Get the Dirt about Lightning Wines from owner Brooke Hester

2 Apr

LightningPeeps1. What was your first vintage year? 2011

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? About 1,000

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? Lightning Wines is not open to the public; however, we accommodate requests to taste our wines by prior arrangement. If you wish to arrange a private tasting, please contact us by e-mail or phone. 707.681.5002 or

4. If not you, who is your winemaker?  Randy Hester is one of our owners and the winemaker.

5. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? I started drinking wine while I was still in college and exploring the relationship between food and wine. I was mainly shopping for wine at the grocery store, and based those purchases on whatever the label said it paired with. When I decided I wanted to make wine I was involved with the fine wines division of a large distributor, so I was discovering great wine from all over the world. There was no one wine that turned the tables for me, but I do know I have never been impressed with overdone, blowsy wines.

LightningVineyard6. What varietals do you work with? Here in California I work mostly with Rhone varietals, with a concentration on Grenache and Grenache based blends. Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Grenache is by far my favorite varietal to make. Why? It is so difficult to get right in the vineyard, year in and year out, AND it is so hard to coax from the variety what we need to in the cellar. It is the most difficult variety that I have worked with which is why I am so proud of what we do with our weird, geeky wines in the Cab and Pinot world that we live in.

7. What vineyards do you source from? We pull fruit from vineyards in Lake County, Sonoma, Mendocino, El Dorado, Amador, Napa, Santa Clara, San Benito, Lodi, Paso Robles, and we continue to search for like-minded growers to partner with.

Why? Grenache can be such a beautiful wine when treated like something pretty instead of a cocktail that is trying to keep up with the Joneses. I commit to one basic process for all of my Grenache so that each site and the farmers that tend to them shine on their own.

8. What type of oak treatment do you use? All neutral for red Grenache. Syrah is all new. Rose’ is stainless steel, and my white is a blend of stainless steel and neutral oak.

9. What do you love about your winemaking region? People come here from all over the world. What makes it different special? Cab and Pinot dominate here in our immediate area, but take a step into our surrounding areas and you’ll find world class fruit in every variety.

LightningBottles10. What’s the story behind your winery name / label? Before we moved to Napa in 2006, Lightning was more of a nickname really. Kind of a stage name for our show personalities. Then when we moved here and our new friends started to pick up on the fact that we had a pseudonym it really caught on. To our new friends we became the Lightnings full time, our house became the Lightning World Headquarters, and we would even receive mail addressed to the Lightnings, so when it came time to name our wine it was kind of a no brainer.

The image on our label is from an incredible artist named Paul Hadley and the design work is done by Sara Lucas Designs. The Impending Storm really speaks to us and these two creative souls are as much a part of our success as anything.

11. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? I had always heard that it takes a bunch of beer to make wine, and that’s true, but bourbon brings its own little magic as well.

12. Most importantly, what’s so great about being small? People from all over the world are referred to us by Napa Cab producers who drink our wines. People come to Napa for Cab but they leave us happy to have found a small producer who makes great wines from different varietals. My wines compete with the best of them, and with our limited size and overall resources I am very proud of that.

What can you do as a small winemaker, that wouldn’t be possible for larger wineries? Connect!

13. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? Not so great the way I see it. I get pushed out of vineyards by bigger brands every year, production costs are completely out of hand, and the press will only talk about what they already know. What we do in this “small” arena is extremely difficult so anyone who survives more than a couple of vintages is doing pretty well.

14. If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? Texas!

For more information about Lightning Wines, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK.

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