Working in Suisun Valley for the past nearly seven years, I’ve come to meet a lot of people. One of the kindest families I’ve met is the Dean Frisbie family. There’s an understated quality about this family that draws me in. Perhaps its the legal DNA, since Dean’s past career was in law, and my family has bred a lot of lawyers. [My great grandfather was Governor William T. Haines of Maine, who also served as Attorney General… and that’s just the tip of it.] Dean carries that sense of nobility, as he stands tall and seemingly, albeit quietly, pleased with his accomplishments. Besides having this intuitive grasp of the man, I also look at those he’s hired, and know that nothing but the best will do for him. He’s surrounded himself with solid experts… very accomplished and humble people. That’s the real draw.
Many people will tell you that great wines starts in the vineyards. I challenge that, though, because I honestly and truly believe that great wines starts in a significant mind… One man or woman’s seed of thought that gets an entire ball rolling. It’s that first, “I’d like to have a great wine, and I’m going to see that it gets made” stewardship that begins any great wine. From there, it’s all possible with effort and virtue.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In the early 1980s, because it was only an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, Dean and Bunny Frisbie began to visit Suisun Valley. They were drawn to the rustic tranquility of this community and the productivity of the valley’s fertile soil. By 1985, the Frisbies purchased property, the location of which was nestled between rolling hills. It had views of the Twin Sisters Peak to the west, and the Blue Ridge Mountains (California style) to the north. They put down their family roots when they bought that pear orchard, located right in the heart of Suisun Valley.
At first Dean Frisbie decided to honor the pioneering Peabody family and their long-standing farming history, by naming the orchard Peabody Ranch. By 1989, vineyards had completely replaced the orchard, and the original Peabody Ranch was soon incorporated into what’s now Ledgewood Creek Winery & Vineyards. With Ledgewood Creek running along the property’s northern edge and Abernathy Road bordering its eastern edge, the original Peabody Ranch proved to be so successful that the overall holdings grew to include over 350 acres planted with winegrapes. Cultivars are from these wine grape regions: Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley.
VITICULTURIST ~ Julie Nord
Julie Nord received her B.A. in chemistry and music from UC Davis, and went on to Texas A&M University for her M.S. in soil science. As co-owner of Nord Coast Vineyard Service, her primary work is based in neighboring Napa Valley. Julie encourages a pest management philosophy wherever she works; this includes integrated pest management (IPM) within sustainable agriculture. Ledgewood Creek has many owl boxes placed on the property, reminders of IPM’s integrity. In 2002, Julie received a Farm Bureau award for “leadership on the winegrape Pesticide Alliance and commitment to Napa County’s Agricultural Industry.”
RANCH FOREMAN ~ Enrique Villalobos
Ranch Foreman, Enrique Villalobos is an industry veteran. He came to the US from Mexico as a 16-year-old, with his two brothers. Enrique began his grape growing career in St. Helena, at the Emmolo Wine Company, which provides rootstock to the wine industry. He then spent 30 years at wineries on Mt. Veeder, overlooking the Napa Valley. In 1999, Enrique joined Ledgewood Creek Winery & Vineyards as their ranch foreman.
DECISION TO MAKE WINE
By early 2001, after more than a decade of growing and supplying superior wine grapes to leading Napa and Sonoma wineries, a decision was made to launch their own brand. And in the continuing style of the Frisbies, that wine would have to be the best available for sale to consumers. (Critical review would later come to prove that to be true.)
A winery and tasting room were built. The vineyards and winery are family-owned and operated; patriarch Dean Frisbie is general manager, and son James shares his time between wine sales and vineyard marketing.
[Pictured left to right: Larry Langbehn, James Frisbie, and Steve Heimoff.]
Once the decision was made to make wine, Dean Frisbie found the best winemaker available. Dean knew the importance of only crafting world-class wine. He hired Larry Langbehn, an experienced winemaker in Northern California, whose talents are sought by wine companies from all over the world, including China and Europe. The 2001 harvest was their first, releasing those first white wines in 2002.
Winemaker Larry Langbehn talks about the wines he is able to craft from the Frisbies’ vineyards.
When I started working with Ledgewood Creek in 2002, I discovered a ranch with the highest diversity of unusually excellent quality grapes that I’ve seen in the last 15 years. It took about two years to figure out how to optimize the technical methods of winemaking, and how to blend these grapes to obtain the very best expression of the vineyard site. The results have been stunning.
- Suisun Valley Grape Growers Create a Brand, Literally from the Ground Up (wine-blog.org)
- A Suisun Valley Gem ~ Tenbrink Vineyards (wine-blog.org)