Sitting in my favorite restaurant ~ Chinois Asian Bistro ~ a young couple sat at a table diagonally in front of me. I was fascinated to see this 20s to 30s something couple with a Bordeaux-style bottle on their table, while they enjoyed the lighter fare at Chinois.

Owner Chang Liow has just returned from China, and was headed to see us, when he spied this couple. He quickly segued in their direction. He pointed to their bottle of wine, and the young man proudly exclaimed that his 2007 Cab had just won a double gold medal in the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Wonderful…

“Aha! He’s connected to the winery,” I thought, which explained a lot to me. I was soon to learn that the Winery is called St. Helena Road Winery.

After Chang spoke with them, he came right to Jose and me. We got caught up, because Chang had been in China for a month, and we keep very current with each other. He’s a great man. Chang shared with us that he just learned that Chinois has earned a Michelin Award.

I’ve always told Jose that someday we’re going to have to wait to be seated. For now, we’re covered…but not for much longer.

As I said this aloud to Chang, the young couple, who has been going to the restaurant since its grand opening, agreed… The silence among us all was broken.

The Michelin Award was the ice breaker, so I couldn’t resist asking him about his wine. “He” is Ryan and “She” is Brittany… Maier, and they’re adorable. Is it okay to say that about someone you’ve just met? I guess it is when it fits, and it does.

I immediately liked Brittany and Ryan, when they were talking with Chang. Ryan’s soft spoken, and has a sense of humility that can’t be overlooked. He’s not a child of entitlement, or if he is, you’d never know. I’m betting that his parents make him work hard for a living, and aren’t pampering him. It shows in what he says, does, and his body language. He’s of a generation where I’ve also raised my own share of kids, and I know that his parents have done a great job with him.

To that end, I could only imagine how great his wine was, but merely asked about it out of curiosity. He handed me the bottle to enjoy what was left… (Great PR, regardless of who I am, and he didn’t even know that I’m a wine industry professional.)

The label has Roy J. Maier on it, which Ryan explained, was his grandfather.

Chang brought out a second set of glasses, so Jose and I would be able to taste the 2005 Cabernet with a clean palate. One swirl, with opulent aromas on the nose and one small sip had me know that it’s one of those “knock your socks off” Cabs…. And, I got the GOLD medal fever.

But, the story behind it all… Roy J. Maier, his grandfather…

I spent copious hours in my youth in my piano room; where I played our baby grand (badly), tap and jazz danced myself into a frenzy on the hardwood floor, and spent so many hours listening to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue,” that I can’t even tell you how many times or for how long. I just know I was enraptured in this song throughout my high school years. I knew it better than I knew my classmates… And it was Roy J. Maier who was playing the saxophone.

What a memory.

The front label is a tribute to that song, with three bars of embossed notes. You just want to touch it to feel its presence. The back label tells you that Roy “invented and automated machinery to manufacture reeds for woodwind instruments. His ingenuity established the largest industry of this type in the world.” Roy left a legacy to his children and grandchildren, which today has morphed into a vineyard on the Sonoma side of Spring Mountain. Ryan’s parents, Richard and Patty Maier, have taken their passion for wine, along with their two sons Ryan and Danny, and purchased 60 acres in the Mayacmas Mountains. While they’re keeping their family legacy alive through wine, and doing a darn great job of it, I feel somehow deeply connected, knowing that Richard’s father and Ryan’s grandfather was a solid source in my own life during some very important years for me.

Someday, I’ve got to take Ryan up on his offer to visit their winery to learn and taste even more. Meanwhile, if you get the urge to discover this artisan mountain gem, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a rare find, and worth your time to find it and purchase it.

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