seems fitting that Gregory Graham grew up with grapes. He was born
to be a winemaker. Although his family may not have known it at the
time, Gregorys experience helping in the family-owned vineyards
in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio to grow the grapes that were under
contract to be sold to Welchs for grape jelly would have a very
lasting influence on him.
Today, Gregory can proudly say he is the winemaker for such esteemed
wineries as Rombauer and Frank Family. Yes, Gregory Graham is the
man behind these famous wines - although he prefers to put the vines
before the man.
Gregory decided in 1974 after coming out of the service that it was
time to go to college. He attended Cleveland State University where
he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. While in college, he
began making wine from concord grapes and then his source evolved
to local growers, but, Ohios growing season just isnt
long enough to grow European varieties and his sights were set
Once there, he enrolled himself at UC Davis where he got his degree
in enology in 1983. Gregory was ready to hit the big time and moved
His first job right out of Davis, was an assistant winemaker position
at Rombauer. In 1985, he took an enology position at Robert Mondavi
before being asked to come back to Rombauer in 1988. He has been Rombauer's
head winemaker ever since, revolutionizing the wines coming out of
this winery and helping to build the wines to an almost cult-like
status. He is also a part of the winemaking team for Frank Family
vineyards. Frank Family is owned by Rombauers business partner,
ex- Disney Executive, Richard Frank.
Gregory attains great wines because of purity. He loves what he does.
Pure and simple. He grows the wines in the vineyard from baby buds
to full grown grapes. He is a part of their lives until they make
it into the bottle and that is what he loves about it, I just
interviewed guys at Frank Family and one of the questions I asked
was what is your favorite part about being a winemaker
and that made me think and ask myself the same question. I think it
is because each year we get to do it again - make something from nature
and do it with creativity.
A die-hard Rhone fan, Gregory Graham struts his stuff when it comes
to Syrah. However, he admits that there is no wine he absolutely has
to make every year. That part is dictated by the fruit. Although you
will most likely find him making Rhone varietals in Rhone style. This
is what we found to be incredible about his 2000 Napa Valley Syrah.
We tasted it at an annual tasting in San Francisco called Rhone
Rangers and it was the best Syrah in the room --out of 200 wineries.
It is fruit driven in the classic blueberry, black raspberry zone
with a little hot white pepper spice.
The other wines Gregory makes under his own label are two appellation-designated
Viogniers (another Rhone varietal); one from Napa Valley and one from
Knights Valley. He also makes a Pinot Noir and a Zinfandel.
Rhone wines speak to his tastes in winemaking for the Gregory Graham
label -- elegant, straightforward and pure. It is not surprising that
this could also be a descriptor of Gregory Graham himself. Nor is
it surprising that for his honeymoon, he chose the Rhone destination,
In his free time, and he says there is very little of it,
he likes to mountain bike and hike. Perhaps that is why I was so very
surprised when he told me he was a grandfather already. He is a young
looking man who actually has three children of his own and now two
grandchildren. It must be the wine and the hiking. Maybe Gregory has
uncorked the secret of the fountain of youth. He should be bottling
and selling that.
As for passing on his legacy, so far none of his children have taken
an active interest in winemaking like their father. He holds out hope
(with a smile) that maybe one of the grandchildren will.
It will be awhile before we find out if that wish will come true,
but for now he urges people to enjoy his Syrah (and all his other
wines) knowing his philosophy, I dont spare any expense.
I make everything at the highest quality level from the grapes to
As for pairing with food, Gregory admits he isnt much of a cook,
but wouldnt want you to pass up the opportunity to try his wine
with pork tenderloins rubbed with ...you guessed it, Herbs de Provence!