is a word that accurately describes this husband and wife team's life
experience. Stan and Julie Simpson's adventures always seemed to take
just the right turn at just the right moment. Meeting the right people
and making the right decisions eventually lead the Simpsons to a place
and a way of life that makes them extremely happy. A life that is
situated in the mountains north of Santa Rosa, 17 miles from the Pacific
Ocean, on a road called McCray.
The name of their winery is McCray Ridge, named after the place that
grows the fruit that that goes into their single vineyard wine. To
them, this is all important keeping it simple and down to Earth.
Flash back to 1973. Nixon was in office, and Americans were starting
to rediscover that California wines could be quite delicious. In fact,
the International wine scene was beginning to take note as well. Meanwhile,
in Southern California, a shop teacher and cabinet shop owner/maker
and his wife, an English teacher, were happily living out their ordinary,
pleasant life, with no complaints. Life was good.
Then one day, Stan was invited, by one of his academic colleagues,
to a wine tasting class at a nearby college. This day marked the end
of his his ordinary, pleasant life, and the beginning of a brand new
journey. The fascinating world of wine and winemaking, with all of
its romantic and creative nuances, immediately seduced him. A new
adventure was kindling inside of him and thought to himself "down
the road, this could be a real possibility for me." And why not?
When you think about it, there are strikingly similar processes involved
with working with wood and making wine. Stan is a man who loves creating
art from Earth's raw materials. He loves to see the materials come
alive in new and captivating ways. As an artistic person, Stan knew
he found a new profession in his newly discovered passion for wine.
As his luck would have it, Stan decided to visit a friend in Sebastapol,
California, near Sonoma. While on his trip, he just happened to run
into a fellow wood worker who tipped him off about a property for
sale on McCray Ridge. Stan and his friend drove up to see this place
and he fell in love at first glance. 40 acres sitting on top
of the world. The view of North Bay in the distance was breathtaking.
And there was a beautiful four-acre patch of vineyard. And although
the vines had been neglected, left to grow on there own, and although
no one could tell him which varietals were actually planted, Stan
began to picture the possibilities.
After discussions with Julie, the couple decided to buy the McCray
Ridge property, by pulling together a down payment from Stan's 401k,
for what was to become the current 1,100 case per year winery.
Still living in Southern California, the Simpson's new property was
more of a dream get away haven, but as time went on, it became more
of a "let's stay" place. Stan was continuously pulled between
his successful cabinetry business, where he was designing special
woodworks for homes in Laguna Hills, and pursuing his new dream as
a winegrower and winemaker. He realized it was too difficult "trying
to be a grape grower from 500 miles away" so he sold his business
and moved with Julie to McCray Ridge his new home.
After moving, Stan decided to take some viticulture classes at Santa
Rosa College where he met professor Rich Thomas. From Rich, he learned
the trellising techniques for the vines that he still uses today (to
earn his 93 points from wine Enthusiast for his 1999 Merlot).
His first vintage in 1996 was good, but not good enough for Stan,
so he sold his grapes to Kendall Jackson. The following year, in 1997,
the grapes were lush and tasty, and he decided to make his first wine
under his label Stan and Julie haven't looked back since.
In fact, in a way, they have gone full circle. Because they became
friendly with professor Rich Thomas, students Stan and Julie are now
teaching at Santa Rosa College. Now, instead of teaching wood shop
and English, it is Winery Practices 101.
Stan insists he hasn't given up on the art of wood working. In rare
moments of downtime, the neighbors might hear the whine of a table
saw or the hum from a sanding belt. He invites anyone who takes the
wonderful trip to McCray Road to stop in for a visit. He would be
more than happy to show you his latest wood creation as well as his