North Coast AVA
Raffaele - A Century of Wine Making Excellence Born Again in Lodi
The winery simply known as Raffaele
has its origins around Lodi in Northern
California’s Lower San Joaquin Valley
more than a century ago. The winery’s
predecessor was initially called the Urgon
Winery and was built in 1900 one mile
north of Lodi by a fellow named Adolph
Bauer. The name evolved from a railroad
switch called Urgon, which was then part
of the San Joaquin and Sierra Nevada
Railroad that was founded in 1885 and
was built primarily to transport bricks
made in the area.
Bauer and his financial partner Jacob
Brack began to process grapes from
the harvest of 1900. Their intent was to
provide a suitable destination for area
growers where the growers would receive
a fair market price for their grapes. The
Urgon Winery operation worked
successfully for a short time until the
winery was sold to its competitors in
1903.With this transaction, Urgon Winery
was officially renamed the San Joaquin
Winery and an impressive 63,000 tons of
grapes were crushed that harvest year.
Jeff Hansen - a fifth generation winemaker
When he recently turned the young age of 40, Jeff Hansen had already achieved a noteworthy career many wine industry executives would envy. Hansen is the fifth generation descendent of a Northern Italian family from Genoa that has lived in the Sacramento area of California since immigrating to the United States more than a century ago.
Hansen first found himself in the agriculture business at the age of 13 when he tended his family’s vegetable and grain crops for extra money. Two years alter Hansen and a youthful friend were the proud owners of their own crops and Jeff Hansen’s career as an entrepreneur was begun in earnest. When he enter college at nearby Fresno State, Hansen majored in Agriculture/Economics and was student body president his final two years at the university.
But his family’s treasured Italian upbringing had always enjoyed wine as a first beverage and his great grandfather, Raffaele Garbarino, had even made wine for family and friends in the family basement, not an uncommon happening in Mediterranean-influenced world of early Northern California.
Jeff Hansen was forced to work his way through school and soon found himself in an enviable position. As an extension of his ag/business schoolwork and with his appreciation of wine gleaned from his family, he applied for work at Fresno’s renowned Restaurant Nicholas. The place had a heralded wine steward program and Jeff landed one of the three positions. It was a cream of the crop type job and Jeff Hansen was the first non-oenology (Along with UC Davis, Fresno State has the other top-rated oenology school in California) student to land a slot. Even though he had considered a law degree and a political career after graduating, the wine sommelier position was also Jeff Hansen’s grass roots initiation into the burgeoning California wine industry.
Upon graduation from Fresno State in 1986, the youthful and politically-wise Hansen was appointed by California’s Secretary of Agriculture to manage a embryonic export program that was designed to internationally expand the State’s wine and agriculture agenda. The program involved some 30 — 40 wineries and served to open Hansen eyes as to the incredible potential awaiting California wines throughout the world.
In 1988, he became the president of Sacramento-based Global Wine Group, a company whose activities were soon responsible for the exporting of nearly 4 ½ million cases of wine abroad. Two years later, he was an international consultant for such wineries as Sebastiani and Geyser Peak, helping build their exports from only 20,000 cases to nearly 500,000 in about five years. In 1995, Hansen put together a joint venture company in Paris that combined food import/export along with a number of private label wines that grew dramatically until 1997, when California literally ran out of wine.
‘It was incredible,” Hansen recently recalled, ‘one minute we were awash in wine and suddenly we couldn’t fill our orders. Even though we really had a lucrative business started, I had to be realistic. I had to go back to doing what I knew best--- building brands.”