The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2018

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Page 48 of 96

DEPARTMENT HEADER 48  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2018 T he primary occupational focus for most of the 14,000 or so citizens of Ripon, California, is agricul- ture—particularly almonds, which the locals charmingly call "am'ns." Right behind nuts, however, are wine grapes, and one of the quiet forces behind this industry is the McManis family. Now sold in every U.S. state, the wines of McManis Family Vineyards still tend to sneak up on some consum- ers: While the family has farmed in the San Joaquin Valley since 1938, their winery wasn't founded until 1998 (its products officially entered the market in 2001). While the winery's produc- tion capacity is substantial—about 7.8 million gallons, or roughly 3.2 million cases, per year—McManis Family Vineyards currently just churns out more than 150,000 cases annually. The "secret" behind the McManis family's success is hardly concealed. Their impressive estate-grown vineyards, which number 3,600 acres of premium grapes spanning from Clarksburg and Lodi to the River Junction AVA, yield 11 distinct offer- ings with an average retail price of $11. "As stories about the American dream go, ours is probably of the underdog who had the audacity to open up a winery and expect to succeed in such a competitive industry," says fifth-gener- ation grower Justin McManis (the son of founders Ron and Jamie McManis, he also serves as the business' Vintner & Supply Chain Coordinator). According to Mike Robustelli, McManis Family Vineyards' Winemaker since 1999, "only about a seventh of the wine produced from [the winery's] vineyards goes into McManis label wines," with the remainder "sold to other wineries on the West Coast and in other states." "This will remain the core of the fam- ily's business" in future years, Robustelli says, with the advantage of this business plan being that the company can pick and choose the highest-quality lots at its own discretion. "Every wine is treated as if it's going into a McManis wine, and decisions about what goes into our own bottles are made afterward," Justin says. "Besides quality, the obvious advantage is we have been able to increase our production precisely as much as the market can accept." While McManis Family Vineyards' portfolio is currently more than 90 percent estate-grown, Justin says their goal is to reach 100 percent "as [their] newest vineyards come online." All McManis Family properties are currently certified by the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing, the area's leading sustainable viticulture program, with additional certifications awarded by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA). "Because we're looking out for the next generation—and for the seventh, the eighth, and the ninth—we started getting our vineyards certified sus- The McManis Family Sierra Loma Vineyard in Northern California. MCMANIS FAMILY VINEYARDS TAKES ITS SUSTAINABLE, ESTATE- GROWN WINES NATIONWIDE The Underdog Advantage story and photos by Randy Caparoso WINERY SPOTLIGHT

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