Winemaking is not an easy career choice if you are contemplating marriage and raising a family.
In 1979, Bob and Julia Iantosca found that out. They met when Julia arrived at Dry Creek Vineyard to apply for an intern position.
“I was to go to lunch with Dave Stare,” said Julia, but the plan changed and Dave told her, “You can go with him.” The “him” was Bob, Dry Creek’s cellarmaster. It was a chance meeting that has lasted 38 years.
Today, Julia Iantosca, 60, is the winemaker for Lasseter Family Winery in Sonoma Valley and Bob Iantosca, 65, is the executive winemaker for Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma Carneros.
Early in their careers, Julia chose to focus on still wines, while Bob moved over to sparkling wines. Deciding on different winemaking directions has likely kept the sanity level of managing two careers and a home life under control.
“Both of us being winemakers can be tough at times, especially during harvest, but it helped that the sparkling wine harvest is just ending when the still wine harvest is getting underway,” Julia said.
And while the Iantoscas are not the only husband and wife winemakers in California — other notable couples include Dawnine and Bill Dyer and Rosemary and Bruce Cakebread — the Iantoscas lay claim to being one of the first couples in California to pursue their careers while being married to each other.
Both of them started out with other careers in mind before the desire to be a winemaker took hold. Julia, a native of Southern California, wanted to be a veterinarian, while Bob, who was raised in Massachusetts and went to college in Arizona, planned on a career in fine arts.
In the 1970s, winemaking was still a new and unusual career move, with most roads in California winemaking leading to the North Coast. Except for working together at the Stevenot Winery in the Sierra Foothills, the Iantoscas have spent their wine careers in Sonoma County.
Julia made wine at Lambert Bridge and William Wheeler and now Lasseter.
Bob started at Buena Vista in 1975 and has made wine at Mark West, Dry Creek Vineyard, Dehlinger and Stevenot and has been at Gloria Ferrer since 1984.
In their spare time, the Iantoscas farm a small pinot noir vineyard at their home in Bennett Valley, selling the grapes to Gloria Ferrer. The Iantoscas rate the cool climate conditions in Bennett Valley as “outstanding” for growing pinot noir, although it is not as well known for growing pinot noir as the Sonoma Coast or Russian River Valley.
Julia credits her pinot noir attraction to her time working with Merry Edwards on some of Edwards’ early wines made as a custom crush project at Lambert Bridge.
“That time with Merry Edwards taught me a lot about pinot noir and the value and art of blending,” Julia said. “The most important lessons in blending, (which) I learned from Merry, are to always pursue excellence and never stop trying new and innovative approaches.”
All things French
Being innovative and trying something new appealed to John and Nancy Lasseter, owners of Lasseter Family Winery. They share a love for all things French and in particular, Rhone and Bordeaux wines, and were looking for new approaches to blended wines.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Olema, 2016 Sonoma County Chardonnay, 13.8% alcohol, $15. ★★★★
An easy-drinking chardonnay, with notes of apple, pear and a touch of oak. Citrusy finish. What makes it a standout is its pitch-perfect balance. Definitely over delivers. Impressive.
Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.4%, $34. ★★★★½: A gorgeous chardonnay with lively notes of ripe apple, melon and mineral. It’s buoyed by bright acid and has a lingering finish. Supple texture. Striking.
Cycles Gladiator, 2016 Central Coast Chardonnay, 13.5%, $12. ★★★½: Here’s an interesting crossroad of stone fruit and tropical fruit with notes of nectarine and a hint of pineapple. Lightly toasted. Uncomplicated, yet approachable. Solid.
Garnet Vineyards, 2016 Monterey County Chardonnay, 13.8%, $20. ★★★★: A lovely chardonnay that pops with notes of peach, ripe apple and honeysuckle. Rich yet its bright acidity gives it pitch-perfect balance. Creamy texture. Spot on.
Gracianna, 2016 Suzanne’s Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.4%, $36. ★★★★½: A blousy chardonnay with ripe apple, melon and toasty oak. Creamy texture. Bright acid. Lingering finish. Lovely.