Another Milestone to Our Quest of Bringing Our Customers the Best Wines in the World

We constantly strive to bring our customers phenomenal wines. As you all know, we have done a lot of things over the last year at Ledson Winery to take our wines to a higher level. My team and I live in such a lush region and are driven to make a superior product by our incredible landscape. From the meticulous care of our vines, their deep saturated soil to the beautiful sun of Sonoma County, we try to capture the essence of the land in each bottle of wine we make. To me, there is nothing better than seeing the grapes on the vine, the sun setting over another beautiful day, and having a phenomenal glass of Zinfandel on the porch with my wife Amy. These are the simple things that bring me so much happiness and pleasure. I want to make sure that everyone we reach, whether it is by visiting us or following my blogs, has the opportunity to feel the same way.

My team at Ledson is constantly improving and challenging each other to produce some of the best wines out there.  I cannot stress how important it is to us that the wines we make be unsurpassed.  However, we are aware that there is always room to excel further, and that improvement is what we continue to bring to anyone who enjoys a glass of Ledson. Hiring David Ramey as our consultant was a great step in our recent changes.  Bringing on Winemaker Andrew Bilenkij, from Australia, who trained with the famous Phillip Shaw, twice winemaker of the year, was another huge, strong move for Ledson. We have our own consultant viticulturist Daniel Roberts, also known as “Dr. Dirt,” who has been with us for over five years and has replanted a lot of our vineyards.  And, for those of you who don’t know, we just purchased the famous Mountain Terraces vineyard here in Sonoma, a 125-acre site with 85 acres planted to vineyards in the Mayacamas Mountains. So, there are a lot of important transformations happening over here at Ledson.

Matt Standing

Matt Standing

What I couldn’t wait to do was express my enthusiasm to all of you about hiring our new Assistant Winemaker, Matt Standing. As you might know, my family is originally from England.  My Grandfather came over at the turn of the century and the English blood in me still enjoys some of that English humor, and believe it or not, English wine! What’s really exciting about this is that Matt is a young lad from England and is just one of those outstanding gentlemen. He worked with David Ramey for a year before heading back to England to finish school and earn his degree. Before interviewing Matt, I asked David Ramey about this young chap and he had this to say:

“Matt worked the harvest of 2011 with us and proved himself such an intrepid international student of wine that when he asked if he could spend the year with us, we didn’t hesitate.  It would be a great match, both for Matt and for Ledson.  Plus, winemaker Andrew would get to call him a ‘bloody pommie’ all the time.”

I knew this was a bloke I had to meet. In May, Matt will have completed a Bachelor of Science Honors Degree in Viticulture and Enology at Plumpton College in Sussex, England, before joining us in June. Plumpton College has been offering higher education courses in wine since 1996 and is an exceptional school.  Southern England is becoming world-renowned for making outstanding sparkling wine using the traditional method and it turns out that Matt grew up just two miles away from Ridgeview Wine Estates, specialists in English sparkling wine. In 2010 Ridgeview, up against wines from Champagne, won the highly acclaimed award for best sparkling wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Matt also worked two vintages at up and coming sparkling wine producer Wiston Estate in Sussex and has experience working in Australia as well. He has an outgoing personality, has so much integrity and honesty, and a true passion for winemaking. All this is complimented by a tremendous work ethic and drive. I think this new addition to our team is just going to be phenomenal.

With all these new changes taking place, I bet you can’t help but wonder, what are those chaps at Ledson going to do next? I’m not sure myself, but I know for certain there is some sparkling wine in our future… at the very least, we will open a bottle and raise a glass to welcome our new Assistant Winemaker, Matt.


Every Day Is a Challenge: It’s All About How You Perceive It

Every day is another day in this world. While you’re trying to live your life to its fullest you will definitely have those challenging days, right? Well, I’d like to share with you a story about one of those challenging days.

About a week ago, my wife Amy and my six month old daughter Taylor Lynn decided to go out for breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants in Sonoma, and of course, I brought my 14-month-old McNab Shepherd Pistol with us. I take her everywhere I go. When we came out of the restaurant, Pistol had dug into a bottle of Advil which was wedged in the side of my truck door. It was almost impossible even for me to dig it out, but somehow she managed to get into the bottle and ate I don’t even know how many pills.

We drove over to the warehouse where we were scheduled to do inventory. I told my wife to go in and get started and I would keep an eye on Pistol, for as much as I knew, she might not have eaten any pills. Amy just got through the door when Pistol started throwing up all over the truck and began dry heaving. My heart froze, but I knew I couldn’t panic. I had to act now. I ran to the door and asked the girl at the desk to please get my wife, and as Amy came out the door, Pistol collapsed in my arms.

While we were rushing the dog to the hospital, she fell into a coma. We thought for sure Pistol was dying. When we got to the hospital, the doctor rushed her into the emergency room and would not let us back there. I was not very happy with them at all, and was somewhat in their face; I could not let my dog pass without me holding her in my arms. Several hours went by and they finally came to get us. When we went back, Pistol was still in a coma, and they explained she might not make it due to liver and kidney damage from the Advil. They kept questioning us on how much she ate and we kept saying we have no idea, as I had not opened that bottle for probably a year. They explained we might not know for days if she will make it. After about six hours of hanging out waiting, they came to get us again and took us back to see her. She was lying totally still, but opening one eye to let us know she knew we were there. The doctor recommended we go home and come see her the next day so that she would rest, so we did.

You never know what each day will bring us – one minute, we were having fun as a family; my little daughter Taylor and my lovely wife Amy enjoying an early morning breakfast, including having the chef prepare a special chicken dish for Pistol, and the next minute, our whole world is turned upside down. Life has its challenging moments like that, doesn’t it?

So, after spending most of the day with Pistol, we finally got home at about four o’clock in the afternoon. When I went into the house, tired but undefeated, something caught my wife’s eye.  Amy said, “Hey, there is an orange rabbit in the yard!” My heart sank a little, and I thought, what kind of strange test could it be now? “A rabbit? That’s strange, I think you’re thinking of the neighbor’s orange cat,” I said to her optimistically. “I’ve never seen a cat jump like that,” she replied. So, I went outside to watch my neighbor’s cat jump like a rabbit, but lo and behold, there were 12 domestic rabbits, all different colors, running around! They were so cute, these fury little balls hopping around the yard. They looked like they were having the time of their life. At first I thought wow, this is very cool, I love seeing these rabbits enjoying themselves running around our three- acre yard. Now, this was a week ago, when the temperatures were getting down to 26-27 degrees at night and I know from being a rancher that rabbits aren’t going to survive outside in this cold.

I should mention that our neighbor, the caretaker of our three-acre estate also has a dog. If his dog were to get one whiff of those rabbits, he’d be eating them in a heartbeat! And normally Pistol is home and she’d be eating the rabbits as well. As with Pistol’s situation, I had to think fast. So, I went straight to it and started chasing after our little guests. If you’ve ever tried to catch a rabbit, you can imagine what it’s like to chase after those quick little buggers! They were quite a bit faster than me. I had to outsmart them by opening doors and little cupboards here and there around the pool house. As I tried to get them inside, they still kept sneaking away from me.

Four hours later, I had all of the rabbits stored safely inside our laundry room, but my wife was having a fit. “They’re going to make a huge mess, Steve!” she said to me. Her kind and tired face showed deep concern. “Well, I’m not going to leave them out in the cold, you know they will all be dead in the morning,” I said taking her hand. “I have to take care of them,” I added. She nodded, giving me a gentle, understanding smile.

So we went to bed and the next morning it was time to face the next challenge. I got up and went to check on our guests. Lo and behold, my wife was right; the rabbits marked their territory inside of our laundry room. There was urine and feces everywhere, up the walls three feet! After spending four hours cleaning up the mess (thanks for our hospitality), I called around trying to find the rabbits a home. Finally, I found a granary that agreed to take them and help us adopt them out. Why would somebody dump rabbits in my yard? It must be someone who was fed up with the rabbits and knows that I love animals and would make sure they had a good home.

Some days can be a challenge. However, it’s all about how you perceive it, right? As of today, all the rabbits have a nice little home. Pistol stayed in the hospital for four days but finally came home as well. She is healthy and doesn’t seem to have any issues except sniffing around to see if she can figure out who was in her home when she was away.

I wanted to share this story with you as it is a story of overcoming life’s trials through perseverance, or a story of finding the strength in your heart to see the good in whatever the day may bring you? Would Pistol have lived if I had not saved the rabbits? We will never know that, will we? But I can tell you one thing: we all will face those challenges probably more than once in our lives, and our perceptions of what is going on will determine our actions, and those actions determine our lives.

The Newest Addition to the Ledson Team

Taylor Lynn Ledson was born on July 28 at 10:20 pm. Wow! I had almost forgotten what an incredible experience it is to see your child being born. Every time I look at Taylor Lynn I feel like I’m rediscovering the meaning of life, just as I did with my other children.

Steve Ledson with his father, Barker “Noble” Ledson.

Taylor was stubborn; she didn’t arrive until days after her due date. We think that’s a strong indication that she is a Ledson through and through. The second she came out, she turned her head and stared directly into my eyes. I’ve never had a pair of eyes penetrate so deeply – I had to catch my breath. It was an amazing bonding experience. With blonde hair and blue eyes and that serious Ledson look, you cannot deny that she’s my daughter!

When she finally arrived, I realized how you can forget life’s best moments, the tangible sounds and touch and smells of a baby. Oh, that indescribable new baby smell – so pure and clean and unlike anything else on earth, sweet and milky. If you could bottle this stuff, people would buy it by the case. New baby smell is like a magic potion that makes you forget about everything else on earth! Even the spit up makes me smile.

Her feet are tiny and fragile, but I know they’ll eventually take her great places. And then there are the half-moon fingernails – they’re so exquisite they almost break my heart.

And when she opens her perfect little mouth and lets out that beautiful cry, telling us she’s hungry or wet, I just smile. Years from now it will break my heart to see her cry, but now it’s the most joyful thing I can imagine hearing! I can hear the Ledson spirit and zest for life in that cry.

I find myself just staring at this bundle of possibility, wrapped up in a cotton blanket, sleeping like only a newborn can. I try and savor each moment, because I know from experience how fast it really goes. She’ll be sitting and crawling and walking and running before we know it. She’ll be catching her first fish, riding her first horse, getting up on water skis for the first time, going to her first day of school, and before you know it I’ll be walking her down the aisle. But for now, she sleeps like an angel (during the day, of course) and cries at night for our love, attention, and mother’s milk.

Having a baby is a different kind of love. I can’t compare it with anything. As I said, I’ve done it before, but every time I am just as astounded by my intense, wonderful emotions.