he began working in the food industry for such luminaries as Schwan’s, Tyson Foods and H.J. Heinz Company where he served in various corporate positions.
His passion as a home winemaker eventually caused him to seek a future in the wine industry. His determination and attention to detail (gleaned from his corporate experiences and exposure) made his homemade wine increasingly popular and eventually allowed him to pursue a commercial winery path.
This route proved to be quite difficult and growth was slow and deliberate.
“I knew it would be hard, but I was determined to be able to make wines that could compete with the big boys,” David Rossi stated during a recent interview. “I didn’t have all the money in the world, but I had gained a good number of contacts that could provide me with incredible fruit for my wines. I have a great deal of respect for terroir and all that it encompasses. I just kept working and researching to find the best fruit available. In the end, it all seems to have worked out.”
That last quote might be a major understatement. Under his Fulcrum/On Point Wineries labels (in his mind, the two are interchangeable), Rossi’s successes have impressed at the highest levels. His devotion to Pinot Noir and its difficulties to make have earned him a solid reputation as a top-level producer of the problematic varietal.
Throughout his exigencies, David Rossi has maintained a great sense of humor about his fortunes.
“I guess I must be considered New Jersey’s top winemaker,” he offered. “I still maintain my home in Atlantic Highlands and still have a basement full of equipment. I have tried to grow our company slowly as the market has allowed and have the same goal that I began with, to make a product that over delivers on its quality. I am blessed to have had such a wonderful opportunity.”
Sierra Foothills AVA & Sonoma County
The real beauty of an operation like On Point Wines lies in the fact that it’s able to source its fruit from anywhere it chooses and produce wines in small quantities that fill natural gaps in the wine supply process. Take this month’s wines for instance. The On Point 2018 Sangiovese comes from the Sierra Foothills, an area that has greatly enhanced its reputation for producing really top-flight fruit for somewhat obscure varietals such as the noble Sangiovese and other Italian and Spanish and varietals. The 2018 Chardonnay is from Sonoma County, considered one of the finest Chardonnay producing areas in the entire world with a number of micro-climates that offer a variety of characteristics and nuances.
“I study the different growing areas and investigate exactly what is being grown,” advised On Point Winemaker David Rossi. “I’m not bound by any borders and am open to new growing areas that are producing high-quality fruit. “I’ve recently made a Tempranillo and a dry Gewürztraminer in addition to this Sangiovese, and they have all proven to be outstanding wines.”
Rossi is a firm believer that location dictates quality in selecting fruit for his wines and spends a great deal of time in investigating locales and interviewing growers about their growing habits. “You can tell a great deal about the fruit from the grower’s approach to farming,” added Rossi. “it’s a timeconsuming exercise but the end results are truly worth it.”
David Rossi - Winemaker
The story of how David Rossi became an award-winning winemaker is probably one for the ages.
While living in Pittsburg and working for a major food supplier, David’s wife Christina suggested he find a hobby, something to keep him occupied when not at work. A home winemaking store caught his attention and he bought his first kit and set up a workshop in his basement. He found great satisfaction in making wines and began adding equipment to make more sophisticated wines that were met with great admiration by everyone who tasted them.
He began importing grapes from California and abroad and read voraciously anything he could find on wine and winemaking. He contacted the heralded University of California Davis and secured practically every publication the school had to offer. He even planted three vineyards in nearby New Jersey to afford him local grapes and grape contacts.
David Rossi is completely self-taught and has never sought nor received any professional winemaking help. His wines have scored in the 90’s on numerous occasions and he is today considered one of the top Pinot Noir winemakers in the country. He is present in California each August through October for every crush and selects both the grapes and barrels for all of his wines. He dictates the handling and processing of each batch of grapes and is responsible for their continuing progress and aging.
David Rossi is actually a winemaker’s winemaker. He is dedicated to quality and meticulous in his attention to detail. He would make a great inspiration to anyone seeking to enter the winemaking profession through a non-ordinary process.