Long hours, hard work, expensive lot costs, naysayers and competition from nearby Napa are but a few reasons. For vintners Mary Stubbs, Herb Rowland and Jonathan and Susan Pey, however, the path to success comes down to three key elements: luck, timing and chemistry.
Mary Stubbs of Stubbs Vineyard in West Marin says wine drinkers are becoming more knowledgeable about Marin. “It’s the perfect climate for it, and not to knock Napa, but they can’t do a pinot like we do,” she says “Marin wines are in a class of their own, and because there are so few of us, we really stand out.”
“Marin County’s reputation for quality wines will continue to grow,” adds Jonathan Pey, who with wife Susan, runs Pey-Marin Vineyards. “There is a lot of expertise being brought to bear that was not as prevalent here 15 years ago.” Pey says that expertise makes for better farming practices and even better wines. “The Marin winemakers are understanding their vineyards better, knowing that the vineyards that are younger will mature and begin to show off their stuff,” he says.
As it turns out, the county is no stranger to vineyards and traces its rich wine history back to 1817 with the arrival of the San Rafael Mission and the imported vitis vinifera grapes. Marin’s rolling hills, ample rainfall and warm microclimates make it an ideal spot for pinot noir, chardonnay, Riesling — even cabernet sauvignon. Here, we take a look at local residents with successful winemaking operations, and ask them what it takes to make their products in the county and what is coming next.