Nestled at the base of the Mayacamas Mountain Range in the Sonoma Valley, Landmark Vineyards is rooted in the rich history of Russian River Valley agriculture, founded initially by Damaris Deer Ford, the great-great-granddaughter of John Deer, inventor of the steel plow.
While initially established as a Chardonnay house in the early 90s, Damaris and her team began their first foray into Pinot Noir with the release of the inaugural Grand Detour Pinot Noir.
We interview Landmark Vineyards Head Winemaker Greg Stach.
What type of wine do you specialize in?
Landmark Vineyards Head Winemaker Greg Stach: At Landmark, we specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines sourced from some of California’s most acclaimed vineyard sites. Our signature Overlook Chardonnay and Pinot Noir incorporate various blending techniques and stand as beloved staples in the portfolio.
We also offer several single vineyards designate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, each showcasing their sense of place and distinct vineyard characteristics. Beyond Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, we recently released the 2022 Pinot Gris, sourced entirely from our Hop Kiln Estate Vineyard.
Share a popular tasting experience?
Greg Stach: A popular tasting we’ve seen for the summer has been our Bocce Ball Court & Wine Experience Tasting. We have breathtaking views at our Kenwood Estate, and this experience is great for groups – Bocce Ball, light bites, and of course, pours of our elegant Landmark wines.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
We are smaller than people think. Because our Overlook wines (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) have been so successful, people assume we are a larger winery. We are not, most the wines we make are about 500 cases each.
Although we might be smaller, our team is just as dedicated and passionate about what we create and we work hard to produce the best of the best.
What makes your wine unique?
Greg Stach: Landmark wines are unique through our thoughtful attention to detail in every step of the winemaking process, focusing on traditional methods and my “less is more” philosophy – In the sense that consistency and quality are of the utmost importance, but we want the grapes and vineyards to speak for themselves.
These meticulous winemaking practices are evidenced in each vintage to create complex, aromatic wines with deep, expressive flavors.
Describe your winemaking approach.
Greg Stach: My winemaking approach combines traditional techniques with a “less is more” philosophy. Great wine begins in the vineyard – I only intervene in the winemaking process to ensure consistency and quality. I rely more on the fruit’s intense flavors and distinct vineyard characteristics.
My goal is for the wine to reflect the place in which it’s grown and I keep a light touch in the process.
What do you love about winemaking?
Greg Stach: I love the seasonality of winemaking and how it follows a natural calendar. We are doing different things at different times of the year. In the fall, we are harvesting, in the spring we are bottling the previous year’s wine.
Each season brings something exciting.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the winemaking process?
Greg Stach: Winemaking has taught me patience. I want to help guide the process and listen to the wine.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
Greg Stach: I graduated from California State University at Fresno with a degree in journalism. However, wine is truly my first love and interest. I eventually went back to Fresno and completed the coursework in Enology after working as a sommelier and wine-buyer for years.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
Greg Stach: There are several moments that come to mind. I tried a Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir in the early 90’s with my mom in her home. We both enjoyed it so much – it was so complex and earthy, while maintaining its pretty floral nature. It also paired really well with a potato and bacon soup.
Do you have any winery traditions with your team?
Greg Stach: Our harvest team changes every year as we have a great number of foreign interns interested in learning more about the California harvest from around the wine world.
We build such a camaraderie throughout harvest, and at the end, we always go out for an incredible meal with fantastic wines to celebrate our hard work.
How does your team help you as a winemaker?
Greg Stach: I couldn’t do this without my team. The insight and perspective they have is invaluable. I encourage them to question why I am doing what I am doing so we can continue to create incredible wines.