Rob Sinskey, Daydream Believer, Vintner
Rob Sinskey believes that the goals of making luxuriously elegant wines and farming with earth friendly methods are not mutually exclusive. Rather, he has found that caring for the land and conscientious business practices have helped define the well-crafted wines of RSV. Rob and winemaker, Jeff Virnig have adopted methods that not only produce wines of individuality, but leave a minimal footprint on the land.
A native Californian, born in Los Angeles, raised on the Central Coast in the little town of Cambria, Rob has lived in Napa and San Francisco for the past 30+ years. Rob followed many breadcrumbs on his indirect path to today – a stint as a Future Farmer, a wanna-be Chef and even an appreciator of the seductive qualities of wine. These were all part of his youth but, in his teens and early twenties, he thought he would become a photojournalist and received a degree from Parson’s School of Design in NYC.
His life in wine began when a six-month assignment assisting his father turned into a thirty-plus year obsession. “After a stint in advertising, I was looking for something real where I could, excuse the pun, put down roots. Then, my father called for help. His avocation in wine growing had developed into a fledgling business and he needed assistance. I think a week had passed before I discovered that his avocation had become my obsession.”
Rob has grown his 100% organic and biodynamic certified winegrowing operation to over 200 acres of premium vineyards in the Carneros and Stags Leap districts of Napa and Sonoma Valleys with a philosophy that “Wine is not an athletic event.” The goal is to make “pure wines of character that pair well with cuisine.” Rob believes that wine should not be a “quick study,” but rather seduce you as the wine opens in the glass and bottle.
Rob Sinskey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maria Helm Sinskey, Chief Cook & Bottle Washer, Culinary Director
Maria Helm Sinskey was born and raised in upstate New York. In 1983 she graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY. A degree in English proved invaluable in her chosen career as a chef. She quickly gained a reputation for spouting sonnets on the line.
After college came a short career in advertising combined with night-time backstage catering for bands that were touring Boston. In a move designed to breakup her long- term relationship with a musician, her parents convinced her to attend culinary school in the great city of San Francisco. The rocker-chef romance soon dissolved and Maria emerged in 1987 as a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.
She attended pastry school in Denmark to hone her sweet tooth and then returned to San Francisco to work as Chef at several noteworthy restaurants: Boz Scagg’s Blue Light Café, the venerable Sherman House – a Relais & Chateaux Hotel, and Plumpjack Café, which she left in 1999 to pursue a life combining family, food and wine in the Napa Valley.
Along the way Maria worked in France at several Michelin starred restaurants, toured Italy and realized that life was good, very good. After returning stateside, Maria garnered many accolades: 1996 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef, SF Magazine Rising Star Chef, SF Chronicle Rising Star chef and appeared on many PBS and Food Network Shows.
Nowadays, you will find her cooking at her husband’s winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, laying out plots for her organic gardens, teaching, writing and raising two children.
Her first cookbook, The Vineyard Kitchen: Menus Inspired by the Season, published by HarperCollins was released in September 2003. Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen, published by Oxmore House, followed in November 2008. Her mantra is, “Eat seasonally, drink good wine and live a long and prosperous life.”
Maria Helm Sinskey can be contacted at email@example.com.
Jeff Virnig, WineCrafter
Jeff graduated in 1984 from Cal Poly with a BS in agriculture business management. From there he attended the school of hard knocks, gaining valuable hands-on viticultural experience working amongst vines at the Mayacamas vineyard and winery. In 1988, he joined RSV as an assistant winemaker and became one of the youngest winemakers in Napa Valley when he was promoted to winemaker in 1991.
He has been integral in all aspects of RSV including developing most of RSV’s vineyards. His emphasis has been on improving wine quality by helping the vine achieve a natural balance through soil building with organic regenerative farm methodology. Jeff picks and keeps the various ranch blocks separate during fermentation so they may be evaluated for their unique, subtle attributes. The separate lots allow flexibility in that Jeff can apply different fermentation techniques to each lot to accentuate that lot’s individual character. His attention to detail has greatly contributed to the quality and consistency of RSV wines.
Jeff Virnig can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kari Flores, Farming Operations Manager
Kari Flores is the Farming Operations Manager for Robert Sinskey Vineyards, where she has worked in various capacities for over 6 years. Kari has a strong commitment to organic agriculture, and has been farming organically (and Biodynamically) for 20 years. She knows the importance of sustainable and regenerative farming practices that promote soil health and are both economically viable and environmentally sound.
Kari holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Horticulture and Agronomy from the University of California, Davis. At RSV, Kari manages all aspects of farming wine grapes, fruit trees, olive orchards, bee yards, and sheep.
When she’s not roaming around RSV’s vineyard, pastures, and orchards, Kari can be found tending to her own small farm, which includes a small herd of Olde English Southdown sheep, Great Pyrenees dogs, a flock of chickens, and a Merlot vineyard.
Kari Flores can be contacted at email@example.com.
Phil Abram, General Manager
A Buffalo (NY) Boy, Phil was raised in a land where a perfect Food and Beverage pairing meant spicy chicken wings and cold, Canadian beer. Wine, except for the occasional holiday box of Chardonnay, was as foreign a concept as a moderate winter.
Leaving the comforts of home, Phil made his way across New York State to graduate from Syracuse University with degrees in Finance and Supply Chain Management. If you had told him then that the Hospitality Industry would be where he would apply those trades, his reaction would have sounded something like sarcastic laughter followed by a “keep dreaming” rebut.
Keep dreaming, he did. Upon arriving in New York City to pursue a career in the Stock Market, he was exposed to a new world of food culture and, with a sweetheart to impress, his interests were drawn in a different direction. The hook was set when he landed a moonlight, barback job with AvroKO Hospitality Group. He spent a year working up the ranks of almost every post in the restaurant with the aim of becoming a Chef until a glass of Sancerre turned wine curiosity into a new obsession.
Phil then trained with the Court of Master Sommeliers at the International Culinary Center by day and worked as a Floor Sommelier by night, tasting everything he could get in a glass. When Napa Valley called his name, the opportunity for a terroir believer to live at the epicenter of California wine was too much to pass up. He spent five years in the downtown Napa restaurant scene as General Manager and Beverage Director of two restaurants before a chance meeting with Rob Sinskey opened the door for him to join the RSV squad with a mission to spread the gospel of guilt-free hedonism.
Armando DeLuna, Keeper of the Wine
Born and raised in the heart of Napa with family spread all throughout the Valley it’s only fitting that the fruit that supported opportunity for all of us is what continues to drive us forward. Armando began working on a bottling line before he could even (legally) enjoy his first glass of wine. After a couple years of stacking cases he realized it was much more fun fermenting grapes. It wasn’t until 2007 when he started working at Robert Sinskey Vineyards in the cellar that he realized he found the wine that he really loved crafting. With the help of his team and good music (or at least loud music) Armando continues to try his best not to spill any wine.
Armando DeLuna can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tiffany Barber, Wine Temptress
“There’s always great wine coming out of the cellar and wonderful aromas wafting from the Vineyard Kitchen. It’s the perfect place to work—a winery that brings wine, food and good living experiences together.”
Tiffany began her love affair with wine as many people do, by way of white zinfandel… she was eight years old. Her parents let her have a tiny glass of wine at holidays and special occasions. Luckily, her mother’s palate soon began to gravitate toward Sancerre and Côtes du Rhône. After a brief, painful regression with Boone’s Farm during her freshman year in college at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Tiffany soon realized that Strawberry Hill did not pair well with food and resulted in a wicked hangover.
Tiffany’s true epiphany with wine & food occurred during a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. She dined in local trattorias drinking Antinori Tignanello back when the exchange rate made it affordable, and she spent her free time roaming the Mercato Centrale, fascinated by the butcher shops, handmade pasta, and local, seasonal produce. “I’d never seen a baby artichoke, and I remember peeling an orange during my first week. It was the most beautiful red I’d ever seen, but I thought there was something wrong with it because it wasn’t orange—so I threw it away.” She doesn’t throw away blood oranges any more.
After graduating with a degree in Cultural Anthropology, she headed to Providence, RI, and put herself through culinary school while waiting tables at Al Forno. “I knew I didn’t want to be a chef, but I wanted to do something with food and wine. I was hoping that culinary school would help me find that focus.” Next, she moved to San Francisco and soon landed in Napa where she found the place she had been looking for—RSV.
Bob Sinskey, Founder
08/10/24 – 06/21/15
Bob Sinskey had a simple idea. Starting in the mid-sixties, he began to theorize that the American diet would soon be changing. He foresaw the move away from saturated fats and the integration of international ingredients into American cuisine. And with that change would come a desire for lighter-bodied red wines…and thus his passion for Pinot Noir was born.
In the late seventies, anticipating retirement from medicine, Bob decided that he would become a grape grower and embarked on a journey to find that “perfect” Pinot land. The Napa side of Carneros became the center of his attention as he purchased a small fifteen acre farm on Las Amigas Road. There he met the founders of the Acacia Winery and, since they were looking to expand their vineyard designated wine program, Bob became a limited partner in the Acacia project. The Acacia alliance seemed perfect: Bob just wanted to grow grapes and Acacia wanted to buy them. So Bob bought more land. By 1985, he had 115 acres entering production when Acacia stumbled and sold to the Chalone group. With no home for his grapes, Bob hired one of the ex- Acacia winemakers and went into the business of making wine. But he hadn’t yet retired from medicine. During the time he was developing his vineyard land, an invention of his went big-time. He created what is now known as the “Sinskey modified J loop intra-ocular lens.” His new design for an artificial human lens revolutionized cataract eye surgery. Suddenly, artificial lens implantation went from being experimental to status-quo and Bob became a teacher, lecturer, and a much in-demand surgeon. Needless to say, he was not going to retire anytime soon.
The doors to the winery opened in 1988 and Bob convinced his son to take over the management of the winery while he continued to oversee the vineyards and to tend his thriving medical practice. It wasn’t until 1996 that the reins to the vineyards were handed over to Rob as well.
Bob Sinskey officially retired from medicine in 2000. He passed away in June 2015. He is greatly missed.
The Inside Track
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