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Napa Winemaker Rudy von Strasser Finds a New Home

Vintner purchases Lava Vine winery in Calistoga, where he will make his von Strasser Cabernets and add Lava Vine's diverse lineup to his portfolio

Augustus Weed
Posted: January 29, 2016

Napa winemaker Rudy von Strasser is ready for his second act. Less than a year after selling his 35-acre estate on Diamond Mountain, von Strasser has purchased Lava Vine winery in Calistoga from founders Joe and Jill Cabral. The sale, for an undisclosed amount, includes the brand and winery on Silverado Trail.

Von Strasser had been looking for a new home for his winery but wanted to remain in Calistoga. He and his wife, Rita, sold their vineyard and estate on Diamond Mountain last year, but retained the von Strasser brand. Lava Vine appealed to him because of its direct-to-consumer sales model and the creative freedom it gives him to explore new wines and vineyards. "Lava Vine allows me to experiment with other appellations," he told Wine Spectator.

Joe and Jill Cabral established the winery in 2004, opening a tasting room in a renovated barn on Silverado Trail four years later. Despite being in the heart of Cabernet country, the couple has specialized in less-famous grapes from appellations across California. Their lineup includes everything from Mendocino Grenache and Zinfandel to Tempranillo and Verdejo from Suisun Valley, as well as various Napa wines.

Von Strasser plans to keep Lava Vine's current lineup of wines while expanding its selection of Pinot Noirs. He is also searching for new grape sources in Santa Lucia Highlands, Lake County and Russian River Valley.

A fixture on Diamond Mountain for 25 years, von Strasser and Rita launched their eponymous label in 1990. They focused on Cabernet Sauvignon from their 15-acre estate vineyard and surrounding sites, selling the wines mostly by word of mouth. Their vineyard was sold with the estate, but the couple retained the von Strasser label and continue to make five single-vineyard Cabernets for it.

Work is already underway at Lava Vine with the construction of fermentation and barrel-aging buildings that will house the von Strasser brand, as well as a second label called Rudy. Once everything is in place, von Strasser plans to make up to 15,000 cases of wine a year between all three brands.

"There is a great synergy," he said. "My von Strasser customers will look forward to what I can make at Lava Vine and the Lava Vine customers can try my Diamond Mountain wines."

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