Many credit Bob Cabral, 54, with helping U.S. consumers fall in love with pinot noir and make Sonoma County a known source for the wine.
Growing up around grapes on his family’s 70-acre ranch in the Central Valley, the fourth-generation grower went on to graduate from Fresno State University in the mid-1980s then work 11 vintages at various North Coast wineries, as associate winemaker at DeLoach Vineyards, custom-crush winemaker at Kunde Family Estate, winemaker at Alderbrook Vineyards and winemaker at Hartford Court Winery. Then in 1998, he moved to Williams Selyem and guided winemaking there until 2014.
The following year, serial wine industry investor and vintner Bill Price III convinced him to take the helm of a new project, Three Sticks Wines.
What are major achievements you’ve made in your winemaking career?
BOB CABRAL: I have mentored over 20 assistant and associate winemakers into career advancement to winemaker. I helped to give or auction off more than $5 million worth of charity to help those in need or to just support our local community.
I helped craft protocols for land and water-use stewardship and participated in university trials or research to better our industry,
I shepherded Williams Selyem for 17 years through new ownership, and grew operations and facilities after Burt (Williams) and Ed (Selyem) sold the business. I planted and produced the first 100-point California pinot noir, judged by Wine Enthusiast magazine, from the 2007 Williams Selyem Litton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir. I’ve ranked more than 20 times as Artisan Winery of the Year in the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries list and crafted 100-plus 95- to 100-point wines in my career.
I was selected as 2011 Wine Star Awards Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast and have had my wines appear several times on among top 100 wines of the year in most wine and lifestyle publications.
Most of all, I’ve had a lot of fun doing this and feel honored to have had such a wonderful career and life.
How many cases a year do you make at Three Sticks?
CABRAL: Approximately 5,000 cases.
What’s the varietal mix?
CABRAL: Sixty-five percent pinot noir, 25 percent chardonnay, 5 percent cabernet sauvignon and 5 percent other varietals.
Is the volume and varietal mix changing much?
CABRAL:This has pretty much been the business plan and will continue to be so for the next few years. We may decrease cab over this period.
You were quoted at the time of your shift to Three Sticks that you wanted to spend more time in the cellar and vineyards. How is that going?
This part of the transition is going very well. I spend about 30 percent of my time in vineyards, 50 percent in the cellar racking barrels and crushing grapes — although that usually means a three-Advil night as I am approaching 55 years old — and 20 percent on sales and marketing.
What’s been different from running Williams Selyem?
CABRAL: I strictly oversee all phases of production at Three Sticks, and I am used as an adviser when it comes to our strategic business plan. I try to guide coworkers through the process, so that they can successfully execute their daily responsibilities.
At Williams Selyem I was responsible for all day-to-day business operations, budgeting, production, sales and marketing, acquisitions, and strategic planning, reporting directly to (owner) John Dyson in New York.
Director of winemaking, Three Sticks Wines
143 W. Spain St., Sonoma, CA 95476