Auteur Wines – It Takes True Grit to Make Great Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
373 1st St. W. Sonoma, Ca 95476 | (707) 938-9211 | Private outdoor tastings starting at $40/Person | Reservations required | firstname.lastname@example.org | Open daily from 10:00 – 5:30 | Specializing in Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Making Great Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir is something that Kenneth Juhasz, owner, and Winemaker at Auteur Wines knows a thing or two about. Raised in the rugged Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Kenneth quickly learned the value of hard work at a young age. Growing up the son of a Hungarian immigrant, he saw firsthand how his father built a life for the family through sheer guts and determination. He took his father’s teachings and applied them to restaurant work and a wine shop. No responsibility was too big or small— whether it was putting on a smile for customers during a tough shift, cleaning an endless amount of dishes, or staying late, Kenneth put the effort in to get the work done right the first time. Along the way, he discovered Pinot Noir.
Kenneth knew early on he wanted to work in the wine business and make Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir the cornerstone of his endeavors. His career began by working harvests in Burgundy, New Zealand, and the Willamette Valley. Oregon, at the time, was still emerging on the wine scene and seemed to be the best place to pursue his passion. While there, he also found his second passion—Kenneth met his wife, Laura—it was a chance encounter at a local bar. “I must admit though, she approached me and she was the one who had enough money to buy me a drink, my pockets were pretty penniless at the time as a cellar rat,” said Kenneth.
Laura grew up in rural Wisconsin and shared a familial strong work ethic and that nothing comes easy in life. Working in a corporate role at the time, she knew deep down knew she wanted something more out of life than the 9 to 5 rat race.
They started sourcing grapes from Willamette and making their own wines and even ended up back in North Carolina working at a creamery/winery. Kenneth and Laura were able to put their passions to good use. Eventually, Kenneth’s project consulting work at Donum Estate led him to become the lead winemaker and a full-time move to Sonoma, where his appreciation for Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir grew.
Kenneth moved to Sonoma in 2000 and was the lead winemaker at Donum Estate. In 2003, they began sourcing fruit for their own brand, Auteur – focused on producing small lots of Pinot Noir.
This was the jumping-off point for Kenneth and Laura to make their dream a reality and start their own label, Auteur Wines, which means author in French and describes the story of the passion that goes into the creation of every wine they make. “My experience in Oregon taught me the old world and my experience in California allows me to explore the new world— it’s my goal to create wines with both tension and intrigue and explore and push the boundaries. I want the wines to be free of pretense and allow for discovery,” said Kenneth.
Throughout the pandemic, Auteur Wines has been fortunate as demand for their wines has not slowed down. A loyal customer base continues to support their operation, and as a small producer, they are limited in inventory. “Our only issue now is we need more Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir to fill everyone’s COVID wine appetite,” said Kenneth. “It’s a little silver lining to help everyone escape for a few moments.”
When Kenneth looks at long term business threats, climate change is at the top. The forecasted expectation now is that a few harvests per decade mays be lost to wildfires. Unfortunately for the 2020 vintage, many of their partner vineyard sites were impacted. The winery sourced grapes from a few of his friends from niche vineyards in regions unaffected by the fires. There was nothing anyone could do to resolve the fire season but learn to advocate for a better path as climate change continues to become an annual reality, which has required Kenneth to be very selective about who he works with.
Auteur Wine recommendations
2018 Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir – Sourced from Manchester Ridge Vineyard, the grapes are at 2300 feet elevation overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This wine showcases black cherry aromatics on the nose with flavors of blackberry and strawberry. This full-bodied wine possesses both complexity and elegance. This would pair nicely with roasted lamb.
2018 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – blended from three sub-appellations that are known for excellent Pinot Noir, this wine has flavors of blackberry, red peppercorn, and a touch of spice.
2018 Durell Chardonnay – Sourced from Durell Vineyard, this wine benefits from cool breezes coming off the San Pablo Bay in conjunction with warm Sonoma Valley days. Beautiful floral aromatics with flavors of baked apple, pear, and a touch of lime.
2018 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – a blending of Durell and Green Acres Vineyards utilizing the “Old Wente” Chardonnay clone that provides a nice balance between acidity and fruit. Kick back and enjoy a plate of chicken tacos