Winemaker for high-rollers, celebrity chefs, and the stars.
- Derek's wines are the darling of celebrity chefs, featured in high-end restaurants like Bobby Flay, Bouchon, Gary Danko and Michael Mina.
Derek knows what he's doing and has the connections to make fantastic wines from extraordinary places. He loves working with legacy vineyards and finding the truly special vines – the heritage blocks – of Napa, Dry Creek Valley, Anderson Valley and beyond. And Angel funding gives him the chance!
- Thanks to your support, Derek is able to make delicious luxury wines for Angels who want to enjoy the gourmet life at home!
Derek Rohlffs’ wine story begins before his story involved wine at all, when he studied Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara. While he wasn't sure at the time how or when his degree would come in handy, his love for the outdoors was the prelude to a successful career in wine. With that initial seed of interest planted, his post-graduate life kept him adjacent to the world of wine and beverages, though never in the capacity that most interested him. He became a casino executive, enjoying fine wine and whiskey at VIP dinners. He chose to walk away from that well-paying VP job at the age of 29 resolved to walk a different, more personally-fulfilling path, and hopefully spend more time outside.
Through family ties, Derek traveled from Colorado to Napa Valley and visited the famed Mayacamas Vineyards, owned by winemaker Bob Travers. Completely entranced by his trip, Derek decided he would move back to California, where he was born and raised, and enrolled in UC Davis' Winemaking 101. There, with his classmates, he produced his first wine: a Chardonnay. He soon followed that up with solo, experimental lots in his Menlo Park garage.
While working a marketing job by day, Derek traveled the globe to hone his winemaking skills, visiting renowned producers like Domaine Tempier in Provence, France, Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River and Henschke in Eden Valley, Australia, with later travels to Gaja in Barbaresco, Italy. In 2007, Derek founded his own winery, Bravium, intent on producing coastal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Located on Treasure Island, overlooking the San Francisco skyline, Bravium originally focused on premium grapes from family-owned vineyards in the Mendocino Ridge, Napa, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Lucia Highlands, and Sonoma regions. After many vintages, Derek found his favorite spots and eventually moved his production to St. Helena and purchased vineyard land in cool-climate Anderson Valley.
Why is place so important to Derek Rohlffs?
I employ simple, traditional winemaking techniques. The throughline for all of the wines I'm producing for Naked Wines is that they are wines of time and place, made in the vineyard from high quality grapes, capturing the essence of the varietal, vintage, and unique terroir.
He ended up moving closer to his favorite vines, too, and now happily resides in Sonoma.
Derek found Naked Wines during its infancy. “With my marketing background, I like to think I know a good idea when I see one. When I saw what Naked Wines was doing I thought, how has no one done this before?” It was a win-win situation!
Angels fund Derek because he has a great understanding of cool-climate viticulture, an unpretentious desire to share hidden gems with drinkers from all walks of life, and great versatility as a winemaker. When asked about his first grape crush, Pinot Noir, he said:
I don't know if I have the words. I love Pinot Noir because of its transparency and ability to transmit place, [it allows] the vineyard and vintage to speak through the wine more than any other variety, in my humble opinion. The range of wines you can make is - when done right - broader than most any other variety. And I also love that it's such a versatile wine at the table. My love for Pinot Noir is true and endless.
But as true as his love is, he also loves the opportunity to work with a large array of varieties, which wouldn’t be possible without Angel contributions.
I have been very lucky in my life and the opportunity to make wine for the Angels is a fun way to both focus on varieties I have a ton of experience working with and also explore others I have always wanted to work with. I love searching out unique vineyards, getting to know the land and vines, and working hard to express what the vintage gives us.
As his dedication to Angels grew, Derek found opportunities to showcase his favorite grapes, crafting beautiful and delicate Rosé, complex Zinfandel, jaw-dropping Syrah, and impeccable Grenache. The Dry Creek Zin he makes with Ken Deis - appropriately called Crowdpleazin for all the praise it receives - has been an Angel favorite for over 8 years, and his work with Unti Vineyards grapes have produced some of the most delicious wines coming from this stand-out Sonoma appellation.
Derek's wines have received much critical acclaim and garnered 90+ point ratings. His favorite wine writer, John Gilman with View From the Cellar, wrote, “Wines from the likes of producers such as Rhys, Kalin Cellars, Porter Creek, Joseph Swan, Copain and Littorai are really stunning testaments to just what is possible when Pinot Noir is planted in the right places in California and produced in such a way as to maximize its varietal purity and transparency of soil signature. Newcomers (at least to me) such as Poe Vineyards, Kendric Vineyards, Knez Winery and Bravium show that this varietal is really coming of age in several different regions of California.” And Master Sommelier Ian Cauble said, "Bravium's incredibly boutique, small production wines deliver traditional, balanced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that are a true gift and rarity in the state thanks to his emphasis on carefully tended and selected terroir and his dedication to the "less is more" approach."
Derek is proud to share these wines with you, and thanks all of the Angels for supporting him in getting back outside and doing what he loves and does best! He puts wine in your glass, and you put spring in his step.
Derek is also a member of the Cherokee Nation and is one of a small number of Native American winemakers.
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