Santa Cruz Mountains AVA
Sandstone Cellars is owned and operated by one of Gold Medal Wine Club’s favorite wineries, Bargetto. During the last eight years, we have featured Bargetto wines twice, each time with impressive results. Simply put, the Bargetto family makes terrific wines and sells them at a modest, affordable price. The Bargetto’s have had plenty of time to perfect their craft, as they were one of the first wineries to open their doors after Prohibition in 1933. Even before Prohibition, the Bargettos had wine in their blood. In fact, their wine roots stretch all the way back to the late 1800s in Italy, where patriarch, Giuseppe Bargetto operated a vineyard.
Giuseppe Bargetto arrived in America in 1890 in search of a better life. Times were tough in his homeland of northern Italy during the late 1800’s. He heard stories about America and its life of opportunity and prosperity. As a vineyard owner in Piedmont, Italy, he was particularly intrigued by the reports of rich, fertile soil and wide open land of the California territory. After he arrived, it didn’t take long for Giuseppe to be convinced of the potential that awaited. He promptly went back to Italy to spread the word.
Giuseppe’s sons, Phillip and John were keenly interested in what their father had discovered and soon found their way to California. Phillip was the first of the brothers to arrive in 1891. He quickly found work at a small winery south of San Francisco. Phillip’s great uncle Giovanni was the next to emigrate. They both worked at the winery until 1905 when they opened one of their own which they named Columbus Winery.
In 1909 Phillip paid for his younger brother John to come to California. Soon after he arrived, the Bargetto clan purchased 4 acres of land and began growing wine grapes, fruits and vegetables. They sold their wine and produce to the small but growing community of European immigrants who had collected in the San Francisco area. The wine they produced was more like a large home-winemaking operation than it was a winery. They continued selling wine to the community until Prohibition hit in 1919.
In the early 1930’s, when it appeared that Prohibition would be repealed, the two brothers, Phillip and John, planned a quick return into the commercial wine business. On December 5, 1933, the very day of Repeal, they founded Bargetto Winery.
Being the first and only winery in the area to open after Prohibition, their business flourished. They sold fruits and vegetables too, but clearly wine was the biggest part of their business. Consumer wine knowledge was very limited, so the wines made were mostly generic and delivered in barrels to local establishments. But even back then the Bargettos began to bottle varietal specific wines such as Zinfandel and Riesling.
Phillip died suddenly in 1936, which left John to direct the operation for the ensuing years. He continued the winery operations on a modest scale eventually adding a Barbera and Muscat to the varietal bottlings. Overall production stayed under 5,000 cases throughout the 1930’s and mid 1940’s.
After World War II, John’s sons, Lawrence and Ralph, became involved in the winery. Lawrence concentrated on the production and quality control, while Ralph focused on the marketing and sales. Now with more horsepower behind the winery, the facility was expanded and distribution was increased. This new found vigor and enthusiasm led to a doubling of the winery’s output by the early 1950’s.
The winery fell into a slump in the early 1960’s. Then adding to their woes, John passed away in 1964. To help make ends meet, Ralph left the winery; and Lawrence was left with the task of reviving the winery.
In 1966 Lawrence developed what was then an experimental wine made from different varieties of fruit. His first batch was a plum wine which he sold under the Chaucer’s label. Its instant success led to the quick development of additional fruit wine offerings, and by the early 1970’s Bargetto was producing a dozen different varieties. This new sideline of wines revitalized Bargetto Winery as it forged through its fourth decade of business.
Once again, death caught the Bargetto family by surprise. In 1982 Lawrence passed away leaving his wife, Beverly, and son Martin to run the business. Beverly and Martin immediately began to make changes to the operation which would strengthen their future in the marketplace.
They segmented their wines into distinct groups. The top-of-the-line wines carry the Bargetto family label and now the Sandstone label. The medium-tier wines have a Cypress designation on the label, and another tier of popular priced wine carries the Coastal Cellars label. The popular fruit wines under the Chaucer’s label would remain but paired down to four different offerings.
The mainstay of the Bargetto label over the last two decades has been with four varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. Merlot was recently added to the line up, and has quickly established itself as an important part of the varietal mix.. Production today stands at 25,000 cases, plus an additional 12,000 cases made of the Chaucer’s line.
Bargetto’s focus is to continue showcasing top quality wines produced from the Santa Cruz area. The winery’s newly formed Sandstone label is further proof that the region is capable of producing among the finest wines in California.
Paul Wofford - Winemaker
Paul Wofford has been Bargetto Winery’s winemaker for 12 years. Under his winemaking prowess, Bargetto wines have won over 250 medals in the wine-trade competitions, and earned countless praise and recognition from wine writers across the country.
Paul, a fourth generation Californian, grew up in the central valley and attended nearby Fresno State University. There he received a degree in Geology and continued his graduate studies in Geology and Enology.
In 1997 Paul landed his first winery position at Clos Du Val in Napa, where he worked as Cellarmaster. Having gained thorough knowledge of red wine production at Clos Du Val, he turned his attention to white wines by moving south to Zaca Mesa Winery in Santa Barbara county. In 1982 he jumped at a chance to work as winemaker for one of California’s higher profile ‘boutique” wineries, Martin Ray Vineyards in the Santa Cruz mountains.
His collective experience made him an attractive target for Bargetto Winery, who wooed him away in 1986. At Bargetto, Paul has had free reign to develop and expand the winery’s offerings. His efforts have been nationally and internationally recognized for producing excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gewurztraminer.
Paul met his wife Ann at Bargetto Winery where she is a Wine Counselor. They have two young boys and live in nearby Soquel.
The Bargetto Family - A history of winemaking
The history of Bargetto Winery has truly been a big family affair. Over its sixty-five year history, the torch has passed from one generation to another, from one family member to another.
Italian vineyard owner Giuseppe Bargetto was the catalyst who spurred sons Phillip and John to immigrate to America in the early 1900’s. The two sons literally rooted their future to the land of Santa Cruz county. They were rugged individuals who carved their niche into the new country by using the land to grow and sell vegetables, grapes and other fruits. They worked hard and persevered through the rough times of The Depression and Prohibition. The brothers’ wherewithal gave them a head start in the California wine business opening the Bargetto Winery the very day Prohibition was repealed. After Phillip’s death, brother John Bargetto kept the winery alive and well through World War II.
John’s sons, Lawrence and Ralph became involved with the winery after the war and together they set the tone for the next 30 years. They brought modern production methods and sales savvy to the winery operations. Lawrence was a pre-med student who introduced science to the craft, creating the testing lab, improving and maintaining the quality of their wines. Ralph handled the business end introducing new channels of distribution, broadening exposure and increasing sales to handle the growing production.
Lawrence brought about significant change to the winery’s direction by pioneering Bargetto Winery’s popular dessert fruit wines in the mid 1960’s. Lawrence’s death in 1982 pushed the winery into yet another era of Bargetto family management which remains intact to this day.
Beverly Bargetto stepped into her husband’s shoes to assume the leadership role. Even though she was still raising five children when Lawrence passed away, she wasn’t about to relinquish the winery to someone outside of the family. After 30 years of marriage and assisting Lawrence with virtually every long range strategy decision, she was willing and able to rise to the challenge.
She solicited the help of her eldest son, Martin, who at the time was just beginning to learn the ropes of the family business. Martin studied viticulture at U.C. Davis, in the late 1970’s and worked briefly at Tepusquet Vineyards in Santa Barbara county. After graduating, he managed a wine shop in Sacramento to gain retail sales and management experience. In 1982 he returned to the family winery immediately after his father’s untimely death. Martin assumed the role of General Manager and helped his mother continue the ground work set by his father.
Shortly after, in 1984, Martin’s younger brother, John, entered the picture. Growing up, John worked in the Bargetto wine cellar where he learned a bit of winemaking. He later continued his winemaking education by going through U.C. Davis’s, enology program. After graduating, John returned to the family winery to become winemaker. As winemaker, he directed the modernization of the winery’s cellar operation and drastically improved its efficiency. He is currently the Chaucer’s fruit-wine brand manager and is also directing the winery’s sales efforts in the Midwest.
Lawrence and Beverly’s third son, Richard, is an attorney and serves as the winery’s in-house counsel. He also manages the office administration and heads up the direct mail program. Daughter Loretta helps with the winery’s Wine Club program. Youngest daughter, Donna, is a Dean at a private girl’s school in San Francisco and is not actively involved in the winery at the present time.
Beverly’s nephew, Tom, has been with the family operation since the late 1970’s. He worked in production initially and is now directing the local area sales and developing the winery’s efforts in the Southeastern U.S. Two other nephews, Peter and Paul, were also once involved with Bargetto Winery, then started their own winery, Soquel Vineyards, in 1987.
Make no mistake about it, Bargetto Winery is a family affair through and through! And with good reason we’re pretty sure there are little Bargettos waiting to help guide the winery through its next sixty-five years!