John Tracy of Owl Ridge Wine Services has many winery clients at his custom-crush facility in the old
Vacu-Dry plant on Gravenstein Highway in Sebstopol. A high-tech entrepreneur with a soft spot for
owls, Tracy bought a vineyard in Forestville and then teamed with winemaker Joe Otos to form
Willowbrook Cellars. Because of his interest in Bordeaux varietals, Tracy also started Owl Ridge
Wines. Otos makes the wines for both Owl Ridge (Sonoma Bordeaux varietals) and Willowbrook
(Chardonnay and Pinot Noir).
Joe Otos was attending Sonoma State, majoring in business a number of years ago. While working
part-time at Ravenswood Winery, he developed a passion for winemaking. He changed his career
path, and developed his winemaking skills under Chris Loxton at Wellington Vineyards. Later he met
up with John Tracy and the two have formed a very successful business partnership.
Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from the Owl Ridge Vineyard in Forestville, the Dutton Morelli Vineyard
in the Russian River Valley and the Kastania Vineyard in Petaluma.
2005 Willowbrook Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 300 cases, $34. The
3-acre estate vineyard is planted to Dijon clones. Morning fog, warm daily sun, and cooling ocean
breezes allow excellent fruit development.
Funky, shroom nose with cranberry, cherry and rhubarb
notes. The fruit is muted and light in weight with herbal overtones. The balance is fine. Seems to be in a
2005 Willowbrook Morelli Lane Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 264 cases, $42. The Morelli Lane
Vineyard is situated high above the town of Occidental at
900 feet. Its proximity to the coast allows for a constant
cool breeze, keeping temperatures moderate and
extending the growing season. All Pommard clone.
nose is very appealing with haunting crushed red berry aromas. Red and blue fruits carry the theme
across the palate with a little oak and anise adding interest. Medium in weight with fine tannins, the wine
displays a little heat throughout but the overall impression is quite satisfying.
2005 Willowbrook Kastania Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 302 cases, $48. The
Kastania Vineyard is located in the southern reaches of Sonoma County, near the Marin County border
adjacent to Highway 101. The vineyard receives coastal influences from the ocean on the western side
and the San Francisco Bay on the eastern side. The vineyard consists of 7 acres planted to both
Pommard and Dijon clones. In 2005, the clones ripened at different times and a total of four passes
were done over a five week period, picking roughly ten rows at a time.
This wine needs time to
blossom, eventually opening with a delightful perfume of cherries and violets. Very nice core of cherry
fruit with woodshed, forest floor and herbal influences. Supple in the mouth with well-concealed tannins.
Balance is right on.
Willowbrook Cellars wines are available on the website, www.willowbrookcellars.com. 707-823-
Note: Owl Ridge Wine Services also operates Sonoma Grapemasters, a service that allows budding
winemakers to make a barrel of wine or more. For information: www.sonomagrapemasters.com.