I’m frequently asked how I got into the wine business. Well, indirectly, is my usual response.  The truth is that I received both my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Biology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In fact, I’m what is referred to as a “field biologist” as I specialized in vertebrate population biology.  However, in studying the biological sciences, I took many classes in microbiology. I was fortunate to have a professor (Dr. Tew) who had been employed in the wine business, and subsequently, many of his slants on teaching microbiology were in the form of fermentation science.  I found the field of fermentation science, and in particular, winemaking, fascinating. But since most of my wine drinking experiences in those days centered around drinking Hearty Burgundy and Lancers Rose, I understood I needed to branch out to really learn more about wine. Dr Tew’s philosophy was “taste as many wines as you can and use your knowledge to understand

what you taste and how it was made”. So, when I got a windfall of $800. from my income taxes during one of those years, I invested in wine. I bought bottles from as many of the great wine districts of France, Germany and Italy as I could afford. I also bought a few from California but only Zinfandels, as my money was running low.  Over the course of the next two years, I sampled and kept notes of all of these products. That taught me what I needed to know, I found that I loved California Zinfandels the most.

Subsequently, I (along with my wife and three children) spent several years searching for the right place to grow and produce Zinfandel in California. El Dorado County became my favorite Zinfandel growing region. In 1988, I made the plunge and bought property in El Dorado County and began my grape growing career. 

Flash forward to the 21st Century.  After 20 years of growing grapes and making wines, probably the most asked question of me is “How do you characterize your wine making style?”  Well, I try first to be a good farmer and bring in only grapes that meet my quality requirements.  Since we make almost all Estate wines, I have great control over this aspect of the process and pick in many small lots to ensure the optimum in fruit character.    Every year is different, but, I try to maintain the richness and earthiness that typifies our vineyards. Next, I use a wide range of fermentation yeasts after the grapes are crushed which I think bring out the spicy character that our wines are well known for when eventually bottled.  Once the wine is pressed and in barrel, I prefer to use a relatively smaller amount of new oak in Zinfandels, usually less than 30% of the total number of barrels.  I think this lets the fruit shine through without burying it in wood flavors.  Our other wines do receive a larger percentage of new barrels but the Zins seem to do better with a lighter approach.

In the end, I usually refer to my style as “big fruit, robust flavors”.  The wines age wonderfully but are approachable in their youth. I don’t like residual sugar in red wines so you will always get an honest, dry red wine from Single Leaf!


Average Tonnage – 3 tons per acre

Average Brix at Harvest – 24.5

Acid range at Harvest - 0.72 to 0.68

pH range at Harvest – 3.40 to 3.60

Regularly used fermentation yeasts – L2226, Fermrouge, Assmanhousen,

     PDM, BM-11, L3070, BM45, BDX, CSM

Exclusive use of open top fermenters

Punch down during Harvest – once per day

Press of grapes from juice at 0.5 to 1.5 Brix

Settled in tanks for 3 to 4 days

Barreled with malolactic bacteria at 3 to 4 days

Oak barrel aging ranges from 10 to 32 months

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