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Napa Valley Winery Exchange

SpotlightWinery Spotlight – Sobon Wines

Winery Spotlight – Sobon Wines

Sobon Wines create balance and integrate the land into each bottle. The winemaker, Paul Sobon, plays by the natural book. He is producing wines that are estate grown and organically and sustainably farmed. Sobon’s focus is on Mediterranean varietals because the soil and climate in Plymouth, CA are ideally suited for this style. The Sobon family is hands on every step of the way, from vine to bottle. They focus on under cultivation to ensure the highest quality grapes. Sobon farms the grapes on roughly 200 acres across four ranches: Jackson Ranch, Home Ranch, Shenandoah Ranch and Fiddletown Ranch.

Shirley and Leon Sobon founded Sobon Wines, originally named Shenandoah Vineyards, in 1977. Leon was originally a Senior Scientist with the Lockheed Research Lab, but his gift for winemaking led him to leave Lockheed and begin a new career as a winemaker. After extensive research on the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County, Leon, Shirley and their six children moved from Los Altos, California to the old Steiner Ranch, outside Plymouth, CA. They planted a vineyard and converted the old stone garage to the Shenandoah Vineyards winery. Sobon Estate was formed with the purchase of the D’Agostini winery in 1989.

Today, the family celebrates five decades of winemaking and is beginning to turn the reins over to the third generation of family operation. Shirley has just recently retired as the Finance and Gallery Manager while Leon contributes his years of winemaking knowledge to every vintage. Sons Paul, Robert, and son In-Law Tom Quinn continue the family tradition that began all those years ago.

Paul Sobon has been in the Wine Industry for over forty-five years, growing and making wine in the Shenandoah Valley since age fifteen. Paul has extensive knowledge of the vines and the topography and is an avid mountain biker. He rides his mountain bike through the vineyards to check on the grapes as crush approaches. In addition to hands on work at the winery, his studies included UC Davis’ highly respected Enology and Viticulture Extension program. Paul traveled extensively in Europe and Australia’s wine producing regions before starting full time with the family business. He studied Australian, Burgundian, and Bordelaise techniques of wine making and grape growing with Vincent Fabre of Chateau Lamothe Cissac in Bordeaux, France, and Stuart Anderson of Balgownie Winery, in Southeastern Australia. Since 1983, Paul has been directly involved in the daily operations and growth of the 40,000-case winery.

Sobon’s focus is natural winemaking, with special care given to every barrel and bottle. They strive to produce the highest quality wine possible, whilst fully expressing the true flavors and aromas of each grape variety and the soil from which they are grown. The grapes undergo an extensive presoak process to extract maximum color. Paul works with low grape yields and optimal hang time to ensure ample flexibility in determining pick time. Sobon’s growing practices have evolved over the years, and today they employ complimentary plantings, beneficial bugs, and other natural growing techniques that they believe encourage healthier grapes and better tasting wines. The wines are made by conventional means using minimum sulfites to preserve freshness and color. Healthy soils grow healthy grapes, which make delicious wines.

Sobon wines are very modestly priced, which allows all consumers to try these superb, unique wines. Their motto is, “Push the edge of the envelope, but never go past the edge.”


Be sure to get try a couple of these beautifully crafted Sobon wines:

2018 Sobon Barbera, Amador County: $15.95

If youthfully tight at opening, the nose of this fine Barbera expands to reveal aromas of cranberry sauce, sweet-pickled crab apples, ripe red plums and dark cherries, with background notes of peppercorn, pink rose and cinnamon-candied red apple. It is appropriately fresh and zesty on the palate, where the mouthfeel is sleek and the refreshing flavors lingering. At the finish, notes of dried cranberry, orange zest and cinnamon stand out. A fine dinner wine at this point, it will be even finer in twelve months.–18/


2018 Sobon Cabernet Sauvignon, California: $15.95

Racy and focused, centered on rich red cherry, red currant, and sweet-savory spices of dark tobacco, canela, baking spices and firming minerality. It is lean, gently gripping, slightly minerally and very long, with cherry and fresh red currant joining vanilla at the end. A fine value and a nice dinner wine that will be even better in 12 months.


2018 Sobon Zinfandel, “Fiddletown”, Lubenko Vineyard, Amador County: $17.95

From their Lubenko Vineyard, planted on native root stock very early in the 20th century comes this rich, multi-faceted wine. Dark cherry red and full bodied, it shows a purity of fruit and hints of minerality. It is well textured, with a signature brambly component exemplifying its mountain character. The aromas are reminiscent of spring lilacs and fruit compote with hints of sandalwood and subtle vanilla notes. With a warm, lingering, luxuriant finish this offering is best paired with roasted rack of lamb, smoked meats, ripe soft cheeses and Szechuan style beef.