Venge Vineyards of Calistoga purchased a small winery estate in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley and is creating a second brand and private-tasting experience there.
Itself a small-scale operation, Venge acquired Robert Rue Vineyard & Winery at 1406 Wood Rd. just south of River Road near the community of Fulton on March 10 and took possession of it April 15 after the family moved off the property, according to Venge General Manager Jason Williams. The purchase includes the 10-acre property, with a 5,000-case-a-year winery, tasting room hospitality gardens, Victorian farmhouse and eight acres of 105-year-old zinfandel vines. The sale price wasn’t disclosed.
Venge owner and winemaker Kirk Venge has renamed the property Croix Estate as the home for the brand of the same name, started in 2012 and focusing on chardonnay and pinot noir wines from California coastal regions. Venge had been looking for a Russian River Valley winery since 2013 for the new brand, he said. The Croix Estate public tasting room is “moving to a private, client-based experience” by appointment only for up to 20 people a day, Williams said.
“Russian River Valley is a proven AVA for growing remarkable chardonnay and pinot noir, with a broad diversity of growing environments,” Venge said in a letter to the trade. “We believe starting here gives us the best chance at proving our mettle with each variety.”
About 300 cases of Croix Estate are made annually, split between single-vineyard chardonnay and pinot noir wines. The plan is to grow the brand to 2,300 cases a year with three single-vineyard-designate chardonnay and pinot noir wines, an appellation blend of the two varietals and an estate old-vine zinfandel. Retail prices are expected to be $50–$125 a bottle for chardonnay, $65–$225 for pinot noir and $50 for old-vine zin.
West Sonoma County’s Dutton Ranch is sourcing grapes for the Croix Estate brand. The estate vineyard will be reworked over the next three years.
Robert and Carlene Rue purchased the vineyard in 1973 and moved into the house on the property to raise their family and grow grapes. For nearly 30 years they sold their grapes to well-known wineries throughout Sonoma County. In 2001 the Robert Rue brand was launched and released two years later. The winery was completed in 2008.
The Venge family started growing winegrapes in Napa Valley in the 1960s, and Kirk Venge was born in 1976. After making wine at Rapaura Vintners in New Zealand and a brief harvest stint at Mumm, he became winemaker at Venge in 1999. He purchased ownership of the winery from the family in 2008 and finished a new gravity-fed 5,000-case-a-year winery in 2010.
Frank Darien of Darien Estate Vineyards advised and assisted in the sale of Robert Rue Vineyard & Winery.