Interviewed by Louis S. Luzzo of kitchenrap.blogspot.com
Bruce Cohn, founder and proprietor of B.R. Cohn Winery, has embraced a lifelong passion for Northern California’s wine country and its bounty. An equally strong passion for music led to a parallel career in the music industry as the manager for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s perennially favorite American bands, The Doobie Brothers. His down-to-earth attitude, focus and dedication coupled with the fact that he is a truly ‘nice guy’ have made both careers flourishing successes to this day.
Serendipity? The right place at the right time? You bet! All of the above! Yet talk with Bruce and he’ll tell you it has been and continues to be no small task. His spotting the opportunities that came his way, capitalizing on them and maintaining the level of quality and performance that he espouses for himself did not just fall in his lap and he has worked hard. It’s hard to believe that he has served as band manger for the Doobies for 42+ years, and though most wine enthusiasts now know about his award winning wines, many would be surprised to realize that he has has owned Olive Hill Estate Vineyards and has been producing quality grapes for almost 38 years. This is a man who, unheard of in the music industry, started a pension plan for he and the members of the Doobie Brothers as they rose to success in the early 70’s. Such is the foresight of this enigmatic man.
Bruce’s roots in Sonoma County agriculture run deep. He became familiar with ranch and vineyard operations at an early age, when his family left Chicago for Sonoma’s Russian River Valley to open Northern California’s first grade-A goat dairy farm.
When Bruce was 10 years old, he spent his free time milking goats, picking grapes and playing in old wine vats. Another move to San Francisco during high school exposed Bruce to the vibrant Bay Area music scene of the 1960s. After graduating from high school, Bruce went on to the College of San Mateo, majoring in broadcasting & communications. He later finished his studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Bruce returned to San Francisco in 1968 for a job working nights as a television engineer for two years while running a music rehearsal studio by day. In 1969, Bruce began managing the then local band, The Doobie Brothers, and the rest, as they say, is history. Bruce continues to manage the now-legendary band to this day.
Entertainment world success notwithstanding, Bruce was eventually drawn back to the beauty of wine country. To keep some sanity and preserve quality of life, he purchased an old dairy in Glen Ellen in 1974 that evolved into Olive Hill Estate Vineyard, so-named for the property’s grove of 140-year-old French Picholine olive trees. Bruce purchased books on viticulture and read them during long periods of traveling with the band. He soon became intensely involved with all aspects of growing grapes, from planting and pruning to grafting and trellising techniques. A decade after taking ownership of the land and having great success selling grapes to other wineries, Bruce started B.R. Cohn Winery at Olive Hill in 1984.
Bruce and his family live in the Sonoma Valley where he runs both the winery and his music business from the property. He has made the Olive Hill Estate Vineyard a true family wine estate.
Lou: You grew up on a dairy farm.
Bruce: A goat dairy, which was a little different than most dairies in Sonoma County. We had the first, grade A, goat dairy in this area in 1957. We made feta goat’s cheese in those days which nobody even knew about, pretty much.
You were way ahead of the curve.
My parents were way ahead of the curve. So, I milked goats from 4:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon, seven days a week most of my childhood. We milked 115 of them by hand, twice a day. It was quite a work ethic learned.
Quite an upbringing. Looking at some of the things you’ve done in your career, foresight seems to run in the family. Your mom and dad with goat cheese, you with other things you’ve done with food, wine and music. I understand that when you were growing up you wanted to be a veterinarian.
My first love was working with animals and from childhood that was my goal, to be a veterinarian, but it didn’t pan out. My entrance to UC Davis, here in California, was very stringent and in those days they only took 27 applicants a year from the whole state. It was very difficult to get in. You had to have a stellar 4.0 grade-point to get in and I didn’t, of course. (Laughter) We moved back to San Francisco, and my folks were both musicians….
So music has always been the backstage of your life….
They met singing in Chicago professionally, before we moved to California. My dad sang Italian arias and he went to Julliard School of Music.
Being artists they went to California and of course the logical thing would be: a goat farm.
(Laughing) Basically, their son, my brother, had really bad asthma and they moved to California, San Francisco specifically, because the doctor said it was better for asthmatics, lower pollen count. That’s how we got to the west coast from Chicago. It was a fluke that my dad bought the ranch in the Russian River Valley in 1957 and we ended up there. We moved back to San Francisco after ranching. In 1968, I got a job at TV 20 in San Francisco after receiving my degree in radio and television from the College of San Mateo.
Your brother was running a rehearsal studio at the time, correct?
We both ran a rehearsal studio, but my brother worked as an engineer at a recording studio, and I met the Doobie Brothers when he was recording in San Mateo, California. I just happened to be down there one day as I worked the swing shift at the TV station, 4 to midnight. I worked the rehearsal hall during the day and the TV station at night. One day there was nothing going on at the rehearsal hall. I went down to the studio and that’s where I met the Doobie Brothers’ lead guitar player and drummer who were looking for a record deal.
We understand they were dressed more appropriately for the Hells’ Angels.
Well, they looked like bikers for sure. They hung out with the Hells’ Angels. The Doobie Brothers were the Hells’ Angels’ favorite band in the South Bay and Santa Fe area at that time. They played clubs all over the Bay Area and we ended up getting a record deal.
You got them heard at a pizzeria gig.
Yeah, Ricardo’s Pizza Parlor. They were discovered by a Warner Brothers’ talent scout. He went back to Warner and told them to sign them up. We got a record contract from that pizza parlor date in 1970.
That turned into a very interesting tour, The Mother’s Brothers Tour?
On release of the record in 1971, Warner Brothers put us out on a very interesting tour. It was Tracy Nelson, Mother Earth, and the Doobie Brothers which they named the Mothers’ Brothers Tour. That was the time of the Rowan & Martin Laugh-In shows. The Mothers’ Brothers Tour was a spoof on that show.
It didn’t do too well.
It was a total disaster. By the time that we got off the road, the CD they had put out, well LP back in those days, vinyl, was in the recycle bin at Tower Records. We were back in the clubs and I was collecting guns and knives from the Hells Angels and trying to get two bucks out of them per show.
When the Doobie Brothers hit on the second LP, Toulouse Street, we went from 8,000 copies of sales on the first LP to 2.7 million on the second one, and that changed our lives drastically, as you can imagine. 150 cities a year internationally all over the world all of sudden and I was on the road managing them and mixing their sound for seven years.
So you had a dual role. Did you have a family at this point?
I had four children and the reason I bought the ranch, which I named Olive Hill….
In ’74 correct?
Yeah, right after the Doobies hit in ’72, I started looking to move back up into the wine country where I was raised on the dairy.
Just to keep a level head because it is a crazy business. I’m an ex-musician myself, not to the level we’re talking here, in terms of the tours.
You know how hard it is to be on the road, do 150 cities….
…and have a family life…
…yes and keep a family. I wanted to raise a family out in the country where I was raised. I spent good time with them. I had an office in my home, so when I was home, I was with family a lot. When I was gone though, I was gone. We had long tours in those days, we don’t do that any more, they’re down to 80 shows a year and we break it up to two weeks segments as much as possible. Those days we could be out 5,6,7 weeks at a time.
That can take its toll. I do understand.
Very difficult. I bought the ranch to chill out and rejuvenate myself from touring.
Speaking of foresight when we started talking, was wine in your vision at that point? I understand one of the things about the ranch that was attractive to you were the Picholine trees.
What happened when I bought this property, it was 46 acres and was a dairy. It had an olive grove planted around the dairy buildings, prior to the dairy buildings when the home was built in 1920. The trees were planted in 1870 and are 140 years old. When I bought property they were about 100 years old. We didn’t really do anything with the olives, we ignored them. The dairy had been closed and the owner had started to plant grapes instead of hay. There were 14 acres of grapes on the 46 acres, so I inherited a vineyard when I purchased it, but I didn’t know anything about the vineyard. I had picked grapes growing up out in the Russian River Valley.
I understand you started a study course for yourself on the road.
I started by doing it. I had started a pension plan and profit sharing plan for the band in 1974.
Which was unheard of at that time.
It’s not part of rock-n-roll to have a pension plan. I had grown up with the guys in Santana and some of the other bands around the Bay Area, and they had great careers and sold millions of records and ended up broke because they didn’t’ have good management and they didn’t save their money. I didn’t want that to happen to The Doobies and myself, because we are all equal partners, and I wanted us all to come out with something at the end. I didn’t know it was going to go 42 years.
That’s a great pension plan.
I was preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. The administrator of the pension plan happened to be a wine collector. In those days, when I started, there were only about 35 wineries in northern California and they were mostly jug wines like Inglenook, Christian Brothers and Sebastiani.
Somewhere along here you met Charlie Wagner.
The pension plan administrator, Stan Bernie, took me and introduced me to him. Stan was collecting wines, even back in 1974, and Charlie had grown up with his father farming grapes in Napa Valley. Stan asked him if he would help me. Charlie was kind of a redneck farmer. I had hair out to my shoulders.
You were a rock-n-roller
(chuckles) Yeah, snakeskin pants and leather boots. I didn’t look like a farmer, I can tell you that. I talked to him and told him I was raised on a dairy and was in Future Farmers of America and all that stuff. He said if you’re a friend of Stan’s I’ll help you. We ended up hitting it off and Charlie ended up mentoring me for four years. It was really invaluable to have that mentoring from a guy that had been in it (wine) all his life.
You already had a history with ‘working with the dirt/land’. Did he work with you out in the field, looking at the grapes?
That’s what he did. He taught root stocks, cloning, how to graft, trellising techniques, how to do irrigation, which was new at that time. I took those things home, and when I was planting vineyards, and fixing up vineyards I had that weren’t in good shape, I used what he told me. It really helped me. I read books as well, Winkler’s book on viticulture for instance. (“General Viticulture” by A. J. Winkler). When the band found out, they were just shaking their heads saying, “What are you doing reading viticulture books?”
I explained that I had this vineyard on my property and the pictures in the book didn’t look like my vineyard. I was trying to figure out what was wrong. I educated myself through Charlie’s help and ended up now, knowing a lot about vineyards. You can’t make good wine unless you have good grapes. I don’t care how good your winemaker is and what the reputation is, I’ve had Helen Turley and Mary Edwards….
Well, let’s stop here a minute before we get ahead of ourselves. I have a little anecdote, something a little bird whispered in my ear and I want to talk to you about it with regard to grapes. You originally started growing grapes and selling them to other vineyards?
Yes, my first contract was with August Sebastiani, because he was the big buyer in Sonoma and bought most all the grapes.
What kind of grapes were you primarily planting at that time?
I had inherited some Cabernet and some Pinot Noir, 14 acres worth.
Which turned out to be very, very good grapes.
The cab did, the pinot was not. It was not a good climate. I’m in a little town called Glen Ellen, and where we are is a very unique, very small micro-climate in the valley.
Let’s put that aside for a minute, we’ll get back to the climate. You were growing grapes and selling to Sebastiani, however, I was told I needed to speak with you about “late night, bumpy roads, smuggling grapes past August.”
(He is laughing quite a bit here.) Wow, I don’t know where you are getting all this info….
I’ve been accused of doing our homework…
(chuckles)…Charlie Wagner told me he was upset that August Sebastiani was taking my grapes and throwing them in with all this other stuff he bought from the central valley and making a blended decent wine, but nothing great. He told me I didn’t realize the quality of grapes I had. He told me to bring him some grapes and he’d make the wine separate and he’d tell me how good it is. I said, “I think it’s good because I keep getting a bonus from August, so it must be good.” I told him I’d love to bring him some grapes, except that August, when I harvested, I’m on the highway here between Sonoma and Glen Ellen, would drive up and down the highway and watch the harvesting. Your grapes didn’t go to his winery if you took your grapes somewhere else as well. He’d cut you off from your contract and in those days, it was very hard to get grape contracts because there were more grapes then there were wineries. Charlie said, “August is like me, we go to bed at 7 and get up at 4.” He said, “You just wait until 8, he’ll be in bed and you drive them over, he’ll never know. (Laughing)
Were you driving hot-rods at this time still?
I had switched from hot-rods to Harleys.
So basically this was the moonshine of Sonoma County.
Yeah. I had an old ’48 Dodge flatbed truck that I used to bring grapes to August with, it held 6 tons, two, 3-ton bins on it. I loaded one with 3 tons of cab and one with 3 tons of pinot and decided to take them over, what we call, The Oakville Grade, which is treacherous even in a Ferrari. It’s a mountain road that’s a shortcut. If you go around the long way it’s a flat road and easy. I was afraid that August might be out, having dinner and he’d see my truck. I ended up burning up the brakes coming down into Oakville. Ending up at Charlie’s two hours late, he was upset because he wanted to be in bed. He was waiting in the driveway when I got there and asked “Where the hell have you been?”
I told him I went over the grade and he told me, “You’re out of your mind. Look, your brakes are on fire, there’s smoke. You go back that way you’re going to kill yourself.” (Laughing)
I dumped the grapes and went home. He called me about six months later and said, “Bruce, get over here you have to try this wine I made.”
So I went over, knowing absolutely nothing about wine. The Doobie Bros. and I were drinking mostly Cuervo. We didn’t know fine wine, we were drinking Lancers and Matuse. I faked it and told him the wine tasted great. He said it was great, it was the best cab he’d ever had from Sonoma County. He said I was missing the boat and had to get my name on a label. That was in ’78.
Six years later after again selling grapes to August, I started selling to Ravenswood and Kenwood and they all start winning gold medals with my grapes. I was taking ‘night loads’ to them. (More laughing) Olive Hill started showing up on all the vineyard designated wines. Luckily he (August) didn’t look at anybody else’s winery or he would have known. I was selling him the same amount of grapes, but I was planting more each year.
You have close to 100 acres now?
Now we’re at 90 acres. I’ve bought land over the years and it’s all Cabernet. I found out that because of the micro-climate here…
Yes, let’s talk about your special micro-climate.
It’s what makes us stand apart from the other Cabernet growers in Sonoma. This micro-climate, which is about a half a mile radius around my property is unique.
You have the subterranean springs, correct?
We have geothermal hot-springs under the property which warms the ground and forms a frost-free zone on our property and creates a longer growing season.
You also get less winds because of the mountain break.
Well, we get less fog and more sunlight hours because the Sonoma Mountains are directly behind my property and that backdrop creates more sunlight hours. When the fog circumvents our ranch and goes around into Sonoma and Kenwood up the road, we are sitting in sunlight. We found out recently that our heat grid, which is calculated by different counties and state agencies to make your zones, is almost identical to Charlie Wagner’s vineyard in Caymus, a Rutherford Bench. That’s why Charlie loved my grapes.
They were very familiar to him.
The flavor profile and the ripening patterns of my grapes were similar to what happens over there. So we’re, hence, a Cabernet producer. When Helen Turley started in 1983….
I was going to bring her up next…
…we started with 93, 94 ratings. We had these great ratings right out of the box and no one in Sonoma was doing that and we rivaled Napa in the consistent Cabernet production.
Your award list is very impressive.
Yes, it is because of this micro-climate, that’s what does it.
How did you land Helen?
At the time she was a ‘cellar rat’ at Bundschu Winery. When I decided to start my winery I called Jim Bundschu’s winemaker at the time, Lance Cutler, and told him I wanted to make wine. After we had a discussion about still selling grapes to them, he told me about this girl that was working there in the cellar that wanted to make wine and I could try her out, if she wants to. I had her come over and we struck up a deal and she made my wine for four years and built the little winery that we started with. She put us on the map with Cabernet. She was an excellent winemaker and still is to this day.
Now you have Tom Montgomery.
Mary Edwards came after Helen—she made great wines in the 90’s at B.R. Cohn. Then Steve MacRostie was here for a short time and then I brought in Tom, he was a Napa 25 year veteran from Cosentino Winery and Conn Creek, he’s a really great guy. He’s been making our wine now for six years and I think probably the best consistent wines we’ve had across the board. Between Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, he makes every variety of wine really well.
Mary Edwards is now specializing in Pinot Noir, Helen makes Chardonnay and I believe Zinfandel. Tom makes everything great, which is very hard to find, a winemaker who knows how to deal with each grape. I’m happy to have Tom here and he’s doing a great job.
We buy a lot of grapes now. We have our estate production but that is just a portion of what we make now. We can’t grow Chardonnay or Pinot Noir here, it is just too hot, so we have to purchase some of those grapes. He goes out to those growers and works with them proactively.
You’ve come full circle from the story that we started with. You were just starting to grow some grapes, and planting some and selling them. Now you are the winemaker, purchasing the grapes. It’s been an interesting road you’ve taken.
We went from grower, to winery and now we are purchasing from growers, but I’m still a grower as well.
Through all of this you maintained your tremendous love of food and all things culinary.
Basically, I had a love of music and a love of eating. I loved to eat and I still do. We went to a lot of great restaurants in Chicago when I was a little guy. Food was always the main focus for our family. The wine kind of came from left field.
You are very exacting in terms of your standards.
My name’s on the bottle. I learned a long time ago, that it wouldn’t feel good if somebody came up to you on the street and said, “I had your wine and it was really lousy.” It wouldn’t make your day, you know. The Doobie Brothers have been making great music consistently for 42 years. I’ve been making wine for 28 years. I’m trying to do the same thing—make consistently high quality products, whether it is wine, olive oil, vinegars, tapenade. Whatever it is, I want it to be as good as it can possibly be.
Let’s talk about that a bit. You started with your wine and the focus has been on B.R. Cohn Wines. As a food, wine and lifestyle magazine, we feel you encompass all those things. Lifestyle being the music that you bring to the world. The food end, you have started to expand that quite a bit. You’ve been working on it for a long time, it’s not something new to you. You discovered that those olive trees you have are pretty special.
We ignored them for many, many years because we were so busy with the band and the winery. Ironically, as things happened to me, a lot of my life has not been planned.
It just happens to you.
It’s kind of like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So life is what is happening to me. These opportunities arise and I have been able to take advantage of it, work hard and make something out of it.
That says a lot about your character and getting behind who you are and the things that you do. Getting back to the family side, do you still live on property?
Yes. I live here and my four kids live and work here as well.
You’ve kept yourself surrounded and grounded by family and people who live their lives based upon good values. Most people associate rock n roll with a wild lifestyle, but usually good things come to good people. I would have to assume that you’ve been doing the right thing by the people that surround you, as it is evidenced by what God has put around you.
I’ve worked very hard, we’ve had some very hard times. Starting a winery is not a cakewalk. It is very difficult, very cash intensive. It’s still hugely expensive to be in this business. You have to cellar wines for 3 years before you can sell them. That’s unbelievable when you have millions of dollars tied up in inventory.
I say I’m an overnight success and it only took 38 years. It looks great from the outside and it is a great lifestyle. I have to say, knock on wood, I can live this life and eat good food and drink good wine and hear good music. But, it’s not that easy. You have to work hard at it like anything else.
I’m a firm believer and say it often, “Life is 10 percent what it gives you and 90 percent what you do with it.” The onus being that… the 90 percent is on you to get it done.
We’ve done a lot of charity and I try to become part of the community. Because I was absent so much, on the road with the bands I managed, I was not involved with the community as much as I would like to have been. So for the last 26 years I’ve done this concert to support local charities, which is my way of giving back to the community that I live in.
Let’s talk about the olive oil and then talk more about your charitable endeavors.
I got an ultimatum from my now ex-wife. Pick up the olives, because the kids were tracking in all these stains on the carpet in the house, or buy her new carpet. I didn’t want to buy her new carpet, so I picked up the olives and sent them to a friend of mine in Modesto, California, who was the only one producing extra virgin olive oil in California 1990. They pressed my olives, very similar story to Charlie Wagner’s in Caymus, called me and said “This is special olive oil. This is French Picholine olives, which we hardly ever see in California.” California grows Spanish or Italian varieties, they were planted here when the missionaries came in or by the Italian immigrants. It was a fluke that I have 8 acres of French Picholine olives planted here. It turned out to be very rare. We bottled it and it was a big hit. We put it out and it got number one in the country. No one was making estate grown virgin olive oil in California, I was the first.
You are expanding that into other products now, correct?
We make three tapenades, three mustards, three herb and spice rubs. Food stores want more than one of each. We are doing 3 different flavor profiles of each. We’re making chocolate sauces with Merlot, Cabernet and chardonnay.
Your vinegars are very unique, you do them ‘Orleans’ style.
No one does that anymore. Everything is commercially made in large quantities. We make classic vinegars, we ship French oak barrels down to our maker, and they take Cabernet, Chardonnay and Champagne, and they make these great handcrafted vinegars for us. No one is doing that either, it is very rare. We came out with raspberry champagne vinegar, pear vinegar, Cabernet vinegars and more.
You are a busy guy.
I like food and do a lot of wine dinners. To me wine is to be paired with food. B.R. Cohn wines are 80% in restaurants and 20% in stores. We are mostly a restaurant wine and we craft them to be paired with foods. I also add, “or television if you like to have a glass with television” (laughing.) We try to make them accessible. Soft tannins and fruit forward wines that make them really great whether you pop a cork in a restaurant or at home, so you can drink it right away with your dinner. You don’t have to cellar it for 5 years and wait for it to get ready.
Are you a fan of the aeration products on the market?
We have huge pump-over of our wine, 24 hours a day, over and over. That really softens the wine, it not only makes it a better color and full flavor, it aerates the wine and makes it ready to drink.
The majority of the times we have your wine it is with food. Stellar flavors. It is fun that it comes from a ‘foodie.’ What’s refreshing, is your passion, including the music. Then, you take all these elements and include it in your charity work. You’re in your 26th year of the Fall Music Festival?
Thank you. Years ago I did a golf tournament with The Doobie Brothers in L.A. for the United Way. From that, I decided to bring the event up to my winery and try to do a golf tournament, but you don’t make a lot of money on golf alone. We decided to combine the food, the wine, do a concert and a golf tournament in the same weekend. It worked. We started in 1986 or 87 and we’ve been doing it ever since. Now we do two concerts and the golf tournament with dinner parties, it is a four day event. We’ve raised millions and millions of dollars for charities, mostly children’s charities, and veterans charities as well. It really is a marrying of music, food and wine all in the same weekend.
It’s become such a success. Have you finished work yet on the new amphitheater?
No, we’ve got the permits all done and we’re trying to break ground this fall after this concert in October. We have a new amphitheater that seats about 2500 now and we’ve had great acts. I thank all the artists for coming. They play for their expenses and that’s how we’ve made all this money for charity. We’ve had Graham Nash, Steve Miller, Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, The Doobies, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey and many, many more. It’s just wonderful to be able to put on these shows in an intimate setting. We’re sold out every year.
This year you have three charities your event is supporting.
A friend of mine is a trauma surgeon in Mendocino County and they needed help financially. He and I have been working on getting Journey to come and perform for several years. Finally this year, their schedule opened up to where they could do it. They agreed to come and play, so now I’m also giving to trauma centers as well as the children’s charities I normally give to. We’ve spread it out because of Journey being able to come. They’ll headline one day and The Doobie Brothers are headlining the other day, to spread the charity money out.
You’ve been doing this a long time.
This is a great event, we have great food and of course the wine is B.R. Cohn. We serve beer and have a great weekend. We have a dinner party and auction on Friday night. Bradley Ogden, a great chef , well known in California who has a restaurant in Las Vegas, is cheffing the dinner for us. It’s our first celebrity chef dinner.
You also have a wine expert coming in Narsai David.
Yes, he’s also going to be talking about food. He’s a foodie and a wine critic. We’re really having a great time with this. On Monday, after the concerts and the food, we play some golf.
Sounds like a fantastic weekend. So what’s on the horizon? You have so many things going, are you content, or do you have other things in mind to do?
We’re actually starting two new lines of wines. I’m a car buff and I’ve been restoring cars since I was 16 years old, racing them too. I’ve been called a ‘gear head.’ We make Roadster Red wine (for my ’33 Willys Roadster), Woody White (for my 1946 Ford Woody Wagon), Boater’s Barbera (for my 1963 Century Mahogany Runabout). We have all these car wines we sell at the winery. We’re trying to work on a national program for those wines.
You do a charity car show as well.
On Fourth of July, we did it for Hospice, it was our inaugural this year, we’ll do it again. We had 80 cars here, all classics, with music and wine again. That’s a line of wines I’m really happy to be working on. The other line is our Silver Label. We have a Silver Cab’ which is extremely popular, and a Silver Chardonnay.
The wine business on a whole, with regard to the economy, has been reducing their price points on some of the higher end wines.
Many raised their prices considerably when we had that great economy and they got over zealous. When the rug got pulled out from under the economy last year, everything in the high end stopped selling. People went to the mid-priced wines. B.R. Cohn hasn’t raised its prices in 7 years, we didn’t get caught up in the ‘bubble.’
So, your high end prices are right in line with what they should be.
We’re right where we were 7 years ago when everyone was saying we were crazy, that we should have raised our prices. I believe in giving good quality wine to people at a good price. A lot of the guys in Napa went crazy and raised their prices to $100 and $150 per bottle, even upwards of that. Now they are having a lot of trouble and they have to reduce their prices. B.R. Cohn’s most expensive Cabernet is $55.00 retail. That’s a long way from $150.
It sure is.
Our Silver Label Cabernet retails at $20.00 and that’s a great value. We put French oak on that wine. Nobody does that with a $20 cab. People are not asking us to reduce our prices because we are already fairly priced.
Have you thought about making a rose?
Yes, we do make a rose but you won’t see it anywhere but at the winery. We make several different wines, with 7 of them shipped out nationally. The others are only sold directly to our wine club members and here in our tasting room. We make a Cabernet Port, a Malbec, Petite Sirah and more, that you’ll only see here.
My focus is to demystify what is happening with wine on a gourmet level and bring it to people in a way that makes it accessible to them.
We’re starting a culinary event center with guest chef dinner series. We’re doing cheese and wine pairings.
I am about relationships. People are drinking B.R. Cohn wines across the country and the world, but sitting down and having this intimate chat with you really resonates with our readers. It personifies what you are about, sitting down with good friends, hanging out, drinking wine, chatting about food and wine.
I do wine dinners in my home. I’m cheffing on some TV shows a little bit.
I saw you do the stir-fry on TV.
I’m big on stir-fry’s, do risottos and things of that nature. I’m not a full blown chef but I do have my fun dishes I like to make and people enjoy. I was very lucky to get this property. I’m only the third owner since the Spanish Land Grant. I know you were thinking about coming out for the event and that would be great but I’d like you guys to come outside of that event and we’ll pair some wines with some of my food. I’ll show you around the property, it really is a beautiful spot here.
I haven’t taken Bruce up on his invite yet, but I will soon and of course, you’ll get the scoop right here…on the winery AND his stir fry.. *-)
Interviewed in March 2012, by Louis S. Luzzo, Sr. of kitchenrap.blogspot.com