Sierra Foothills AVA
Radanovich Winery selections are now available in a number of high caliber retails stores throughout California.
If one sought an historical parallel to George Radanovich, a case could be made that you search our country’s records and stop at the name of Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson? One of our founding fathers and earliest presidents?
Absolutely. The fact that George Radanovich (pronounced rah-DON-oh-vitch) is a member of the United States House of Representatives and Thomas Jefferson is a former president who was also previously a member of the Continental Congress is a given. What makes the reference even more appealing is the fact that both men were winemakers, arguably the only lawmakers who could list that occupation on their resumes.
Jefferson’s long time love affair with the grape is well documented, but George Radanovich’s career in the wine industry is a little more than eighteen years old, or young as historical scholars might say. It is also fair to say that George Radanovich could easily be credited with leading the congressional attempt to provide our country with a fair and effective methode for conducting interstate winery shipping.
Radanovich started his venture into viticulture as a grower when he planted his first vines in the Sierra Foothills. It was 1982 and the young son of Croatian immigrants was impressed with the soils and microclimate around the town of Mariposa, more commonly referred to as the Gateway City to Yosemite National Park some thirty-odd miles away.
Radanovich’s initial planting of Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot was the first commercial planting in Mariposa County in over 70 years and set the stage for his work as both a grower and vintner in later years.
“My father had bought the land and I wanted to see that it went to good use,” commented Radanovich, “but it wasn’t until the past couple of years that I really got serious about it.”
Today the winery produces about 4,000 cases, but George Radanovich’s goal is much loftier. He intends to plant the entire 200 estate acres and will eventually increase the winery’s production to around the 40,000 case level. During this period of expansion, George Radanovich intends to develop and eventually produce a proprietary white blend made up of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay. At the same time, he intends to expand his winery portfolio of red varietals to include Syrah, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
But his main efforts definitely involves his continuing dedication to his constituents and, more individually the establishment of Mariposa as a quality growing area with appellation status thrown in for good order. “I still have a number of projects I am working on in Congress,” he added. “And remember what we have just accomplished with regard to interstate shipping of wine.
I firmly believe that we have achieved victory by making the federal courts available to the attorney generals of each State. This action has basically rendered the beer and wine wholesalers lobby somewhat harmless. I feel strongly that the real court battles should be fought in the individual states.”
Such words and actions make it easy to see why George Radanovich was recently reelected to his fourth term with a whopping 65% margin in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a large margin. He clearly believes in the future of his district and is firmly convinced that the day is not far off when the wines of Mariposa County will be counted in the same breath as those of Napa and Sonoma.
His winery operates a small tasting room that has become increasingly popular to visitors to the area that are coming or going to enjoy the wonders of Yosemite. At 2000 feet elevation, the plantings have a great deal going for them and have drawn praise from many of their Sierra Foothills neighbors located further north. Radanovich Winery selections are now available in a number of high caliber retails stores throughout California.
George Radanovich has no idea on just how long he will remain in public service and chooses to refer to such an eventuality as “the ultimate will of the people.” His 19th District is the largest single agricultural county in the entire United States and includes the crown jewels of the National Park System—Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
It is delightful that Gold Medal Wine Club can share George Radanovich’s wines with our Gold Series Club members. The wines are well conceived and artfully prepared. They are a fitting tribute to the highly motivated and farsighted individual whose family name appears on the label. We can predict with good assurance that you will continue to see these wines for a long time to come. Enjoy!
Some three years ago, Congressman George Radanovich (Republican, 19th District, California), was invited by the Virginia Wine Society to appear at a function it was sponsoring on the grounds of Mount Vernon, the storied home of George Washington, not far from the nation’s capital.
Radanovich was invited because he lists farmer/winegrower as his profession outside of Congress. Prior to the event, the congressman was informed that he would appear alongside stand ins for both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom had excellent early connections with wine and farming.
‘When I first arrived,” Radanovich recounted, ‘it was mostly a normal wine event with tastings and customary happenings. But later on, the two gentlemen portraying Washington and Jefferson and I left the group and found a seat on Mount Vernon’s porch, where we started discussing a number of topics. Both men resembled their earlier counterparts a great deal and each was period-costumed. At one point, the conversation began focusing on the new frontier, which was, incredibly, the State of California. I thought to myself that the whole scenario was kind of bizarre, my sitting there with Washington and Jefferson discussing the new frontier of California.”
Such is the world of George Radanovich who balances his duties as a United States Congressman with those of winery owner. A 1982 graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in business, Radanovich has been the principle figure in attempting to have Mariposa County recognized as a specific appellation.
He realizes that there is much to be done before his Radanovich Winery reaches its goals and also that the road ahead figures to have its share of pitfalls and problems.
‘One of the most difficult aspects to overcome is getting really top notch people to come here and work or relocate. We are still in the pioneering mode of development regarding varietal grape growing while most of the other growing appellations are already fairly established. Once people come and see the soil and the general lay of the land, they usually leave quite impressed.”
Radanovich admits that when he was first elected to Congress in 1994, he was forced to put the winery’s development on a back burner. To the soft-spoken son of Croatian immigrants, his constituents in the 19th District always come first.
In Washington he displays the same basic attitude toward his position that he does in the vineyards of Mariposa County. At the winery he drives a pick up truck that blends in with his surroundings. In Washington he either walks or takes the metro. He allows his fellow lawmakers their limousines and perks, it is simply that such luxuries are not for him.
George Radanovich is dedicated to making changes in our government that make sense to him and the people who elected him. ‘I’m basically a small businessman,” he offered, referring to his position in the wine industry, ‘and I won’t be cutting deals that go against the interests of the industry.”
He was instrumental in the recent Interstate Winery Shipping political infighting, and considers the ensuing law changes a victory for the wineries. With other wine related issues such as labeling still in doubt, he realizes that there are additional wars to be fought.”
During his tenure he has received support from some of the more recognizable growers and vintners in the industry, including Robert Mondavi and Don Sebastiani when he was first getting started. It is remarkable that he did not have the support of the Wine Institute when he first sought national office.
‘They (the Wine Institute) usually had a policy of supporting incumbents,” he recalled. ‘And I was not expected to win the general election.” The rest is history and George Radanovich was elected with 57% of the vote. Needless to say it was the Wine Institute and its winery members who benefited greatly from Radanovich’s recent efforts in the legislature.
There are numerous Capitol Hill stories of George Radanovich and the Radanovich Winery bottles that happen to make it to important dinners and events. He’s also been known to brown bag it to notable Washington restaurants with his wines, and several of these places now sell it on their wine lists.
George Radanovich is a most interesting person, certainly one of the most insightful to be found in the US Congress. His presence there is reassuring to anyone interested in the future of the wine business in the United States. Gold Medal Wine Club urges his constituents to keep him in Washington for many years to come.