Reeve Wines: Uncorking the American Dream

Noah and Kelly Dorrance, winemakers of Reeve Wines.

Noah and Kelly Dorrance, winemakers of Reeve Wines.

I think what makes Reeve wines such a joy to drink—aside from their deliciousness, of course—is founders Noah and Kelly Dorrance’s story.  It's the tale of two youngsters who ventured to the West Coast chasing dreams, saw an opportunity in the face of adversity, threw caution to the wind pursuing it, and found success beyond their imagination. It's a quintessential American Dream story come true. Enjoy my interview with Noah!

America is built on a tilt and everything loose slides to California.” —Mark Twain

That quote features prominently on your website and it seems very apt — after all, you’re a Missouri native. What brought you to California?

I moved out to California to work with a travel technology company.

Is that where your passion for wine originated?

It actually started way before that when I was 18 years old and living in Springfield, MO.  I was driving and the idea: “I’m going to get really into wine” just popped into my head.  I pulled in to Barnes & Noble, bought Wine for Dummies. Almost 25 years later I’m still on that journey to “get really into wine.”  Obviously a lot has happened since then.  I’ve worked wine retail, marketing and distribution jobs, lived in France for two years, and started, built and sold another wine business in the intervening time.

How did you make the transition from travel-tech to wine?

As luck would have it (although it didn’t feel like good fortune at the time) the company I was with tanked and through pure coincidence that I had met the proprietor of Crushpad, a winery in San Francisco, just before. So I asked him for a job right away.  I was already pursuing wine recreationally as a hobby but it made a nice a transition.

And then it was from Crushpad that we eventually started our prior brand, Banshee.  When the economic crisis hit, Crushpad happened to have a lot of extra (very high quality) wine lying around.  We maxed out our credit cards and bought ten barrels worth to produce the first Banshee pinot blend.  It was just a side-project at that point but it started to grow quickly.

When did you quit your ‘day job’?

I think after about six months we realized it was something with real legs.  I left Crushpad after only about a year of working on Banshee.

When did you start making wine yourself?

I started making wine my first year working at Crushpad with help from the team there.  That was in 2006.  I made a different wine or wines every year for five years while there and also got to help with wines other than my own.

As a winemaker, do you follow a particular philosophy?

We try to create beautiful, elegant wines that are a transmission of their place and the vintage—those things are the core of what makes wine so great and singular.  You can diminish both with too little or too much winemaking, so we tend to use a gentle hand in the process. Nothing is formulaic, there are way too many variables.

With Banshee seeing so much success, when and why did you to start Reeve? 

We started Reeve in 2015 as a small family wine brand to explore some varieties (Riesling, Sangiovese) and areas (Deep-End Anderson Valley) that we weren’t already working with.

Since we had lots of partners and investors in Banshee, we wanted to create something that was a family heritage we could pass down to our children later.  We like the long term thinking of things passing from one generation to another.

 Where does the name “Reeve” come from?

Reeve is our son’s name which we just kind of made up one day.  We liked it so much we used it twice!

Why did you choose the varietals you make?

There’s really a different reason for each one.  We make Pinot because I believe that it is capable, in the right places and hands, of making wines that truly sit with the best in the world.

We make Riesling because it is my favorite thing to drink with Vietnamese food which is my favorite cuisine.

And we make Sangiovese because I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Tuscany. My wife, Kelly, and I were married there in fact.  I look around where we live in Sonoma and I think to myself that we should be able to make world class Sangiovese here.

How did you find your vineyard sites and how involved are you with the farming?

When you’re working with truly world-class sites, it’s almost always through word of mouth, previous relationships or the grower picks you.  That’s how we ended up with Kiser and Wendling in Anderson Valley.  The grower called us.

We like to be very involved in all aspects of the vineyard management.  However we also only work with growers where we have a close fit philosophically so that obviates the need to micromanage. They are all farmed in ecologically responsible manner.

What do you see in the future for Reeve?

One of the most exciting things is the new plantings of Sangiovese we are doing at our Dry Creek property.  This represents truly long term thinking since we won’t have any wines ready for release until about 8 years from now and gaining some maturity with the vineyard and understanding of its personality will take another decade or two.  It will probably be something my children discover more than me.

We also have taken over Kiser and a portion of Wendling Vineyards in the Anderson Valley.  These are apex sites that have the capability of making special, profound wines.  I’d say only they are in the top .01% of all pinot vineyards in California.

What is your favorite thing about working in the wine industry?

I love the cyclical aspect of our work, being intimately plugged into the seasons and the weather.  We make a thing that it is a unique transmission of time, place, and people.  It is humbling to be a part of that.

I also love sharing the wines with people all over the world.  That is incredibly gratifying.

When you aren’t drinking wine, what are you drinking?

If it’s during harvest, probably Modelo Especial.  I also really like tequila and mezcal.

Learn more and schedule your visit to the stunning Reeve tasting villa (pictured below) at ReeveWines.com