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A New Generation Shines the Light of a Modern Era on its Napa Brand
— An In-Depth Interview with the Hearts & Minds of Rubissow Wines —
Steeped in tradition, yet focused on the future. Reverent of the land, yet driven to pushing its potential. Seasoned in experience, yet vibrant with ardor and enthusiasm. Such is the balance struck at the house of Rubissow, the Napa Valley family estate winery that runs on the disciplined vineyard management, erudite winemaking, and savvy sales & marketing of the brother and sister team of Peter and Ariel Rubissow with their partner-in-vine, Timothy Milos. Having remained corporate-free and family-run a full generation after its establishment during the Napa renaissance of the '60s, Rubissow Wines is easily considered a relic among super-premium wine estates. In the interest of peering into the heart of this rare gem, I sat down with the Rubissows and their winemaker in the bright and naturally lit space of the property's charming, contemporary, and ecological guest-house. What I found was a trio of individuals each of whom resonates with one another as they contribute uniquely and collectively to the success of all that is Rubissow Wines.
Roots and Shoots: the Symbols of Rubissow, Yesterday and Today
NM: What is Rubissow?
PR: Rubissow is this vineyard and all its mystery, beauty and challenge. We love this land and want to preserve and steward it well. Rubissow is also our dreams and our hopes and our family's past and our future in one wine. And of course, it's our family name — a Ukranian/Russian name, which is our Dad's heritage. I think that when your name is on a bottle of wine it raises the bar to the highest level in terms of what your commitment is to quality. So, I think we're all very committed to trying to make beautiful wines which respect our past and raise the bar for the future…
TM: For me, I'm thinking not necessarily in terms of Peter and Ariel's name, but in terms of what I do. Rubissow is the expression of this place and these people. It's the wine that's made from the farm that George [Rubissow] found on Mount Veeder, and which Ariel, Peter, and George have been farming for the last 25 years. It is just that; it is just an expression of this land and these people. The house and all the things you see here are all part of what makes it unique, what makes it special. What I do is try to find a lens to focus [all] that through. For me, it's about the vineyard, finding the vineyard's voice, and ensuring that that voice sounds sweet to these people sitting across from me at the table.
AR: To me, I guess it's an emotional thing. Wine is woven into the story of our family history. Our Dad's long walks through Bordeaux vineyards in the past; my own walks through Canadian vineyards in Okanagan Valley; my Ukranian grandfather who, during the time of the Bolsheviks, went down to the wine cellar one evening before dinner and his life being saved by wine somehow, because he happened to be down there when the rest of his family (upstairs) were suddenly eradicated by soldiers... So, here's this 750ml of our legacy; and because it has our name on it, it does have that quality. My father and his father were always concerned with the eternal — like many people are — and both of them tried to think of ways to find the eternal. In making this wine, together as a family, we've found a little of the eternal. It's something bigger than us, but it's also really all of us brought together in one place. What's really exciting is to take our wine to the new level. For twenty years, we worked alongside our father, and now we have this chance to apply all that we've learned, apply our own ideas, and to work with someone very creative and modern, Tim. It's very exciting to recreate something so beloved. We've gone in a very different direction in the way we think, the way we communicate, the way we work as a team.