From Sommeliers to Winemakers: The Story Behind the Storm Cellar

Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of SPOKE+BLOSSOM.

As sommeliers in the Denver culinary scene for many years, we spent any vacation time that we had in wine country — most frequently on the West Coast. We tasted wines at hundreds of wineries, visited numerous vineyards and even interned with a handful of our favorite producers. We were continually dreaming about the idea of managing a vineyard or starting a winery in California or Oregon, but we always felt that taking a leap of that magnitude would happen in the future. 

In the spring of 2016, however, on the back seat of a bus in the middle of California wine country, we realized that although we loved regions like Sonoma and the Willamette Valley, we did not want to leave Colorado. Two questions crossed our minds: how can we make our wine dream happen now? Do we have to leave Colorado to achieve it? 

Immediately after arriving home, we booked a trip to the North Fork Valley. After a couple of visits, we met Rob Kimball of 5680’ Wines, who drove us up the steep, winding road to the Redstone Vineyard, which was listed for sale, for the very first time. We took some time together and walked the property, and when we reached the most breathtaking vista, we knew in our hearts that this was the spot where we would realize our dream. As white wine fanatics, we fell in love not only with the incomparable views but also with an entire vineyard property dedicated exclusively to white wine varieties. 

Jayme and Steve toast their marriage during a private ceremony (just the two of them) amongst the dormant Chardonnay vines, February 2019.  OLIVIA EMMER / OLIVE & WEST PHOTOGRAPHY

Jayme and Steve toast their marriage during a private ceremony (just the two of them) amongst the dormant Chardonnay vines, February 2019.

OLIVIA EMMER / OLIVE & WEST PHOTOGRAPHY

We spent countless hours researching, raising funds and laying out our business model before purchasing the Redstone Vineyard in February of 2017. We left behind our suits, our evening hours, our cozy home we’d worked so hard to renovate, and our steady careers as wine directors, sommeliers and restaurant managers. Ready or not, we took the precarious leap to farming full time. 

During these first years at the vineyard, we acclimated to a totally new working skill set while figuring out the intricacies of a very unique vineyard property. Together, we have renovated the old, dilapidated farmhouse we now call home while teaching ourselves to farm with help from our neighbors, a lot of books, online courses and many YouTube videos. 

Subjects like irrigation, wind machines, tractors, fencing, pruning, training and trellising have all required extensive research and a lot of trial and error. 

Steve inspects the quality of the fruit-set in one of the blocks of Chardonnay at the Redstone Vineyard.  COURTESY JAYME HENDERSON

Steve inspects the quality of the fruit-set in one of the blocks of Chardonnay at the Redstone Vineyard.

COURTESY JAYME HENDERSON

Because we did not have a winery license our first year here, we sold all of our harvest in 2017 to a few of our favorite Colorado wineries and began the process of transitioning our vineyard into a functioning winery. Last fall, a mere five days before our first harvest, we finally obtained our winery license. We brought in over 18 tons of grapes from our estate vineyard, which we fermented, matured and nurtured into the wines of our inaugural 2018 vintage. 

Although we are now farmers and winemakers, we are still sommeliers. As members of the 2019 Colorado FIVE, a select group of influential chefs and beverage professionals — whose roster includes Josh Niernberg of Bin 707 — we have a specific goal of promoting both the Western Slope and Colorado wine. This exciting opportunity allows us to present our wines and many of our favorite Colorado wines to a broad culinary audience at a unique series of summer events, culminating at a dinner in the legendary James Beard House in Manhattan this October. 

We are a true team together. We share all of the vineyard, winery and business tasks, as well as our lives, together. We have known each other for a long time, but on a cold, snowy afternoon this past February, we exchanged our vows right at the very spot where we knew we wanted to begin this project almost three years ago. We are breaking ground for our new winery and tasting room there this summer, and we are so excited to share this special place and our wines with the rest of Colorado. 

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