[Left to right: Stephanie Trotter-Zacharia, Jose Diaz, Laurin Beckhusen, and Katie Rall]

Non-profit organizations are built upon volunteers. PS I Love You has a few great folks who help whenever there’s a need. Our most prominent is Laurin Beckhusen. Laurin came to us offering his services as a seasoned volunteer from Zap, Family Winemakers, the list goes on. I didn’t realize what a gift I was being given from Bacchus; but after only one event, he quickly moved into the lead volunteer position.

I asked him why he’s so devoted to volunteering like this, because he’s a major workhorse. There are only a few people in life with this much crazy focus for getting something accomplished, without much regard save getting it done. He told me it’s because it puts him in closer proximity to the wine business, which he loves. I told him, “Well, we’ll just have to take a day and tour wine country with you.” He said, “See, that’s what I’m talking about.”

So, I planned a day. We were to start at David Fulton Winery, take his friend Katie Rall and him to lunch at the Rutherford Grill, and then finish the day at Robert Biale Vineyards with Dave Pramuk (sitting on their porch with us as we closed the day).

When Jose and I arrived at David Fulton Winery, winemaker Richard Mather was there to greet us, along with Stephanie Trotter-Zacharia, director of winemaking and sales. It was a typical gray morning in wine country. I quickly took this image of their vineyard and the fog layered sky. All was still in Napa Valley. Laurin and Katie were running a bit late, having just flown in from the Midwest the night before. That gave us a lot of time to visit with Stephanie, and gather even more info on the winery’s history and owner Fulton Mather.

Fulton Mather is a rare example of a career fulfilled within the technological community, and then retiring into a family history, which would have him return to his wine grape growing and winemaking roots. Most people in the wine business don’t wait to carry on the traditions of days gone by; they just help run the family business. For Fulton, it was a bit different. The wait, however, for the rest of us has been well worth the years in the making.

For that we’re blessed with some of the best examples of Petite Sirah, because they’re well beyond trophy brands… They’re history in the bottle, and drops of nectar on our palates.

When David Fulton Winery became a member of PS I love You on November 19, 2006, little did I know how much tradition had just landed on the Petite Sirah doorstep. Since then, we’ve become very familiar with this very historic piece of property in St. Helena; but, the refresher course was well worth our time.

FROM THEIR WEBSITE: Our vineyards, originally planted in 1860, produce less than 400 cases of Petite Sirah a year. This dry-farmed, estate vineyard is the oldest, continuously owned and operated family vineyard; not only in Napa Valley, but all of California.

1860-1864: Building a Winery: After nearly two years of making saddles, horse-drawn carts and cast iron parts, he established his own vineyard with the purchase of a 40 acre parcel of land from Frank Stratton in January 12, 1860. A couple of months later, in the spring of that year, he planted approximately 6 acres of grape vines.  [To read more on their site, click here.]

Today, the vineyard and winery is owned and managed by Fulton (fourth generation) and Dink (Erma) Mather. Fulton is the great grandson of David Fulton, and recently retired as a managing software engineer. His wife Dink is a retired toxic substances scientist. Helping Dink and Fulton are their son Richard Mather (fifth generation), who’s their winemaker, and their daughter Jennifer Mather. Jennifer assists with sales and promotion, also owning and operating a small advertising business in the Sacramento Area.

Richard’s winemaking background is that he’s worked in different winery cellars, then as a wine compliance agent in the Napa Valley. He’s currently the tasting room supervisor at another Napa Valley winery, and works weekends and at nights for the family.

Once Laurin and Katie arrived, we tasted though several wines… They’ve made a Port that just drips with flavor and defines their nectar. We all purchased some of the Port for this coming holiday season. It will be the happy ending to a Thanksgiving bird… when the stuffing becomes humanized instead of being part of the decor.

From this visit, we had lunch, then went down valley to Robert Biale’s, where the hospitality is always over the top. Our good friends at Biale also make stellar Petites. I wrote about them earlier, when asked to attend their new vintages being launched party in Sausalito. It was called, A Fabulous Robert Biale Opportunity ~ Black Chicken et al.

Thank you, Laurin and Katie, for all your great volunteer efforts. Groups like PS I Love You couldn’t exist without your selfless efforts on behalf of the wine industry. We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

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