Stateland Cellars - Double J Ranch banner

Stateland Cellars - Double J Ranch

Paso Robles AVA

Medal winning wines from California's best family-owned wineries

The combination of two separate entities, Stateland Cellars and Double J Ranch, is somewhat unique to members of the Gold Series Wine Club. While the two entities share common ownership, their wine portfolios are completely different as are each winery’s basic function.

Stateland Cellars first saw the light of day with initial releases in September of 2013 of almost 10,000 cases. Two years later, the winery has produced around the same level, but expects to increase its numbers to between 15 – 20 thousand cases sometime next year.

Stateland Cellars utilizes fruit from around the Paso Robles growing area, and primarily makes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery utilizes a stylish label that serves two functions: a fine presence on a white table cloth and also an excellent presentation as a consumer gift wine. The label was developed by one of the co-owners, Jim Gherlone (see Spotlight section) who has played an integral role in the development of Stateland Cellars.

Stateland actually refers to the State of California, the winery’s home and source of all the fruit that goes into Stateland Cellars’ wines. Stateland Cellars wines are currently sold in four states. That number is not expected to increase a great deal in the near future.

Double J Ranch is the second component to this month’s Gold Wine Club selection. As you might guess, the original owner of Double J Ranch hailed from Texas, the Dallas area to be more specific. Introduced as recently as 2014, Double J Ranch began with an initial release of 1,800 cases. Winery officials expect Double J Ranch’s production to increase to around 4,500 cases during the next two years.

At Double J Ranch, it’s all about Bordeaux and its venerable red varietals that include the great Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has also featured the wonderfully tasteful Sauvignon Blanc grape that produces Napa Valley’s most versatile white, this month’s featured selection.

The price/value relationship is incredibly important to Double J Ranch that offers the consumer an opportunity to enjoy a wine at a reasonable price that would not be available under a different label. Much of the savings result from the fact that an oversupply of quality grapes go into the composition of Double J Wines. Cheers!

Andrew Lazarre - Winemaker

Picture of Andrew Lazarre - Winemaker

If the name Adam LaZarre sounds familiar, you have probably already heard of the much decorated winemaker who originally hailed from the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. LaZarre’s father was an early advocate of great Bordeaux Châteaux and succeeded in giving LaZarre an excellent foundation in wine expertise.

When LaZarre joined the US Navy (spending seven years) he was stationed in Seattle where his love affair with wine was rekindled. He enrolled at Cal State Fresno and graduated from its well-founded enology program.

The Central Coast region of California beckoned the new winemaker and thus began Adam LaZarre’s incredible rise to fame. Early venues in the mid-1990s included Elliston Vineyards, Jekel Winery and the huge Constellation Wine Company. He later traveled to Spain and Chile to work on producing wines from the two countries.

At present, LaZarre is credited with more than two decades of winemaking experience. His most prominent accomplishments came as Vice President of Winemaking for esteemed Hahn Family Estate Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Adam LaZarre is among the most decorated winemakers in California. His accolades include three ‘Best of Show’ awards from the prestigious Los Angeles International Wine Competition, the only winemaker so recognized. He was the Sacramento Bee’s Winemaker of the Year in 2005 and also was one of the five top winemakers in the San Francisco Chronicle’s list of 2006. In 2012, he made’s list as the 69th Most Influential Person in the US Wine Industry.

LaZarre’s touch on the wines of both Stateland Cellars and Double J Ranch assures a well-balanced wine that is value-oriented as well.

Adam’s simple philosophy: “It’s one thing to sell $300 bottles of wine to a few people. I love to produce really great wines that taste two to three times the price and to know that, on any given night, someone somewhere is enjoying my wine.”

Adam LaZarre and his wife Angie also operate their own LaZarre Wines that have also gained critical acclaim.

Jim Gherlone - Co-Owner

Picture of Jim Gherlone - Co-Owner

When Jim Gherlone (pronounced Ger-loan-e) graduated from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, he had three job offers to go with his degree in business administration. The offers were from the Bank of America, Procter and Gamble, and Gallo Wine Company.

“I didn’t see myself sitting in a bank somewhere and never seeing the light of day,” Gherlone recently recalled. “I also had trouble seeing myself covered in laundry detergent or paper products that P & G sold. Gallo Wine Company was the only business that was actively recruiting graduates so I guess the decision as to where I would go was an easy one.”

Gherlone’s decision ultimately proved to be wise as well as easy. The now 49-year-old took a relatively circuitous approach before winding up as a co-owner of this month’s Gold Medal selections. His stint at Gallo lasted 3 ½ years and Gherlone admits he gleaned a great deal from the experience. He learned enough to land him a job with California Wine Distributor, Young’s Market, one of the leading wine distribution companies in the country.

By 2012, he was Director of National Accounts for Coastal Wine Brands and presently the national Sales Manager of Exclusive Brands for Costco Wholesale. Along the way, Gherlone found time to become a co-owner of wineries such as Stateland Cellars and Double J Ranch.

“I have always done what makes me happy in the wine business,” he confessed. “I always point out that I have learned just enough about the wine industry to make me dangerous.”

Jim Gherlone admitted he found a niche that could expand with properties like Stateland Cellars and Double J Ranch. “There is always a great deal of top grapes for sale from absolutely prominent AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas),” he continued. “The real job is finding them, buying them at a reasonable price and passing that savings on to the consumer. It sometimes gets a bit tricky, especially when the yield for a particular vintage is lower than usual. I always felt it was smarter to bite the bullet and make a lesser profit and keep your customers in the process. Loyalty is an important factor in the wine business, just ask the large number of people who have failed in the wine trade.”

In 2013, Gherlone was made aware of the opening of a new custom crushing and production facility that was to be known as KrushWerks, located in San Lucas at the south end of Monterey County. Its introduction was extremely beneficial to Gherlone’s plans for Stateland Cellars and Double J Ranch.

“KrushWerks was state-of-the-art in every respect,” informed Jim Gherlone. “In no time at all, we were using the facility for several projects we had on the table. KrushWerks was a boon to the Central Coast in general and an important piece in our plans for the future.”

Jim Gherlone is a most contented wine executive at this point in his life. His products play an important role for many wine businesses and consumers. It is interesting to note that he has come full circle in the wine industry.

Napa Valley & Paso Robles

Picture of Napa Valley & Paso Robles

Owners of both Stateland Cellars and Double J Ranch have made excellent use of the varied wine producing regions of California. With fruit available from Napa Valley, Carneros and several Central Coast appellations, the wineries are able to provide a diversity of varietals and terroirs for the wineries’ customers.

“The basic idea behind both of these entities was to be able to source outstanding fruit from wherever it was available,” informed Jim Gherlone, one of the co-owners of both entities. “We basically go where the best fruit is grown. We are very selective in our procurement process and our proven successes in finding great fruit bears out the appropriateness of our initial business plan. We intend to make our wines mirror the places and environments where they are grown. Once we establish the presence of top vineyards in a given area, we work to establish long term relationships with the growers to assure us of continued availability. This action is necessary to provide quality wines from year to year.”

While Napa Valley and Paso Robles are chiefly known for their great Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc {reds} and Sauvignon Blanc {white}, to name just a few). Carneros (Sonoma County and Napa Valley) and the Santa Lucia Highlands areas of the Central Coast are primarily rooted in Burgundian varietals such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Climate significantly affects these latter varietals and the cool, Pacific Maritime-influenced areas of the Central Coast provide excellent environments for these frequently hard to grow vines. Carneros’ location on the northern tip of San Pablo Bay allows for cool, foggy mornings and excellent sun baked hot afternoons. This combination makes for top class fruit from both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines.

Numerous world class wines are produced in both proclaimed growing areas that rival the very finest wines produced throughout the entire wine spectrum.