Wine of the Week: Sonoma’s Three Sticks 2015 Chardonnay

Bob Cabral, director of winemaking at Sonomas Three Sticks Wine


Bob Cabral Jr. remembers the pained look on his father’s face when he took in the view, acres of his grapes rotting on the vine.

Cabral was a teenager when his family was farming grapes in the San Joaquin County back in 1977, during the grape glut.

“I saw my parents work 365 days a year and then lose those grapes through no fault of their own,” he said. “I thought I’d learn to make wine so my family would always have a place for their grapes.”

Today the pragmatic Cabral is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — Three Sticks, 2015 Durell Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay at $55. This is a chardonnay with great complexity –– bright stone fruit, hazelnut and crème brulee. It’s lush, but manages to be balanced. The Three Sticks has great minerality, a supple texture, and a lingering finish. It’s an absolute knockout.

Cabral credits Mother Nature for the prized chardonnay, calling himself a “hands-off” winemaker.

“The Durell Vineyard has a unique personality and we want to capture what that vineyard wants to show us instead of trying to push it into a direction it doesn’t want to go,” he said.

The winemaker is fond of Durell’s sense of place. With soils of volcanic clay and breezes from the San Pablo Bay, Cabral said the vineyard offers up flavors of mineral, saline and stone fruit — white peach and white nectarine.

What the uninitiated don’t know about chardonnay is that the cool-climate version is a different animal, Cabral explained.

“It offers a lot of flavors and textures that tasters might not find in other varietals or in warm-climate chardonnays,” he said.

Cabral graduated from Fresno State in 1984 with a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural science and enology, and moved to Santa Rosa in 1987. His credits include winemaking at these Sonoma County wineries: DeLoach, Kunde Family Winery, Alderbrook Winery, Hartford Family Winery, Williams Seylem Winery and Three Sticks Wines.

Cabral joined Sonoma’s Three Sticks Wines as the director of winemaking in 2015, and his team includes winemaker Ryan Prichard and associate winemaker Ashley Holland.

“I’ve never made a great bottle of wine on my own,” Cabral said. “It’s always a group effort. My work at the winery has a lot to do with mentoring.”

With his deep roots in farming, Cabral said his strength as a winemaker lies in understanding the land and the grape growing process from pruning through harvest.

“You have to be a little thick skinned and crazy to be a farmer I think,” Cabral said with a laugh. “It doesn’t pay a lot in cash but there are so many other rewards. It enriches your soul like no other occupation.”