Thirty three years ago I began to plant a small vineyard with the intention of making wine for Shabbos and Yom Tov. I had been making my own kiddush wine for years and the site of the vineyard, where I live, was promising. The Santa Cruz Mountain wine growing region of California, though small, has long been known for its quality wines. The vineyard is situated on a south-facing slope surrounded by oak and redwood forest looking down the valley to the Pacific Ocean. It had been planted with wine grapes in the 1880s, but the original vines were pulled up during prohibition.
Four Gates is perhaps the smallest kosher winery in the country. I grow Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc on 3.5 acres. The grapes are certified organic by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). In addition, the vines are not irrigated, so the small yields are concentrated in flavor. Also, the wine is estate bottled. This means that one person has overseen the quality of both the growing of the grapes and the making of the wine.
The winery itself is likewise a one-man operation. Far from being a modern computer-monitored factory, it's more like an old fashioned one-room school house with me teaching all the grades; all the various pieces of equipment and barrels sit around the room like children of different ages waiting for their turn.
The wines themselves benefit from the small scale and individual attention and from the unique qualities of the Santa Cruz Mountain environment. The Chardonnay is a full-bodied white wine aged in American oak barrels. It will complement flavorful dishes like roast chicken or baked salmon or Orah's spicy baked tofu. The Merlot is a substantial red wine. It will complement a holiday brisket or a roast.