Overheard a Conversation About Roy J. Maier Cab, and I Was Intrigued

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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10 Responses to “Overheard a Conversation About Roy J. Maier Cab, and I Was Intrigued”

  1. Patty Maier says:

    Jo, on be half of our Maier Family I would like to thank you for a wonderful article/blog! Richard and I are very proud of Brittany and Ryan, they are a great couple who work extremely hard. They are also great PR for Saint Helena Road Winery. Chinois Asian Bistro is a great supporter of Maier Family Brands and has carried our Maier Family Cenote by the glass. Richard and I hope you will take Brittany & Ryan’s offer up and come and visit our little bit of heaven. Patty Maier

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    I will, Patty, and it will be sooner than later. I’ll give you a call.

  3. Brittany Maier says:

    This article is INCREDIBLE! You have done such an amazing job sharing our story with the world and we so much appreciate it! Patty and Richard have worked so hard to build this brand over the past decade and it is so nice that you have recognized them for that! My husband, Ryan, is also so AMAZING, for he is truly the face of this brand. I believe it’s his charm, generosity, and passion for his family that intrigue others to learn more about St. Helena Road Winery and Maier Family brands. He and I both feel very LUCKY that we by chance met you at Chinois that night and will be forever grateful for your kind words. We hope to have you up to the property one day soon and maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll run into you again at our favorite restaurant, Chinois Asian Bistro on the Town Green in Windsor. Thank you!
    ~Brittany Maier

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Brittany… Kismet…

    I was happy to write the story, because it epitomizes what my blog is all about… My journaling my wine publicist journey in the this fun business. It was an adventure into your lives, and yes… your husband is a brilliant marketer. He didn’t hesitate, when I had the most (seemingly) innocent question.

    Jose and I are at Chinois at least once a week. Two nights ago, we were finishing up a Petite Sirah tasting, and had 17 of them. I’m also a member of our Windsor Wine Century Club. (The goal is to taste at least 100 different varieties. I’ve now tasted 134, and am headed to 200, because – why not?) I should let you and Ryan know when we’re having our monthly tastings, because your both in the business, and could get back to Chinois (easily). It’s a great learning curve experience, and after our tasting, we put the wines to the food & wine test with Chang’s great dishes. I’ll let you know.

    Meanwhile, it was my pleasure writing your story, look forward to going to the property and seeing you both again… here or there. We’ll figure it out.

  5. Rod Nelson says:

    Great to read about my extended family…am pleased/proud to be related to such great people! Thanks for the kind and accurate remarks you made of them and their wine.
    Nelson family in Omaha

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    How great for you, Rod.

  7. Ryan Maier says:

    This read was a fantastic synopsis of life at Saint Helena Road winery. I had no idea when we met that night that this would be a byproduct. Many thanks for the kind words, the recognition, and humble respect.

    Blessed Regards,
    Ryan Maier & Family

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    My pleasure, Ryan.

  9. Joanthan and Maggie Markham says:

    Given the dates of this blog and responses I wonder if it will ever be read but I can hope… Fourteen years ago today my wife Maggie and I began our infinitely memorable honey moon in an exquisite house on the St Helena Road Winery. These were four days we have relived and reminised about over and over again. It was in the very early days of production and one of the high lights was a tour of the property from the owner. He introduced us to the resident llamas and described to us how they had prepared the land for the vines.
    Often we have wondered what became of the wonderful people who were such gracious and kind hosts. The bottle of wine (now empty of course) remains a reminder of these precious days. It is great to be reminded by this blog of those unforgettable days at an unforgettable place

  10. Jo Diaz says:

    Hi, Jonathan and Maggie,

    Happy fourteenth anniversary!

    Yes. This blog, like still waters, runs deep… started in 2005. When it’s written, it’s current. And, like any library, it can be a resource. I don’t even know if I could read it all, at this point; but, it’s nice when someone drops into my archives. (Welcome.)

    Happy Anniversary. Fourteen years says you’re over any humps and well on your way. Congrats! There are so many lovely people in wine country. For fortunate for you have possibly met the owners. We all love being in a very precise agricultural district. And, living in wine country has some very happy people… one of the reasons people like to visit. I love that there were llamas. They have very important work to do. Sheep are another great re-generator of nature. It’s the Mediterranean lifestyle that we all crave.

    Thanks for sharing such a sweet story and also reminding me why I’m here. I just love it, too. Be well and safe, Jonathan and Maggie.

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