Napa Valley AVA

Prepared for the epicurean palate, Taria Cellars Wines are on the top of the list.

Taria Cellars' wines (pronounced Tau-riah) were born out of a call for a specific type of wine to fulfill an existing need in the restaurant business. In a sense, the Gold Medal Wine Club is fortunate to be able to participate in this remarkable example of familial responsibility and winemaking prowess.

The story starts with Dennis Stroud, a wine entrepreneur and wine industry expert located in Napa, California, and Managing Partner of Plata Wine Partners. Established in 2005, Plata is a relatively new company specializing in producing limited amounts of extremely high quality wines for a number of high profile customers.

Stroud's sister, Denise and her husband, Mike Tomei, own a truly upscale restaurant in Placerville, CA, named Tomei's on Main. The place is located neatly in the scenic and bucolic Sierra Foothills on the route to Lake Tahoe. Since wine is treated on an equal footing in Denise's restaurant, she wanted a fashionable wine to serve as house wine that would be different from most of the house wines that many restaurant customers have come to feel were less than brilliant after tasting. She approached her brother Dennis, who thought her idea was right up his alley.

'For the past few years we have made similar wines for some of the top on-premise (restaurant and hotel) accounts in the country including the Waldorf-Astoria in New York and the incredible Nobu Restaurant chain (Nobu was an original Iron Chef) that now has seventeen units worldwide, including three in the United States. These customers wanted their own brand of wine that was suited to their specific cuisines and we have worked with them to produce superior wines that they could afford.

Our parent company owns a tremendous amount of vineyards that produce a complete array of varietals, from the very top grapes to some more moderately priced. The ongoing advantage I have is that I can select from each succeeding vintage the very best grapes in whatever quantities I need for my projects, and that practically guarantees a really top quality product.'

Dennis Stroud's wine project for his sister eventually took the form of Taria Cellars. The name Taria is an amalgamation of sorts that really has little meaning other than the near sound association to terra and the fact that the label tends to offer an earthy, home style of wine inside the bottle. In fact, that's exactly what Dennis Stroud intended to do with Taria Cellars. 'We wanted to produce a lovely wine with great fruit and an allure for upscale food and pallets,' Stroud explained. 'At first, the wine was only intended for my sister's restaurant in Placerville, but when I saw how good it was turning out, I decided to make more and see what might happen. When Gold Medal Wine Club expressed an interest that was non competitive to the restaurant, I was delighted to offer them the wine.'

Stroud collected grapes from practically every part of the Central Coast to make the two Taria Cellars wines. He used his years of expertise to pinpoint exact sources for some of the grapes that he was sure would work together in the barrel. 'After all,' he admitted, 'Taria Cellars was originally my sister's wine and I really couldn't afford to mess it up, she would have killed me.'

But in the end, Denise Tomei loved the initial Taria Cellars wines Dennis presented to her and so do all her customers, many of whom drive a long way to experience her epicurean offerings. For the record, the Cuv'e 384 is named for Tomei's on Main's street address, which is the number 384. Another interesting fact is that the menu for Tomei's on Main changes daily.

About 1500 cases of the first release of Taria Cellars have been initially produced, and Stroud estimates that only a thousand or so will be bottled later this year. He explained that the final amount always depends on the grapes he is able to secure that fit the Taria Cuv'e's exacting standards.

With grapes for the Taria Cuv'e coming from numerous locales, that particular process (blending) is important if not imperative.

Taria Cellars also secured the noted Sonoma artist/designer Patti Britton to produce the labels for its new wines. Britton produced a straightforward label with warm, earthy tones that features the Taria Cellars logo with bright blue foil under a crescent.

Winemaker Alison Crowe is devoted to expertly blending Central Coast wines.

Picture of Winemaker Alison Crowe is devoted to expertly blending Central Coast wines.

Alison Crow is only in her early thirties, but already boasts a resume of tremendous substance. The Santa Barbara native is an honors graduate of UC Davis and is currently pursuing her masters there. She has worked for the likes of Chalone, Bonny Doon, Byington and also in Argentina. She is considered a minimalist vintner who always gets the most out of her grapes.

Introducing Dennis Stroud . . .

Picture of Introducing Dennis Stroud . . .

Taria Cellars' ingenious owner/president Dennis Stroud, 56, admits to enjoying wine at a very early age, probably square in his mid teens. The Ojai, California native said that his parents had wine on the table for every meal, and he developed his taste for it as a beverage before he was even legally able to drink. While attending Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo in pursuit of a degree in crops science, Stroud became of age and actually started collecting wines on his own, whenever he could afford to do so.

"I was into wines in the early 1970's when wines were not really cool,' he explained. 'Being in the middle of the Central Coast and its close proximity to vineyards and a few startup wineries was probably the most exciting thing I had ever imagined possible.'

After graduation, he took a job with Dow Chemical in Indiana that he soon regretted and after a year or so, quickly returned to his home state. In the late 1970's, a position with agricultural industry giant Monsanto put him into the midst of wine country, Sonoma County to be exact. There, Stroud was able to interact with a number of top Sonoma growers to test various products that Monsanto was developing for the wine industry.

'It was a perfect job for me,' Stroud confessed. 'I always had a real passion for wine and now someone was willing to pay me to become a part of it. It also placed me on the cutting edge for new techniques and methods of production, both vitally important to the growing wine industry. '

After several years with the corporate leader, Stroud decided a career in the wine industry was for him. He became the national sales manager for a number of significant Sonoma County wineries including Kenwood Vineyards, Kunde Estate Vineyards and Winery and Lambert Bridge Winery.

Stroud's career came to full fruition in 2006 when he and seven wine industry partners formed Plata Wine Partners LLC. During 2007, the company's first year of business, Plata produced almost 40,000 cases of wine. This year Plata intends to produce around 75,000 cases, a remarkable amount for a startup company and even more noteworthy when you consider that the wines Plata puts forth are all of extremely high quality.

Dennis Stroud loves his involvement with Taria Cellars due to the fact that it allows him to develop wines that are truly geared to a particular segment of the tasting public. 'I want to concentrate on producing wines that are simple, yet classic,' he stated. 'I want these wines to have great fruit and be perfect in taste to the palate. I want our blend to change every year, but I want the wines to always be of extremely high quality. I realize this isn't easy, but with the selection of grapes open to me through our corporate connections, the choices are endless and our quality level should be also.'

Today, Dennis Stroud is one of the most assured people in the wine business. Is there any wonder why’