Sonoma County-based Headlands Estates Wine Co. has hired winemaker Matt Cookson to help increase the production of its three wine brands: Grove Street, Wolf Ridge and Headlands Reserve.
Cookson spent the last three years as winemaker for Napa Cellars. He is replacing Michael Murtaugh, who has become production manager for Headlands.
Cookson plans to boost the production of Grove Street -- the company's most widely distributed brand, which it purchased from venture capitalist William Hambrecht in June 1999 -- from 90,000 cases next year to 150,000 cases in the following year. Grove Street Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel are made from grapes purchased from vineyards across California; they sell for about $9 a bottle.
"The first project is to get wines that are competitive," said Cookson. "The key is giving the customer something unique at the price point we are shooting for."
Cookson also plans to increase the 15,000-case total production of Wolf Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot to 30,000 cases per year. Wolf Ridge wines are made from Napa and Sonoma county grapes and cost $10 to $15 a bottle.
Headlands Reserve is a line of small-lot Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made exclusively from Sonoma County grapes. Cookson estimated that he will make between 500 to 3,000 cases annually.
One of Cookson's first moves at his new job will be to unveil a new wine he created, called Hassett Trias, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.
"We were going to use Cabernet Franc, but then asked, 'What are the three main varietals of California?' and came up with Zin," said Cookson. "The wine turned out awesome -- the Zin gave a nice touch." He said Trias would be available in one or two months. About 2,500 cases were made, and it will retail for $9 a bottle.
Check out ratings of Grove Street wines.