Food & Drink

He’s a star winemaker in the making

At a time when celebrity winemakers grab a lot of attention, Bill Brosseau keeps a much lower profile. You may not have even heard of him. But the soft-spoken Brosseau is one of California’s best young winemakers.

Brosseau is the director of winemaking at Testarossa Vineyards in Los Gatos, but he’s also making the wines for his family’s label, Brosseau Wines, as well as for Black Ridge Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And he’s a consultant for Fleming Jenkins Winery, owned by Olympic gold medal figure skater Peggy Fleming and her husband, Greg Jenkins, who is the winemaker. All the wines are made at Testarossa.

“My style has always been restraint,” Brosseau says. He crafts wines that are food-friendly and nuanced, balancing ageability with short-term deliciousness. And he respects the character of the vineyards he works with. “The less I can do in the winery, the more I can show the vineyard’s uniqueness,” he says.

That approach is a result of his experience. Although Brosseau has winemaker training, graduating from the University of California at Davis in 2000, his earliest experience was with vineyards. He grew up on his family’s vineyard in the Chalone appellation of Monterey County and brings that background to his dealings with the growers who manage the vineyards that Testarossa buys fruit from.

I first wrote about Testarossa in 1997, soon after Rob and Diana Jensen started it, and the wines have never been better. A reasonably priced place to start is with the Dahlia chardonnays and pinots that Testarossa produces for Beverages& More. The 2008 Dahlia Chardonnay ($20) is fresh and fruity, while the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay ($30) is richer and slightly tropical, with a firm core of acidity. The 2008 Dahlia Pinot Noir ($20) is pretty and spicy; the 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir ($30) has more complexity and a lovely, supple texture.

Under the Testarossa label, the less-expensive multi-vineyard blends— Castello Chardonnay ($30), Palazzio Pinot Noir ($37) and Subasio Syrah ($34)— are nearly always reliable. Of the single-vineyard bottlings currently available, I like the juicy, slightly tropical 2008 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay ($39); the rich, creamy 2008 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay ($39); the dark, spicy 2008 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir ($59); and the plump, juicy 2008 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir ($56).

For his own label, Brosseau describes his approach as a “more restrained, old world style than the Testarossa versions,” which are a little riper. The 2008 Brosseau Wines Chardonnay ($26) is fresh and racy, with citrus, green apple, mineral and nice weight without being overly oaky or creamy.

At Black Ridge Vineyards, he shows his talent with red Bordeaux grapes; the flagship is a blend called San Andreas Red.

E-mail Laurie Daniel at