SBRAGIA FAMILY 2009 Andolsen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
When Ed Sbragia was growing up, wine meant both livelihood and quality of life to his family. Ed's grandfather, an immigrant from Tuscany , had naturally gravitated to the wineries that flourished in California at the turn of the century. According to family lore, he was standing at the top of a ladder topping off a tank of wine when the 1906 earthquake hit. "Stop shaking the ladder," he yelled to his coworker on the ground. Ed's father acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg and grew Zinfandel grapes for sale and home winemaking. "He made excellent wine," says Ed, "and he taught me that making wine is a very natural process— that good grapes and good techniques will make good red wine." In the Tuscan tradition, good red wine was a part of every family dinner. "I thought of it as a bitter liquid until I was about 14," Ed recalls. "But it was a natural part of our meals and our life. My mom was a great cook, and we would sit for hours having long philosophical discussions." The vineyards meant hard work for young Ed—pruning, thinning, harvesting and crushing. "By the time I went to college, I wanted to get away from vineyards. The rows were too long, and I had hoed too many vines." Ed majored in chemistry at the University of California at Davis , headed for a career in science. But his family background made him the top candidate for a job in a winery laboratory upon graduation. Quickly realizing that the winemaker's job was the one he wanted, he returned to California State University at Fresno for a master's degree in enology. After a year working at a Sonoma County winery, he learned about an opening as the assistant to legendary Napa Valley winemaker Myron Nightingale at Beringer. "I just called Myron up and asked if I might be qualified for the position. I started on August 9, 1976 . Myron was a great teacher. He was the most intuitive winemaker I've ever known. He understood that winemaking requires subjective input—a feeling, a major preference—just like painting or sculpture or any work to which you dedicate yourself." Ed was named Beringer's chief winemaker on Myron's retirement in 1984 and has been, along with vineyard consultant Bob Steinhauer, the keystone of Beringer's Private Reserve program. He is proud of the partnership that he and Bob have formed—"Bob always says he gives me diamonds, and it's up to me to polish them," says Ed.