Interview with Julie Rothburg Medlock Ames President
Medlock Ames Winery was founded in 1998 by college best friends, Ames Morison and Chris Medlock James.
Their passion for wine inspired them to leave their New York City apartment and move across the country to produce award-winning wines from Sonoma’s Bell Mountain Ranch, which straddles the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley.
The winery holds a deep commitment to preserving Bell Mountain Vineyard and its surrounding areas; co-founder Ames Morison is a vocal supporter of organic, light-touch agricultural practices and gentle winemaking techniques that reflect the purest representations of the terroir. We interview Julie Rothburg, Medlock Ames President to learn more.
What type of wine do you specialize in at Medlock Ames Winery?
Julie Rothburg: Medlock Ames specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bell Mountain vineyards stretch across the north west section of Bell Mountain Ranch that straddles Alexander Valley in the north to Russian River Valley in the south and borders the famous Chalk Hill and Knights Valley appellations. The vineyards run across two different AVA’s of Sonoma County with the dividing line running right through the middle of the ranch.
Medlock Ames is in the coldest part of the Alexander Valley, making it the last vineyard harvested, which provides more time to hang and ripen without excessive sugar and alcohol.
The best results are produced in the warmer years, enabling the Cabernet to ripen further from the extra heat. The 2019 Bell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Medlock Ames’ most popular wines and a favorite of the winemaking team.
What’s a popular tasting experience at Medlock Ames?
Julie Rothburg: Medlock Ames co-founder Ames Morison conceived the Immersive Sound Experience, the winery’s newest addition to their hospitality offerings, to be an interactive piece of art to share the uniqueness of the winery’s home on Bell Mountain.
Artist, Hugh Livingston, brought the vision to life. The sound experience offers the opportunity to engage with environmental elements that influence Medlock Ames’ wine and contribute to Bell Mountain’s biodiversity. Throughout the walk, listeners explore a portion of Bell Mountain Vineyard’s 50 acres of vines, native oak woodlands, olive groves, and a market garden of seasonal vegetables and flowers.
Describe the winemaking approach at Medlock Ames.
Julie Rothburg: With a deep commitment to preserving the land and its surrounding areas, Medlock Ames offers 100% organic wines produced through light-touch agricultural practices and gentle winemaking techniques, which reflect the purest representations of the terroir.
Tell us about your winemaker.
Julie Rothburg: Ames planted most of the 50-acre vineyard site as well as supervised the winery’s construction that was completed in time for the 2003 vintage.
To prepare to grow grapes and make wines from Bell Mountain, Ames worked in enological and production capacities at several Napa and Sonoma wineries as well as studied viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis. Having over 20 years of experience of growing grapes at Bell Mountain, Ames looks to the future and the next 20 years of what wines will grow best there.
In 2021 and after 19 years as Winemaker, Medlock Ames promoted Winemaker Abby Watts to head winemaker and Ames Morison shifted his focus to Medlock Ames’ strategic sustainability goals and being an outspoken educator to mitigate climate change.
Abby joined Medlock Ames in August 2020, leading the vineyard and winery operations. Abby works alongside Ames Morison, Julie Rothberg and other members to ensure values and beliefs are translated in both farming and wine production.
She oversees all vineyard activities to ensure the grapes grown at Bell Mountain are representative of the terroir of our special place in the world and Alexander Valley Cabernet. Abby is based in Santa Rosa, CA and in her spare time enjoys baking, cooking, brewing beer and being outdoors.
What do you wish more people knew about your winery?
Julie Rothburg: Since the winery’s founding 23 years ago, Medlock Ames has been farming organically and over the past year developed a concrete group of six pillars to achieve a new level of environmental sustainability in the next five years:
● Eliminate Carbon Footprint Conversion – Increase dependency on renewable energy sources and utilize more sustainable materials through regenerative farming practices for greater carbon capture by reducing the use of diesel, gas and propane by 75% and replacing diesel tractor and vineyard trucks with electric ones.
● Enhance Biodiversity for Greater Land Productivity Biodiversity – Create and implement a biodiversity plan for Bell Mountain by evaluating results annually and increasing biodiversity to reduce fossil fuels and off-farm inputs 25% by 2026.
● Reduce Water Dependency – Reduce water drainage by cutting water usage by 3.5M gallons, installing data-driven monitoring, and reduce water use by 10%.
● Create Fire Resilient Ecosystem – Remove trees burned by Kincade Fire by 2024 and reduce fire risk to people and ecosystem by 50%.
● Nurture an Inclusive Work Environment – Provide implicit bias training for all employees annually and share job descriptions written for all positions in Spanish.
● Deepen Engagement with Community – Partner with organizations that share the same farming values and proactively reverse climate change.
Additionally, Medlock Ames also offers olive oil made from their estate’s olive grove, along with seasonal jams produced from their on-site garden.