In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, a handful of winemakers like Heitz, Ridge, Hirsch, and Corison dared to see the coastlines and valleys and mountains of the American west for what they were: incredible land waiting for the right person to come along and coax delicious wine from their soils. Through the last half a century or more, they stayed the course, encouraged by the knowledge that what they are making is built to last. Today, new winemakers inspired by those greats are emerging on the scene.
The New School of California producers prioritizes quality first. Beginning in the early aughts, they diverged from the commercial wineries of California, which see the vineyard and the winery as separate spheres. They’re unified by a few common beliefs:
- Site matters. Many of these winemakers scour the state for the perfect sites.
- Farming matters. If they don’t own their own vineyards, they buy fruit from people who prioritize quality farming, whether that’s fish friendly, sustainable, organic, biodynamic, regenerative, etc.
- Taste matters. It must, above all else, be delicious.
These are the winemakers continuing to shape California’s legacy.
- Founded by Duncan Arnot and Nathan Lee Roberts in 2001 in Healdsburg.
- Both grew up in Napa Valley in the 1980s and were immersed in the up-and-coming wine scene.
- They began with one single barrel in a basement and now source from some of the best vineyards in Northern California.
Ashes and Diamonds
- Founded in 2017 by Kashy Khaledi with Steve Matthiason and Diana Snowden Seysses.
- The wines are a tribute to Napa of the 1960s — the classic California wines that we love.
Domaine de la Côte
- Founded in 2006.
- Bought by Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr in 2013, although their involvement started before that.
- All six vineyards are planted to heritage California selections and farmed organically.
- Founded two labels — Onward and Farmstrong — dedicated to new school California wines.
- Onward is dedicated to site-specific wines sourced from great vineyards.
- Farmstrong focuses on blends from across AVAs sourced from great vineyards.
- Founded by Steve Matthiason and Jill Klein Matthiason in 2003.
- Both worked in agriculture and sustainable food and bring those values to their wines.
- They work with well and lesser-known varieties from Cabernet Sauvignon to Ribolla Gialla.
- Founded by Pax and Pamela Mahle in 2000.
- They began by focusing entirely on Syrah and eventually expanded to other varieties.
- Farming is done without chemicals, and all winemaking is done by hand (and foot) with native yeasts.
- Founded by the Murphy family in the Santa Maria Valley with Dieter Cronje as winemaker in 2007.
- Dedicated to cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, with smaller amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Gamay, and Aligoté.
- Founded 2014 by brothers Lyle and Eric Railsback in the Santa Ynez Valley.
- Started out as a rosé project paying tribute to the iconic Lulu Peyraud of Domaine Tempier.
- The line has expanded to include Carignan and Clairette Blanche.
- Founded in the late aughts by Kevin Harvey.
- Seven estate vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Anderson Valley.
- Founded by Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman in 2012.
- Small production wines from the Santa Rita Hills, sourced from various vineyards.
- Focus on clear representations of terroir without significant winemaking interventions.
- Founded by Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua.
- Primarily farmed on sandy sites.
- Focus on varieties that have fallen out of favor like Zinfandel and Carignan.
Scar of the Sea
- Founded by Mikey and Gina Giugni in San Luis Obispo County.
- Sourced from responsibly farmed vineyards.
- Influenced by the cool climate and foggy coastline.
- Run by the Snowden family, who came to the property in the 1950s.
- Originally a homestead, the property has hosted vines since the 1800s.
- Started out selling their grapes but released their first wine in 1993.
- Diana Snowden Seysess has been lead winemaker since 2011.
- Diana is married to Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac, and also works there when she’s not at Snowden.
- The wines are classic and terroir-driven.