Ed Sbragia’s DNA reaches deep into the culture of California wine. His father was a vineyard owner and home winemaker, and taught his son from an early age that quality grapes and sound technique were the foundation of good wine. After studying enology at Fresno State, Sbragia landed a job at Napa’s Beringer vineyards as an assistant to the legendary Myron Nightingale. He remained at Beringer for the next 32 vintages.
For that reason, most people think of him as a Napa winemaker, but his roots in Healdsburg go back even further. Ed’s grandfather came from Tuscany in 1904 and went to work at Italian Swiss Colony, a winery that served as an incubator for Italian immigrants for several decades. He is emotionally attached to the area, and feels that he has “one foot in Sonoma and the other in Napa.”
Ed and his wife returned to Sonoma in 2006, purchasing an old winery facility in Dry Creek. He struck out on his own two years later and founded Sbragia Family Vineyards, bringing his son Adam along as Assistant Winemaker. Today the facility produces about 12,000 cases of high-quality wine, with an emphasis on powerful, concentrated reds.
If you doubt his credentials as a white winemaker, however, open a bottle of the 2012 Sbragia Home Ranch Chardonnay ($30). Whiffs of lush melon are accompanied by aromas of oak and citrus on the nose, underlined by good acidity. The wine enters the mouth softly and expands in the mid palate with flavors of stone fruit, lemon and vanilla. The palate presence is persistent rather than overwhelming, and the finish offers hints of spice and echoes of ripe melon. It would make a fine match with substantial fish dishes as well as poultry, veal and pork.
One of Sbragia’s signature wines is the Monte Rosso Cabernet, from a historic hillside vineyard in the Moon Mountain District. The 2012 ($60) exudes scents of fresh herbs, rough-cut oak and stewed blackberries. There is an explosion of fruit in the mid palate, with flavors of spiced plum and blackberry enhanced by hints of cedar, anise and chocolate. The tannins are stiff, promising a long life, and the wine builds in amplitude toward a spicy finish. This is a dream wine with lamb, grilled steaks and stews, and would complement either a chocolate dessert or a platter of artisan cheese at the end of a meal.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, will be published by Black Opal Books in May 2016. for more information, go to amazon.com