Carrying on the Legacy, Looking to the Future
Often when family-owned and run businesses are sold, the very thing that made the company successful—the family—is overlooked, but that is not the case at Sullivan Rutherford Estate. Entrepreneur and owner Juan Pablo Torres-Padilla “JP” chose to carry on the legacy and feeling created by the Sullivan family when he purchased the winery in 2018.
Set in the heart of the Rutherford AVA, Sullivan Rutherford Estate has been one of the region’s mainstays for over 45 years. When James O’Neil Sullivan (“Jim”) and his wife began it in 1972, they had no way of knowing that the Judgment of Paris would change the area forever in four years. They could not have known how lucky they were to have come in just before the valley exploded with tourism.The family’s fortune did not end there. Sullivan was friends with legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff, who advised him on the vineyard. In the 1980s, they began producing what wouldbecome the centerpiece of the winery’s portfolio—Coeur de Vigne (“heart of the vine”). Coeur de Vigne was a Bordeaux-blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.
Sullivan Rutherford Estate quickly became known as a winery producing boutique, high-quality wines. Set on 22 acres of vineyards, the estate also boasts an intimate guest atmosphere with a reflection pond and sophisticated private tasting areas.
Under new leadership, the estate continues to keep the extraordinary history of the property alive through unparalleled vineyard practices, winemaking, and hospitality experiences. JP retained celebrated Winemaker Jeff Cole, formerly Assistant Winemaker at Schramsberg, who had been with the family since 2013. He then brought on General Manager Joshua Lowell (formerly of Futo & Aubert), Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf and Estate Director Lisa Barker.
The vineyards were initially planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Bordeaux varieties such as their stunning Merlot, which rivals some of the best wines in the world. Since some of the most revered wines are Merlot driven, Sullivan Rutherford Estate is shifting its focus to be more inclusive of this varietal. Accordingly, when they recently replanted one-third of their Cabernet vineyards, they replaced half back to Merlot.
The elevated hospitality experiences at the estate offer spectacular views overlooking gardens and vineyards. Visitors revel in private spaces with winery team members who host only one group at a time, allowing them to give personalized service to each guest. Options may include a flight of reserve wines or a more immersive experience, such as the “The Heart of the Valley,” which features a lunch on the property. Additionally, for those that join the Founder’s Reserve Membership, members are treated to an annual multi-course private dinner at the estate prepared by Chef Daniel Gomez-Sanchez, formerly with the French Laundry.
For both legacy and new collectors, owner JP embraces the winery’s future while keeping the heart of the estate alive at Sullivan Rutherford Estate.
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Story By: Layne Randolph // Photos courtesy of Sullivan Rutherford Estate