Randy and I made our first vintage together in 2010 when our friends, Jesus Velasquez and Patricia Greer offered to sell us a ton of grapes from their beautiful Waterhorse Ridge Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview. Randy was looking at his 9th vintage of California wine production but had never made his own wine. I had recently moved to California from Seattle where I had spent fifteen years moonlighting in a wine shop while working as a professional dancer. We knew that Jesus and Patricia were excellent farmers and were intrigued by the idea of the Bordeaux varieties they grow in an area considered “too cold” to grow anything but high-priced Pinot Noir. So, we tightened our belts, crossed out fingers and bought a ton of grapes.
For the first two years, we made our wine in a barn in the hamlet of Duncan’s Mills near the mouth of the Russian River. This was guerrilla wine making at its finest. With no hot water, a couple of borrowed bins, an ancient basket press and lots of cows giving unsolicited advice, we relied on intuition and taste to decide when fermentations were complete, how long to leave the wine in barrel and when to bottle it. We agreed from the start that we would let the wine ferment naturally and that the only addition we would make would be sulfur in small quantities as needed. We also agreed that we wanted to make wine that was friendly, easy and expressed the laidback attitude of our home, Sonoma County.
Fast-forward three years and our dream to have our own wine production company, Unturned Stone Productions, was finally realized in the Spring of 2015. While it was difficult to leave our bootleg operation in Duncan’s Mills, we now make our wine in a bonded winery and have grown our production to include wines from both Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. We have stuck to our original principles, however, and still only purchase organically farmed fruit, do all our own work in the winery and keep to the tenets of natural winemaking. We also honor and value the work of the farmers that makes each of the vineyards we buy fruit from unique, and bottle all of our wines as vineyard designates.
It has been an incredible journey and we invite you to join us. Please enjoy a glass of Unturned Stone Productions wine with your next meal!
Erin and Randy
I came to wine production in 2002 with a Geology degree, 5 years of professional beer brewing experience, and some experimentation in home winemaking under my belt. I learned my Barrel Monkey skills through three vintages of lab and cellar work in Napa Valley wineries and southern-hemisphere vintages in South Africa and New Zealand. | also took few semesters of classwork at Napa Valley College, and eventually found a vineyard-focused job at Flowers Vineyard and Winery on the Sonoma Coast in the summer of 2005. Like some of the producers I had enjoyed working with in Napa, Flowers conducted its production with impressive precision by using conventional farming and modern winemaking techniques.
Situated on the lofty ridges of the coast, Flowers’ estate vineyards really brought my love of nature to the surface. Amid that wild abundance, with my feet in the potent soils and my head in the brilliant skies, I began to think about my work with a new perspective. I already had some regard for organic farming and historic winemaking practices, and I began to ask questions. Is the modern level of control really necessary? Is the health of the vineyard soils or the wine drinker at risk? Are the wines actually better?
I left Flowers in 2009, committed to practicing only organic farming, and determined to at least experiment with giving up modern winemaking controls. I spent a few years planting and training up a new vineyard near the town of Duncans Mills, and then went on to farming and vineyard work at Failla Wines. During this same time, I reconnected with Erin, who has roots with mine in Denver. She introduced me to a vast array of imported wines, traveled with me to visit growers in distant wine regions, and helped me to gain some understanding of old-world natural wine traditions. Together, we started Unturned Stone in 2010, and I’m happy to say that as of early 2018 it’s been my main job. From the beginning, we’ve sourced only organically-farmed grapes from growers we trust. We now manage some of our own vineyards, and have found success with making wine using only grapes and tiny amounts of sulfur.
I got my first job in the wine industry while working in the Gourmet Foods Department of Macy’s in Seattle, WA in 1994. I had recently graduated from art school with a BFA in dance which provided me with a rather limited skill set in the world outside the theater. Since high paying jobs as a post-modern dancer were few and far between, I found myself behind the candy counter at Macy’s. In between doling out single malt balls to the ladies in the cosmetic department and wrapping Godiva truffles for newly minted Microsoft millionaires, I became intrigued by the wall of wine on the other side of the department. I was soon taking home sample bottles, sitting in on tastings with the “wine expert”, a girl far worldlier and more serious than me, and soaking up as much knowledge as I possible could. Wine-tasting came very naturally to me and I loved having a new world to work in and explore. I soon became a “wine expert” and spent the next 15 years working in wine retail as my day job while pursuing a career in dance.
An injury forced me to retire from dancing professionally in 2009 and after re-connecting with Randy (indeed, we grew up in the same neighborhood in Denver, Colorado…), I began moving my life down to California. In 2010, I was hired as a sales representative for Farm Wine Imports in San Francisco and quickly became immersed in the Bay Area natural wine scene. Through Farm Wines, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the wine world visiting like-minded wine growers and producers in order to learn and discuss the challenges they face each vintage. When Randy and I made our first wine together in 2010, I had no experience as a winemaker but I had a clear vision of how I wanted to approach the collaboration. Luckily, Randy was in agreement and Unturned Stone hatched in a small barn in Duncan’s Mills with a ton of grapes, a little intuition and a whole lot of love. Randy’s skill as a winemaker and passion for winemaking is truly inspiring. He is now both my business and life partner.