I remember visiting the tasting room at Landmark back in 1994 or so, and leaving, shaking my head, and writing them off as "just another Chardonnay producer."
Landmark Vineyards was founded in 1974 by a partnership that included Damaris Deere Wiman Ethridge, the great, great granddaughter of John Deere, inventor of the steel plow. Originally located in Windsor, just north of Santa Rosa, the winery produced rather average varietal wines for years. When rezoning substantially raised the property taxes on the winery in 1989, Ms. Ethridge bought out her partners, and decided to build a new winery near the foot of Sugarloaf Ridge in Kenwood. The new winery was designed and built in the California Mission style, and when they realized the tasting room was too dark and solemn, it was renovated with a bevy of windows that bring the sunlight and beauty of the vineyards into the visitors' tasting experience. Claudia Wagner, a regional artist, was commissioned to create a mural as a backdrop to the tasting bar, and it gives the room a vibrant energy.
Michael Deere Colhoun (right), Ms. Ethridge's son, is the winery's president, and his wife, Mary T. Colhoun, serves as Public Relations and Hospitality Director. Bob Cooley is Vice President of Sales & Marketing, rounds out the management team and has more than two decades of experience in the industry.
But of course, none of this would be significant if the proof were not in the bottle.
Believe me, it's there.
The key decision was made in 1993, when "pre-goddess" Helen Turley was brought on board as consulting enologist. Ms. Turley had founded her own Chardonnay label, Marcassin, and was quickly building a reputation as a woman with extraordinary drive and talent. Her arrival marked the beginning of a huge turnaround for the winery.
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Michael and Mary Colhoun (above) are obviously delighted with their success, as well they should be. I visited with them a few weeks ago, on the first day of crush for them. We tasted from tank and barrel, then sat in their conference room and tasted a few bottles.
© Allan Bree October 2000