Talking with A vintner named Boots Brounstein

Name: Boots Brounstein
Age: 87
City: Calistoga
Position: Owner of Diamond Creek Vineyards


J.: You founded Diamond Creek Vineyards with your late husband, Al, in 1968 after he smuggled vine cuttings from the Bordeaux region in France into California. How did you two get into the wine industry?

Boots Brounstein: I got into wine when I got involved with Al. It was his passion, but I followed, and soon his passion became mine as well. When Al and I met, we had French wines together and I found out I like wine. Wine is romance: He romanced me with wine and I fell in love. That’s just what wine does. I am a romantic person and wine is a part of that.

Boots Brounstein

J.: Diamond Creek started as California’s first exclusively cabernet sauvignon winery on 80 of acres and still produces a single varietal. Has the vineyard changed since you got started over four decades ago?

BB: We are still very tiny and only produce a very small amount of cabernet sauvignon wine — about 2,000 cases a year. But our vineyard uses grapes from three different terroir (types of soil), which creates very different flavors. There are many wineries now, not only in the Napa Valley, but throughout all of California. Time moves and the interest in wine in California has grown. Our wines are sold all over the world, including Asia and Europe — but not in Israel yet! I must say we make a pretty good wine.

J.: Did you ever think of expanding?

BB: No. We wanted to stay small so that we can continue to be hands-on. We know exactly when to pick grapes during the harvest and we know what’s going on around the vineyard. It’s like any business: When you’re small, you can do that.

J.: Is running a vineyard a romantic experience, like it is in the movies? Or is it actually a dirty job?

BB: The vines are in dirt, so we can say that (laughs). Running a vineyard is a lot of work, just like any business.

J.: Where did you grow up?

BB: I was born in Oakland and went to school in Los Angeles, where I met Al. I’ve never lived any place else but in California.

J.: Your given name is Adelle, but you go by Boots. How did you get that nickname?

BB: There’s not much of a story. It’s just what I’m known as. My mother started to call me “Boots” when I was a baby and it stuck. If someone calls and asks for Adelle, I’ll hang up the phone. Lady Bird Johnson … do you know what her first name was? You never heard it because it’s  not necessary. It makes no difference what my name is.

J.: You donate your property for the annual Shavuot celebration for Congregation Beth Shalom of Napa. Boating, paddleboats, a vineyard setting. Nice!

BB: I’ve been doing it for 10 years. The rabbi comes, they have a service and people bring a picnic. They enjoy the property that overlooks the vineyard and the lake. My property is private; no one comes here unless they are invited. People hear “vineyard” and think, “Let’s go.” But I don’t have any signage because that’s the way we operate. The vineyard is not open to the public. It’s open to my family, and the synagogue is my family.

J.: Have you explored Israeli wine country?

BB: Yes. That’s actually an interesting story. We’ve only had two winemakers since we started the vineyard. We met our current winemaker, Phil Steinschriber, when we walked into Yarden vineyards in the Golan Heights. Turns out there’s this American making wine in Israel and he went to the same high school as my children. When he got back to the States years later, he contacted us and has been our winemaker for over 20 years now.

J.: What is your favorite restaurant in the Napa area?

BB: It doesn’t matter what my favorite is. People ask what my favorite restaurant or what my favorite wine is, but everyone has their own palate. Food and wine are like paintings: You go into an art shop and not everyone is going to have the same reaction. It’s the same with wine and food. It’s very personal. There are all different types of food and varietals.

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