Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 9am

Food & Wine

The making of a milestone wine

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier This and That are among the first wines the Corrigans hand-bottled.


On our ?fth anniversary, I gave my husband fruit. More speci?cally, I gave him one-half ton of grapes. Not just any grapes – this bunch came from one of the most prized and coveted couple of acres along Highway 29 in Rutherford.

From these grapes, my husband set out to make 30 cases of Cabernet with the help of Crushpad, a winemaking facility with equipment and personnel to guide him.

The road to this point was a fun one. When I ?rst met Sean, he was a white-wine kinda guy. After we started dating, I introduced him to some of my close friends in Napa – the type of friends who would insist on giving anyone I dated the once-over before our relationship could progress. Because they made exceptional red wines, my love for this Chardonnay drinker was going to require some work.

On our ?rst visit to Napa, as guests of my close friends, we drank only Delectus Winery’s reds. Fortunately for me, my husband not only genuinely loved the wine, but he also became immediately interested in the artistry of making wine. Befriending Gerhart Reisacher allowed him access to the inner-workings of a boutique, award-winning winery. It was the ?rst step.

A second important milestone occurred on a date in San Francisco at Farallon. My future husband and I allowed the sommelier to select a wine for us. Soon after sending her off to the cellar to choose a reasonably priced favorite, she returned with a bottle of Lewis. It was love at first taste.

The third milestone was that frequent trips to visit my close friends in Napa Valley meant that we had time – we were single and childless – to explore wineries and meet others who pushed us to expand our palates and who nurtured our love of all wines, including reds, whites, sparkling and rosés.

Even today, Sean and I love to wander into tasting rooms and chat up the staff, absorbing what they know and think about the season, the wines being poured and the industry in general.

Just for fun, Sean jumped into a partnership on a couple of barrels at Bacchus, a wine-making club in San Carlos. It was a logical way to test the waters of winemaking and ?nd others willing to spend their social time learning about and enjoying the art of wine making.

Soon we were bottling our ?rst wines. We had fun selecting artwork for the labels from our sons’ preschool productions. We named our ?rst three red-wine blends This, That and The Other, anticipating comparing and discussing them with friends.

“I like this,” would be met with, “You aren’t drinking This. That’s The Other.” It was our vintners’ variation of Who’s on First.

As we approached our ?fth anniversary, it was clear my husband was bitten by the bug. Sean’s family was growing several acres of Pinot grapes here in Los Altos Hills and relying on him to direct their harvesting and blending. Sean was on the fence about investing in a much higher quality of fruit for his next foray into making his own wines. We used the anniversary as an excuse to splurge, purchasing a half-ton of grapes, enough to produce one single barrel.

Sean, with Crushpad at his side, began his odyssey with single-vineyard-designation Cabernet. Two years later, he lovingly crafted the label, chose the name, determined what would be written on the cork, selected the color of the foil and bottled this beauty. Because it was the third wine chronologically that Sean had taken a leadership role in, he named it The Charm.

Today, our cellar is full of wines from near and far, and we still have a stash of our own wines, including a shrinking collection of The Charm. We have had so much fun sharing it at home and with others that I would highly recommend the experience. It has deepened our love for trying new wines and exploring different grapes, growing regions and artistic styles.

I suspect many now consider us to be wine snobs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We look at wines like clothing – just because one grape or region is fashionable doesn’t mean you like it, and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive to be divine. We are excited to try new things but also love drinking some of our old favorites just to see what a difference a year might make in the wine cellar. Wines are so dynamic.

We enjoy the entire wine experience – from hearing about a bottle’s history and its winemaker to popping the cork and taking that first sip. I think that fascination is what made the opportunity to make our own wines so fun. And what better way to celebrate our anniversary than with about 360 bottles that, like our marriage, keep evolving?

For more information, visit www.crushpadwine.com, bacchuswinemakingclub.com, www.delectuswinery.com and www.lewiscellars.com.

Courtenay C. Corrigan is a Los Altos Hills resident. To share your thoughts and recipes, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.cccmixer.com.

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