"We had the first customers of the day come to the tasting room, Teri and Rick Girard and they brought a friend along. I’m pouring a glass of my Syrah and my wife Melissa is there with me. The Girards are what I call “alpha customers”. I met them at another winery, and after they came to see us, they started bringing in their whole family to discover us. Our combination of wine and hospitality really resonated with them.
I grew up as a winery brat. My parents dragged me through Napa Valley from the time I was 8 years old. My dad was the controller at Gallo Wine in Modesto. I went to school with the Gallo kids. The first batch of wine I ever saw being made was in a barn in Modesto with a bunch of Greek guys. I was 11. It was awful; really oxidated white wine made from Colombard. When our family moved to Pollock Pines in the late 70’s, we started making a few barrels of wine under our house. In 1988 I took it over with a group of friends as a kind of co-op. When we got to 22 barrels under the house, my mom encouraged us to go get a room.
So that’s what I did. My “room” here at Crystal Basin is bigger this year; we added a space that made it kind of V shaped. This is the first season for the remodeled room. Melissa runs the tasting room, and she really is the face of the winery and has grown the wine club to 1300 members. We’ve been married for 19 years, and we moved to the Sierra Foothills from Silicon Valley in 2006. We’d been making wine at Gold Hill Vineyards in Coloma since 2000 and wanted to see if we could scale it up. We did; from 700 cases to 6500 today.
Not that long ago, Melissa wanted to kill the winery. She thought it was distracting and a boys’ drinking project, which it was. In 2007 she switched horses. Now she’s pretty excited about the bistro that we’re opening; tapas-style. The Girard’s other brother and sister were coming up later that day to help us with the bistro.
We were enjoying this wine right before the big storm hit, and we were all really giddy about seeing the weather show up."