Al Brounstein, ...the man who is
AB: I was born in Canada in the province of Saskatchewan but my family moved to Minneapolis when I was 7 months old. I attended the University of Minnesota and graduated in 1942 with a business degree. Then I chased my girlfriend to Los Angeles and discovered good weather. Although the relationship didn't work out, I stayed in California. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles I borrowed $300 on a used car and started my own business. I built the business up by doing a unit control type of operation where I would take inventory on druggists' supply of proprietary drugs – no, not those drugs…I'm talking about things like aspirins and cold medicines.
In the early 1960's I took a class at UCLA on French wines. I fell in love with wine and thought it would be a nice lifestyle after the hectic pace of running my own business in a competitive industry. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Naturally I wanted to be involved with what I considered to be the best varietal, that's why I had interest in Cabernet Sauvignon. My search for the best place to grow Cabernet landed me in the Napa Valley and eventually on Diamond Mountain. Some of the best advisors, such as Louis Martini and Andre Tchelistcheff, told me some of the best Cabernets are made in the mountains and I should take a chance on Diamond Mountain. When I first surveyed the property that is now Diamond Creek Vineyards, I fell in love with it and knew this is where I wanted to be.
AB: I never felt a need to petition for appellation status because all of our customers already knew that our wines came from Diamond Mountain. I have always emphasized the importance of that. No doubt, other wineries will benefit from the Diamond Mountain appellation.
AB: I can only speak for my wines. I was convinced that I could make the best Cabernet Sauvignon on Diamond Mountain and I think history has proven me correct. I have always said that my wine is not for everyone. My vines produce very intense, long-lived wines from grapes that are very small and concentrated with very low yields. People who enjoy our wines know this and look for this. Other areas of the Valley that produce very fine wines must speak for themselves for what they think the characteristics of their area are. I can just tell you from farming Diamond Creek for 36 years what the characteristics of my Cabernet are.
AB: I've always known that wine is made in the vineyards
and I've always felt strongly about that. I didn't know
I had three different types of soils until I cleared the land and
planted the vines. It became obvious when I was clearing Red Rock
Terrace and I was covered with red dust. Then when I cleared Volcanic
Hill I was covered in white volcanic ash. On another day, while
clearing Gravelly Meadow, we spent the day picking rocks out of
the soil. It was in doing that that I knew I had something special
AB: The microclimates within a vineyard are a combination of everything. Soil, elevation and what direction the vineyard faces, all contribute to what the vineyard produces. It is site specific to wherever you are growing the vines. I do believe that the distinct differences between our wines are most strongly influenced by the soils. As you know, my vineyards face different directions and are at slightly different elevations. This goes along with the fact that a cut in the Mayacamas range allows cool afternoon breezes from the Pacific Ocean (that travel along the Russian River corridor) to cool down our vineyards; first cooling down our Lake vineyard, then Gravelly Meadow, then Red Rock Terrace, and lastly Volcanic Hill. At harvest time we can have several picks within a vineyard over several days waiting for the optimum time before all of the grapes of a particular vineyard are brought into the winery. These separate picks allow us to take a microcosm look at the microclimates within each vineyard.
AB: The microclimates speak for themselves in the vineyards. They will give us what they give us. Canopy management is dictated by whatever the vines are giving us in a particular vineyard. For example, in Red Rock Terrace we have ‘Geneva Double Curtain' because this works well here. In Volcanic Hill we use ‘Vertical Trellising' because that works well there. The vines tell us how we should manage them and that may be different in separate soils and microclimates.
AB: You have to understand that, compared to the European market, the American market is still in its formative years. The American wine consumer is becoming more appellation conscious as their palates develop and demand better wines.
AB: All I'm trying to do is make the best wine that I can from our vineyards and that is what I concentrate on. I'm pleased that both the vintners and the wine consumers are placing more importance on terroir. This can only have a positive effect on producing better wine.
AB: When someone opens a bottle of my wine many years from now they will know that our wines have ageability and can be laid down (cellared) for decades. When they finally open that bottle, they will see that we make a great wine as a result of our terroir and microclimates. I don't think they should think about me. They should talk about Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and the importance of variations in wine brought about by different soils and microclimates. It is the combination of our soils and microclimates which all blend together to make a great wine worthy of the price that we charge for it.
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