A few years ago, Rachel and I took a trip to Austin. After checking out the city for a few days, we drove west toward Fredericksburg to see the wildflowers and fell in love with the area.
We visited some wineries and were quite impressed by this small wine country in the middle of the state, in the Texas Hill Country. We hiked Enchanted Rock, swam in a cool stream, and had a picnic under a huge oak tree. It didn’t take much more to convince us to move here with our two kids a year later.
We opened our winery on January of 2009.
My name is Roberto Ponte and I was born into the business. My family has owned vineyards in two continents and we are part of a fourth generation of winegrowers. As a kid I helped my dad Luigi in his 800-acre South American vineyard. He was the first to use modern drip irrigation in his region.
After graduating from Cal Poly, I managed a 500-acre vineyard that my dad Luigi bought in California in the 80’s. We sold 100 percent of our grapes to wineries “up north” in Sonoma. I started making wine in college and did it as a hobby for a while but stopped when we started a family and I had less time for it.
A few years later Rachel and I bought a house on five acres that came with a very cool addition: a private mini winery building (“the Barn”) complete with all the necessary equipment to produce, store and bottle wine. Since I was farming grapes at the time, the outcome was inevitable: we started making wine again.
I helped open a corporate winery in Southern California and then moved to Marin County, just north of San Francisco, for several years. Rachel worked at William-Sonoma’s headquarters doing recipe development and testing.
In 1895, my great-grandfather (also named Luigi) started a winery in the Friuli region of Italy, near the Austrian border. He made two wines, a white and a red, to be consumed on the spot. His costumers were mostly soldiers from a nearby barracks. He farmed white grapes and bought red grapes that were grown in Southern Italy. He brought the first teacher to his area and was the first to grow cash crops in his county. My grandfather Angelo inherited the business and ran it until the mid 1960’s, when my uncle took it over.
At Rancho Ponte we specialize in making interesting blends. Most great wines from the old world, such as Bordeaux, or Chateauneuf du Pape, are blended wines. In the US, we started calling wines by their varietals (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon) rather than place names, so people would know that European varietals were being used. Nevertheless, there are unspoken rules about what varietals are OK to blend, rules based on what winemakers are allowed to do, which is enforced by European laws.
Those rules do not apply to us.
We are not afraid to blend Merlot, Mourvedre and Muscat Canelli together, for example, and call it “Triple M”. This has upset some purists who think winemakers should be given boundaries an only allowed to play within those boundaries. We actually find it fun to rock the boat and upset wine snobs. You will never do anything interesting or different if you want to please everyone.
We do not distribute. This is a good thing, since the supermarket wine section does not have a category for us.
We use the best grapes we can purchase and handle the product minimally. We do not use unnecessary additives, flavorings or preservatives.
We produce the kind of wine we like to drink on a daily basis with family and friends: fruit forward, interesting, and unorthodox blends worth talking about at the table. We are a small, hands-on operation and hope that our dedication will be evident in every glass.