Al Brounstein

John McJunkin
Al Brounstein

Al Brounstein, a successful pharmaceutical wholesaler in Los Angeles, moved to Napa Valley seeking a fresh start. In 1967, he bought land on Diamond Mountain, near Calistoga, and cleared 20 acres to plant Cabernet Sauvignon. He noticed that different parcels had distinctive soils, and so in 1972, his debut vintage, he bottled four separate wines, one from each parcel.

It wasn't an easy path. His creditors pushed him to make some Chardonnay and Zinfandel to pay the bills. Though kind and affable, Brounstein had a feisty streak, and he refused. But with persistence, he and Adele "Boots" Ross, his wife and partner, made the winery a success. Their Diamond Creek Cabs, firmly structured and long-lived, set an influential example for vineyard-designated wines and ultimately led to the birth of the cult Cabernet category in the 1990s. By the time of Brounstein's death, in 2006, Diamond Creek wines were recognized as templates of terroir.