Over the past two decades, the Royal Wine Corporation, under the direction of CEO David Herzog and executive winemaker Peter Stern, has been steadfast at dissolving the sugar-coated image many associate with early kosher wines, which had high levels of residual sugar.
"Our market is growing, but it's questionable how rapidly," said Stern
."But it's definitely not falling off.Younger people who are religious want kosher wines."
A Kosher PartenershipStern, who is not Jewish, has been with Royal Wine since 1984 when he was hired to oversee harvest, and says the Herzog family has always been committed to producing fine wines.
teaches and directs the team of observant Jews who perform the hands-on production at the winery.
worked for Robert Mondavi, E&J Gallo and J. Lohr, but it was his expertise as consultant for Golan Heights Winery in Israel that earned him acclaim.
"I hired Stern
as our consultant during the harvest of 1984.
doesn't own vineyards, Stern
has always contracted grapes from vineyards in the Alexander and Russian River Valleys, Clarksville and the Central Coast.In fact, Royal
was the first kosher wine company to establish long-term contracts with vineyards and to use French and American oak barrels.
Production began in Northern California, gradually moving south, closer to Herzog's expanding Central Coast vineyard sources.In 1998, when it became clear the winery needed a winemaker to handle daily operations, Stern
hired Joe Hurliman.
"I felt Joe had the best palate," said Stern
then sent Hurliman to San Martin, south of San Jose, to help cellar master Josh Goodman move the winemaking operation to central Coast Wine Services (CCWS) in Santa Maria.
Near the end of their lease, Stern
said it became clear they had to build a winery.The only question was where to put it.In the late 1990s they chose Oxnard, which Stern
admitted wasn't his
"I looked at Napa and Sonoma, but it was just too difficult to work out.Staffing was tough everywhere, but there's a large Jewish community close to Los Angeles," Stern
But, in the end, Stern
and Hurliman believe the wines will prove what's most important about Herzog Wine Cellars.
Adjacent to the lab, Stern
and Hurliman added a staff tasting room with natural lighting.
...Although the new winery was built strictly for Herzog Wine Cellars, Stern and Herzog allowed friend Jeff Morgan, a winemaker and wine writer (Wine Enthusiast and the Dean and Deluca Food and Wine Cookbook), to rent space at the facility.
"The tasting room will focus on Herzog reserve wines," said Stern
, "but we'll offer our less expensive Baron Herzog wines for sale if consumers show interest."