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History of Morningside Vineyard and Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon

George Grodahl spent his entire career in the computer industry in sales, as an entrepreneur and as an investment banker.  In 1991 when George took an early retirement from a fruitful investment banking career, he had no idea that ten years later he’d be releasing a world class Super Tuscan style wine from his small vineyard operation.

George Grodahl and DogsSelf-made and ready for phase two in life, George began to invest in and launch internet start-ups - two were acquired and one is prospering and still independent. In 1994 he and his wife Caddy  purchased 40 acres  in the hills of Yountville, right in the heart of Napa Valley. Their start-up plan was to plant some grapes and sell them to local wineries. The hillside location with well-drained, rocky soils, provide a natural birthplace for great wines. In May of that year, Barbour Vineyard Management laid out the vineyard and planted the grapes.

Initially George sold all of his grapes to local wineries for use in their winemaking. At a dinner party George talked with a retired dentist friend. He had begun to make great wine as a hobby. They shook hands and agreed to start making a small amount of wine – fifty cases – onsite in George’s garage. Chanticleer was born, but it wasn’t for sale. The fifty cases were for friends and family only.

 Every year the wine got better. Friends kept asking George if they could buy some Chanticleer for their collections. With each successive year the wine was improving as confirmed by numerous industry experts. George realized his friends’ comments were not just patronizing and that there was a commercial potential in his wines. He decided to find a top notch, professional winemaker  to produce a commercial wine.  In 1998 he met a promising young winemaker, Chris Dearden, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The first Morningside vintage, the Super Tuscan style 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, was released in May, 2003.   A total of 122 cases were released and it was a blend of 82% Cabernet and 18% Sangiovese. The wine received high praise from its consumers, and most was sold direct with some sold to a few restaurants and retailers and it sold out in two months.

The second Chanticleer vintage of 250 cases of the 2001 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon, was released in August, 2004 and was sold out by mid September. This release blended 17% Sangiovese with 83% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was very well received by its clients, mainly repeat buyers with a few new commercial establishments.

Each successive vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese has sold out well before the next release became available. Now, they produce @ 500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon,  @500 of Sangiovese, @250 Cases of Riserva and @ 250 cases of Pinot grigio annually.  It hs become necessary to allocate the wine to existing clients and to create a waiting list for the Sangiovese.

For George and Chris the process has been a labor of love. They plan to remain primarily estate grown, except for the Pinot Grigio, which will limit the annual production to about 1,500 cases each year. But that’s ok with George. The transition from investment banker to boutique winemaker has revealed a simple truth for this phase of life: dedication to excellence carries over into the wine industry and he can now share the fruits of his labor with friends, family and new clients.