Rob Sinskey: Vintner
Robert Sinskey Vineyards
Rob Sinskey believes that the goals of making luxuriously elegant wines and farming with earth friendly methods are not mutually exclusive. Rather, he has found that caring for the land and conscientious business practices have helped define the well-crafted wines of RSV. Rob and winemaker, Jeff Virnig have adopted methods that not only produce wines of individuality, but leave a minimal footprint on the land.
A native Californian, born in Los Angeles, raised on the Central Coast in the little town of Cambria has lived in Napa and San Francisco for the past 30+ years. Rob followed many breadcrumbs on his indirect path to today – a stint as a Future Farmer, a wanna-be Chef and even an appreciator of the seductive qualities of wine. These were all part of his youth but, in his teens and early twenties, he thought he would become a photojournalist and received a degree from Parson’s School of Design in NYC.
His life in wine began when a six-month assignment assisting his father turned into a thirty-plus year obsession. “After a stint in advertising, I was looking for something real where I could, excuse the pun, put down roots. Then, my father called for help. His avocation in wine growing had developed into a fledgling business and he needed assistance. I think a week had passed before I discovered that his avocation had become my obsession.”
Rob has grown his 100% organic and biodynamic certified winegrowing operation to over 200 acres of premium vineyards in the Carneros and Stags Leap districts of Napa and Sonoma Valleys with a philosophy that “Wine is not an athletic event.” The goal is to make “pure wines of character that pair well with cuisine.” Rob believes that wine should not be a “quick study,” but rather seduce you as the wine opens in the glass and bottle.
MARIA HELM SINSKEY
CHIEF COOK & BOTTLE WASHER, CULINARY DIRECTOR
Maria Helm Sinskey was born and raised in upstate New York. In 1983 she graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY. A degree in English proved invaluable in her chosen career as a chef. She quickly gained a reputation for spouting sonnets on the line.
After college came a short career in advertising combined with night-time backstage catering for bands that were touring Boston. In a move designed to breakup her long- term relationship with a musician, her parents convinced her to attend culinary school in the great city of San Francisco. The rocker-chef romance soon dissolved and Maria emerged in 1987 as a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.
She attended pastry school in Denmark to hone her sweet tooth and then returned to San Francisco to work as Chef at several noteworthy restaurants: Boz Scagg’s Blue Light Café, the venerable Sherman House – a Relais & Chateaux Hotel, and Plumpjack Café, which she left in 1999 to pursue a life combining family, food and wine in the Napa Valley.
Along the way Maria worked in France at several Michelin starred restaurants, toured Italy and realized that life was good, very good. After returning stateside, Maria garnered many accolades: 1996 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef, SF Magazine Rising Star Chef, SF Chronicle Rising Star chef and appeared on many PBS and Food Network Shows.
Nowadays, you will find her cooking at her husband’s winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, laying out plots for her organic gardens, teaching, writing and raising two children.
Her first cookbook, “The Vineyard Kitchen: Menus Inspired by the Season”, published by HarperCollins was released in September 2003. “Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen”, published by Oxmore House, followed in November 2008. Her mantra is, “Eat seasonally, drink good wine and live a long and prosperous life.”
Cristina SP Hudson: Owner
Cristina Salas-Porras Hudson developed her discerning eye through a distinguished, twenty-five year career in the interrelated disciplines of food and wine, hospitality, and design. After working alongside Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Cristina consulted for Hermes, Slow Food International, Rockfield Japan, and numerous other clients. Her talents and experience are now integral to her work with her husband, Lee, at Hudson Ranch and Vineyards, as well as overseeing their Napa Valley-based business, Hudson Greens & Goods. A native Texan from El Paso, Cristina received her BA in East Asian Studies from Middlebury College in Vermont, and a graduate degree in Japanese from Keio University in Japan. She helped to open the renowned Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo, and the art-driven Bardessono Hotel in Yountville, California, as well as co-founding O Olive Oil Company. Along with Lee and their children, Cristina is happiest gathering friends and family around her dining table.
Lee Hudson: Owner
My interest in agriculture began around the age of 15 when I was working on a cattle ranch on the Gulf Coast of Texas, bucking hay and castrating bull calves. I spent 2-3 summers at the ranch doing this work.
At 16, I lived as an exchange student in Provence, France, surrounded by lavender fields, truffles and vineyards. It was here that I planted my first garden; it taught me the natural pace and rhythm of the countryside, something I connected with and could understand. It was at this point in life I realized I could never live in a city.
As freshman at the University of Houston, a plant science course made me realize that I wanted to pursue agriculture. As a result of this realization, I transferred to the University of Arizona, an Agricultural Land Grant college. At U of A I studied horticulture, focusing on perennial fruit crops. I also remember taking a dairy science class with the intrigue of operating a creamery and making cheese. I was quickly turned off by the 24/7 work required to running a dairy. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the “complete cycle” of agriculture, including planting, growing and making the finished product. This would soon lead to the interest of the “cycle” that involves running a vineyard and making wine.
When I left U of A, I headed to Burgundy. I had a list of 10 producers to talk to about a job and the first 9 literally slammed the door in my face; Burgundy was not ready for an American.
It was Jacques Seysses of Dujac who was open-minded enough to take a chance and to give me a job in both the vineyard and winery. What an opportunity!
Burgundy taught me the human connection and cultural component attached to agriculture. I was just 24 years-old and I can remember Jacques looking after me very kindly. We’d spend hours in the wine cellar with many of the great winemakers of Burgundy, where we’d taste through old vintages, some dating back to the 1940’s. The experience of learning how to smell and taste wine was revelatory and it was Jacques that taught me the beautiful incarnation of wine.
Following my time in France, Maynard Amerin, a mentor and professor emeritus of Enology at UC Davis, encouraged me to enroll in the graduate program. I moved back from Dujac and enrolled at Davis. I was never much of a student, but along the way I met many life- long connections, such as John Kongsgaard, Tony Soter, Dick Ward, Tim Mondavi, and Cathy Corison. This was in the late 70’s when the Napa Valley was just waking up and primed for success.
I purchased my ranch in 1981 and began to grow grapes shortly thereafter.
While the 60-70’s were decades of oenological discovery and progress, the 1980’s and 90’s were the same to Viticulture. It was during this period that sites and varieties found one another, and rootstock, trellising, canopy management and fruit manipulation came to the forefront of the quest for quality in California. We were all learning together.
I was a wine grower for almost 25 years before I realized that to complete the “cycle” I had to make wine; harkening to my dairy science and Burgundian experience. In 2004, the Hudson Wine brand was established and now, after 36 years, we’re in the process of building a winery on the ranch that will house our own wine production by 2018.
At the end of the day I believe there is no more magnificent expression of agriculture than wine. So in a sense, the next chapter of Hudson is just beginning.