Wine Star: Boots Brounstein

Diamond Creek's owner shares the story of how her husband pioneered single-vineyard Cabernet in California
Wine Star: Boots Brounstein
Boots Brounstein poured the 40th anniversary vintage of Volcanic Hill, one of four distinctive vineyards on her property. (Deepix Studio)
Oct 24, 2016

Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Napa Valley's iconic wines, and by the time owner Boots Brounstein finished charming the audience with stories about her late husband, Al Brounstein, and the winery's early years, the audience was on its feet cheering.

As the crowd tasted the Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Volcanic Hill Fortieth Anniversary 2012 (90 points, $200), Boots recalled her husband's dream of planting a vineyard and making wine. A successful pharmaceutical wholesaler in Los Angeles, Al purchased 70 acres on Diamond Mountain in 1967. "There was nothing there but weeds and trees," Boots recalled.

When he began clearing the land, Al quickly discovered a jackpot of different soils. As he planted the nearly 22 acres of vines, he designated four distinct vineyards, none more than 60 feet apart: Volcanic Hill, Red Rock Terrace, Gravelly Meadow and Lake. Al was one of the first vintners in California, Boots said, to talk about terroir.

Success did not come easily. She recalled a retailer in the early 1970s who told them it was absurd to bottle the vineyards separately instead of blending everything into one wine. A banker practically laughed them out of his office when Al said he was going to charge $12.50 a bottle. They found another banker.

"I never met anyone more upbeat and optimistic than Al. He was a force of nature," Boots said. Even after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 64, Al stayed positive and kept working. Wine Experience attendees fondly recall how he continued to attend the Grand Tastings to talk with Diamond Creek fans. "He had a shaky hand—so what?" Boots said. "Life goes on."

She closed by paraphrasing a George Bernard Shaw quote to sum up her husband: "Reasonable people adapt to the world; unreasonable people adapt the world to their self. All progress is made by unreasonable people."

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