Sonoma Coast AVA
One of the most reputable boutique wineries in California
After the infamous dot-com crash of 2000, many in the high tech world were left scrambling. Amidst the bust, however, came a very unexpected success story that is the basis for this month’s Platinum Wine Club selection, Sojourn Cellars.
Ex-computer software salesman Craig Haserot decided to move to Sonoma County after the crash, hoping to pursue a new career path while escaping the cold weather of San Francisco. Haserot began playing tennis at the local Maxwell Farms Regional Park and struck up a friendship with doubles partner, Erich Bradley, who was then the winemaker at Arrowood Winery and Audelssa (both in Sonoma). Bradley specialized in producing Cabernet Sauvignon from select local vineyards.
Haserot and Bradley bonded over their passion for Pinot Noir, and began playing with the idea of making their own wine. Haserot had the background in sales and marketing, while Bradley was happy just making wine – without all the business details. It was the beginning of a wonderfully successful friendship and business partnership.
In 2001, the two made 150 cases of project Cabernet from Sonoma’s Glen Ellen vineyard and the finished product was better than they ever could have anticipated.
“When we released the Cab, it was actually really good and we realized there was potential with our wines,” Haserot explained. “The following year, we upped the Cab production to 250 cases and then to 350 cases in 2004.”
With Bradley’s experience in making Sonoma Cabs, it was only natural that Cabernet Sauvignon would be the first endeavor for Sojourn Cellars, but it wasn’t long before their love for Pinot Noir lead to new experimentation.
“Our real passion was always Pinot, so in 2004 we decided to make 210 cases of Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir,” Haserot stated. This first Pinot release took home 95 and 92-point ratings and really set the stage for the caliber of wines produced thereafter.
What Haserot and Bradley didn’t anticipate was the reaction 2004’s Sideways movie would have on the California Pinot Noir industry. “Our sales literally took off!” Haserot enthused. The two increased their Pinot production tenfold and what started out as an avid hobby had become an incredibly successful business move.
When Haserot and Bradley brainstormed names for their budding winery, a friend aptly suggested Sojourn, which actually has two significant meanings: the French sojourner refers to a journey, vacation or road trip, while the English sojourn implies rest, relax and respite.
“That’s how we came up with the lawn chair,” Haserot explains about the wine label’s simplistic depiction. “People really like it, too. It’s how drinking a glass of wine should be.”
Sojourn Cellars’ celebrated Tasting Salon concept in downtown Sonoma further promotes the winery’s appealing philosophy with a living room-type setting of cozy furniture and a dining room table (no tasting bar). Both Haserot and Bradley join guests for private tasting sessions to share their limited production, highly rated wines. The Tasting Salon is certainly unique in its personal approach to wine tasting, and the customers seem to be enjoying themselves as well.
At a current production level of 5,000 cases, Haserot is comfortable with the size of Sojourn Cellars and would like to only slightly increase the production size in the coming years.
About the Vineyard
Rodgers Creek Vineyard is located between Sonoma and Petaluma in the Sonoma Coast AVA of California. Specifically, the Rodgers Creek Vineyard sits at 300 feet above sea level in the heart of the Petaluma Gap, which constantly funnels wind and fog from the Pacific Ocean to this special site. The Petaluma Gap influence combines with the volcanic soils here to produce a truly distinctive Pinot Noir defined primarily by its earthy character.
Sojourn Cellars is known for their terroir-driven wines from exceptional vineyards, and the owners are thrilled to source fruit from this fantastic property. The Sonoma Coast AVA contains more than 500,000 acres, mostly along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. It extends from San Pablo Bay to the border with Mendocino County and is known for its cool climate and high rainfall relative to other parts of Sonoma County. Sonoma Coast is home to over 2,000 vineyard acres and is celebrated for its world-class Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Syrahs.
Erich Bradley - Winemaker
A native Californian from the San Francisco Peninsula, Erich Bradley became interested in wine when his family bought a twenty-six acre ranch in Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon in 1998. Since then, Bradley studied winemaking at U.C. Davis and viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College before gaining incredible experience from winemakers (and mentors) Richard Arrowood and David Ramey.
In 1999, Bradley started as a harvest lab technician at Arrowood Vineyards and Winery that eventually lead to a full time winemaking position. He also began making Cabernet Sauvignon for Audelssa Winery and worked closely with winemaker/consultant David Ramey for a couple of years. Bradley continues as winemaker for Audelssa today.
He found a great partnership with Haserot when forming Sojourn Cellars in 2001, and the two continue to enjoy experimenting with small lots of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon each harvest. In his free time, away from the winery, Bradley enjoys playing tennis and golf with friends and family.