As the wine industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s important to appreciate the history and legacy of the wineries at the forefront of this transformation. In 2023, several wineries in the United States and Canada will celebrate milestone anniversaries, marking decades of passion, dedication, and hard work in the vineyards and cellars.
It’s worth noting that while the wine industry in North America is relatively young compared to Europe, it has squarely established itself as a significant player in the global wine market. While many European wineries can trace their history back centuries, North American wineries have had to adapt to a changing landscape and increasingly competitive market in a much shorter period. Nonetheless, the passion and commitment of North American winemakers have resulted in some truly exceptional wines and a growing recognition of their contributions to the wine industry as a whole.
Here are six wineries celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2023, each with a unique story and an influential impact on the world of wine.
Brooks Wine – Willamette Valley, OR
25 and 50 Years
Willamette Valley’s Brooks Winery celebrates two significant milestones in 2023: 25 years of winemaking and 50 years of wine growing. The winery has become renowned for its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility while growing the business from 2,500 cases and eight labels to 18,000 cases making 50 labels.
Founder Jimi Brooks, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 38 in 2004, was integral to the beginnings of biodynamic farming of grape vines in the late 90s. “We still farm biodynamically and are certified in both the winery and the vineyard by Demeter,” says Janie Brooks Heuck, Jimi’s sister and the winery’s managing director.
Brooks is a certified B Corp and a member of 1% for the Planet. They also plant trees in rainforests across the globe, positively impacting the environment and helping create local jobs. “For every $50 spent at Brooks, we plant a tree,” says Janie. “We have planted over 50,000 so far.”
Looking to the future, Janie says the winery remains committed to social and environmental responsibility. “Life is short. Wine is something that brings people together. We should make every effort to use our company to build community, provide joy, and be good to people while also being a good employer.”
To celebrate their milestones, Brooks is throwing several celebratory events in 2023. “I am taking the party on the road. We have some parties coming up in Chicago and New York, with other markets in the fall,” says Janie. Oregon-based events include a big summer yacht bash in Portland in addition to a ‘planting party’ among the estate vines.
Chateau St. Jean – Sonoma County, CA
Chateau St. Jean, located in Sonoma County, was founded in 1973 by Ken Sheffield, and Bob, and Ed Merzoian. They named it after Jean Sheffield Merzoian — sister, sister-in-law, and wife to the owners.
The winery’s first Chardonnay in 1975 helped establish Chateau St. Jean as a leading producer of quality wines in California. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the winery continued to gain recognition and expanded its portfolio to include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and others.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Chateau St. Jean is hosting Summer Fête on July 8th. The 1920s-themed lawn and garden party will include live music, new and library release wines, and a vintage car show.
Cakebread Cellars – Napa Valley, CA
Fifty years ago in Napa Valley, Jack and Dolores Cakebread founded Cakebread Cellars with a single 22-acre vineyard. Today, Cakebread continues to be family-owned, with their sons, Bruce and Dennis, overseeing 17 vineyards.
The winery has earned a reputation for its exceptional wines, leading-edge sustainability practices, and culinary excellence. They’ve earned multiple sustainability awards, including the Napa Green Medal Award and several Great Places to Work awards.
Cakebread is celebrating this year with events, launches, and special releases, including the 50th Anniversary Chardonnay Collection. “It only makes sense to be celebrating with Chardonnay,” says Bruce Cakebread in a press release. “It was the first varietal produced by Cakebread Cellars and a favorite of our parents.”
The four-bottle collection expresses four vineyards across Napa Carneros AVA: Cuttings Wharf, Foster Road, Milton Road, and Tinsley. Each expressing a profile that echoes the vineyard’s unique clonal, climate, and soil diversity.
2023 also marks an expansion of the business with Bezel, a collection of wines celebrating Paso Robles AVA. “We are proud of our past and energized by all that is ahead for Cakebread Cellars — from innovations in winemaking and sustainability to new offerings and newly-owned vineyards,” says Dennis Cakebread in the same press release.
Bezel joins Mullan Road Cellars, a Washington-based Cabernet Sauvignon, to complement the offerings by the Cakebread family.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards – Napa Valley, CA
Joseph Phelps Vineyards is a family-owned winery situated in the heart of Napa Valley. It began when Phelps, a construction executive, purchased a former cattle ranch in St. Helena, Napa Valley, and immediately planted 100 acres of vines.
Over the next few decades, the winery epitomized an uncompromising commitment to quality with a strong taste for innovation. For example, it was the first to produce a varietally-labeled Syrah in California. It also spearheaded the state’s first proprietary red Bordeaux-style blend — Insignia. Phelps’s idea to blend the finest wine lots of one vintage into a bottling was a model that other producers were quick to adopt. The wine brought recognition to Joseph Phelps Vineyards and, ultimately, to Napa Valley.
Fifty years on, Joseph Phelps Vineyards remains family-owned and farms some 525 acres of vines in Napa Valley and Sonoma. Overall, its eleven estate vineyards span St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Stags Leap District, Oak Knoll District, South Napa, Carneros, and Freestone.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards is a certified Napa Green Winery, with over 480 acres under preservation as part of the Napa Valley Land Trust.
Long Island Wine Country – Long Island, NY
Though not a singular winery, Long Island Wine Country is celebrating its golden anniversary.
Long Island wine growing began when Louisa and Alex Hargrave planted the area’s first vines in Cutchogue in 1973. The hamlet became a part of the North Fork of Long Island AVA when it became official in 1986.
The Hamptons, Long Island AVA was the first AVA in the area in 1985. It includes the entire South Fork of Long Island and the townships of Southampton and East Hampton. The all-encompassing Long Island AVA didn’t become official until 2001.
Long Island Wine Country is commemorating the 50-year milestone with a couple of events throughout the summer.
Hester Creek – Okanagan Valley, BC
Hester Creek, founded in 1968 in the Okanagan Valley, is celebrating an impressive 55 years of wine growing in 2023. The property’s journey began with Joe Busnardo, a Veneto-born wine enthusiast, who purchased a 70-acre parcel with the intention of importing vinifera cuttings. After overcoming various challenges, Busnardo finally received permission from the provincial government to import two cuttings each of 26 Italian varieties, including unique varietals like Garganega, Malvasia, and Trebbiano.
Initially, there was little interest in Busnardo’s offerings. However, everything changed following the bitterly cold winter of 1978-79, when his vinifera varieties thrived compared to neighboring hybrid vines. Inspired by this success, Busnardo established Divino Wines. The winery obtained an estate winery license in 1982, becoming one of the first five estate wineries in British Columbia. This marked the early stages of the province’s burgeoning wine industry.
Busnardo eventually sold the property in 1996. In 2004, BC entrepreneur, Curt Garland, purchased the property and grew it into the award-winning winery it is today. The winery was subsequently renamed after the creek that borders its southern side. Today, Hester Creek spans 115 acres and features a diverse range of varietals, including classics such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
Under the leadership of winemaker Mark Hopley, Hester Creek continues to make waves in the local wine industry. Hopley emphasizes the importance of the estate’s distinct varietal selections. “I was, and remain, excited to work with Trebbiano, in addition to the old Cabernet Franc block, and in particular, some of the oldest Pinot Blanc blocks in the valley, which are now the foundation for our old vines Brut and Pinot Blanc.”
In addition to its winemaking prowess, Hester Creek is known for its commitment to sustainability. The vineyard employs a “less is more” approach, incorporating practices like deficit irrigation and also handpicking every block. “A large part of our cellar is underground and complimented by a geothermal loop which helps moderate the temperature in the cellar efficiently,” adds Hopley.
Over the years, Hester Creek’s dedication to quality has played a vital role in establishing the Okanagan Valley as a premier wine region in Canada.