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December 16, 1988 - Image 88

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I TRENDS

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Craig Winchell, 31, is president and winemaker of Gan Eden, located in
Sebastopol, Ca. At the winery, he stands among the stainless steel tanks
in which the fermentation process takes place.

if it didn't suit the market, we
knew we'd have lots of nice
wine to drink." It suited the
market so well that little re-
mains for family consump-
tion.
Down the road and over the
mountains in Sebastopol is
the only winery in California
exclusively devoted to kosher
wines, Gan Eden. Under his
father's tutelage, its president
and winemaker, 31-year old
Craig Winchell, developed a
taste for premium wines at a
young age.
"Dad had an excellent wine
cellar," he says, "and I grew
up sharing his hobby — learn-
ing about wines and drinking
the world's finest." An in-
direct route led from wine
connoisseur to winemaker:
majoring in chemistry at the
University of Louisville in his
hometown, transferring to
Haverford College, in Penn-
sylvania, as a chemical phy-
sics major, then leaving col-
lege to sell wine retail.
"Knowing what I knew, it
was easy to sell wine," Win-
chell says. After he entered
the business, he decided to
get a technical background
and entered the Department
of Viniculture at the Univer-
sity of California-Davis,
where he met his wife, Jen-
nifer Lum, a food technology
maj or.
Following graduation with
departmental honors and a
year of graduate -study, he
became chief winemaker at a
small nonkosher winery in
Washington State and pro-
duced two award-winning
wines. Feeling isolated from
Jewish life and unable to
adhere to Sabbath obser-
vance, he returned to Califor-
nia — to a small nonkosher
winery, where he arranged a
contract that released him
from work on Saturday. "But
when problems arose, I had to

work on Shabbos, and I felt
guilty," he says.
Starting Gan Eden in 1985,
Winchell remains in wine pro-
duction on his own terms,
purchasing grapes from near-
by farmers. He produced
25,000 cases in 1987. He and
Jennifer are the company's
only full-time employees.
The first California pre-
mium kosher wines came
from the renowned Napa Val- -
ley, where Ernie Weir pro-
duced Hagafen Cellars' first
vintage in 1980. After gra-
duating from University of
California Los Angeles, as a
sociology major, he had his
first agricultural experience
in Israel on a kibbutz, "col-
lecting eggs in the chicken
house and picking grapefruit
in the orchard," he says. Back -
in California, he bypassed his
hometown, Los Angeles, and
earned a master's degree from
UC-Davis in viniculture.
"I found you could work in
agriculture and still be so-
phisticated," he says. "My
first job was in vineyard ma-
nagement with a large Napa
Valley winery." Besides mak-
ing Hagafen wines, he still
holds a full-time management
job.
Married to an Israeli he
met in California, Weir de-
scribes himself as "culturally
Jewish." He attends a Conser-
vative synagogue, and
doesn't work on Friday after-
noon, Saturday, or Jewish
holidays. His wine production
is supervised by the Rabbinic
Council of San Francisco.
"I make the stylistic deci-
sions. Rather than say we
make kosher wines, I prefer -to
say we make Napa Valley pre-
mium varietal wines that are
also kosher," he says. Haga-
fen's 1987 production was
7,000 cases.
At Napa Creek Winery,
where Ernie Weir produces

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