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Roshambo founder shifts from wine to farming

  • 1/31/2007: D6: Naomi Brilliant plans to hit the tasting road in the "Roshambus," Roshambo Winery's newest incarnation

    PC: Naomi Brilliant (cq) next to the "Roshamnbus," a tour bus undergoing refurbishing that will be Roshambo's new mobile site following sale of the Roshambo winery facility on Westside Road to Silver Oak. January 17,Wednesday. (Press Democrat/ Mark Aronoff)

Roshambo, the Healdsburg wine company that aspired to shake up staid Wine Country with irreverent events like rock-paper-scissor tournaments, has ceased operations.

Naomi Brilliant, granddaughter of grape grower Frank Johnson, has scrapped plans to construct a new winery on her 100-acre Westside Road property, saying she is disillusioned with the wine business.

"I like the idea of making wine. I don't like the idea of selling wine," Brilliant said Thursday from her family's Westside Road estate. "I really don't care about the wine world."

Brilliant, 37, said the winery will be taking a "hiatus" while she pursues plans to be an organic vegetable farmer. Her boyfriend owns a restaurant in San Francisco, Weird Fish, and she plans to continue supplying him with fresh carrots, chard, raspberries and blueberries.

"I just don't want to do wine right now," she said as she strode across a patch of freshly tilled earth and raised planter boxes.

Brilliant and ex-husband Tod Brilliant opened Roshambo Winery in 2002 in a stylish building across the street from the family's vineyards. It had sweeping views of the Russian River Valley and an art gallery that often included edgy exhibits.

The couple tried to infuse the winery with a sense of fun and irreverence. They hosted wild parties and movie screenings. Guests to the Screening of "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" were encouraged to dress as their favorite characters from the film.

They also held rock-paper-scissor tournaments, events that baffled wine industry traditionalists but drew 1,000 people to the winery and plenty of media attention.

But by 2006 sales weren't growing fast enough to pay the bills at the winery, which was built to produce 50,000 cases, she said. The family sold the facility to Twomey Cellars, and Brilliant took her show on the road. She bought a 40-foot RV, painted an image of herself in boxing gloves on it, and drove around the region pouring wine at special events.

Wines were made at custom-crush facilities in the region and poured at Cornerstone south of Sonoma.


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