Wise Villa Winery’s grand opening Saturday

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Wise is the owl who hoots nightly from the trees next to Wise Villa Winery. The emblem for the winery, which has its grand opening this Saturday, is the owl, according to owner Grover Lee. “I look forward to hearing the owls in the night,” Lee said. The winery, located on Wise Road near Garden Bar Road, has been open for wine tastings the past five weekends. “All we did was put a sign on our front that said wine tasting open and we’ve been inundated,” Lee said. Lee and his wife, Christine, have owned the property where Wise Villa Winery sits for seven years, the amount of time he has been “serious” about opening the winery. That meant time getting the plans and equipments lists in order. He has been interested in wine and winemaking for far longer than that, though. “I’ve been making wine for about 12 years and it’s something I started really enjoying right out of college,” said Lee, who majored in bio science and chemistry at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Lee’s college neighbor worked in a wine shop and would bring home bottles of wine to try “so he could be a better sales person,” Lee said. “It was important for him to know the wines and he couldn’t do it by himself so he asked me to help him,” Lee said. “It was a job and someone had to do it.” The duo would also match wines with different cheeses to see what went well together. “You can’t just drink wine so then part of the whole experience was trying to figure out what food in general pairs with wines,” Lee said. “Just to take that one step further, here at Wise Villa Winery, what we started doing is having pairing parties.” Lee makes use of the winery’s garden for the pairing parties, using onions, garlic, bell peppers, jalapenos and other veggies for the tastings. “We really do a nice assortment of foods and pairings, and we get inventive as far as looking at what possibilities you wouldn’t think of that would match,” Lee said. Those possibilities include pairing wine with lobster ravioli and a seven-cheese cannelloni. Wise Villa Winery boasts 11 varietals of grapes, Lee said, including pinot noir, merlot, syrah, Iberian Peninsula and a Portuguese grape called the Torriga national. The latter, Lee said, is used to make port. Seventeen acres of grapes grow at Wise Villa, which Lee tends to by himself except during pruning and harvesting. Then, Lee said, he brings in a small crew to help. While winemaking is a full-time job, Lee also owns Rocklin-based American Health Care, which he said manages health care for large employers. “I had a notion that it (Wise Ville Winery) was going to take a lot of my time so I positioned myself with the company so I could spend a little bit more time away,” Lee said. Starting a winery is not without challenges. “It takes a tremendous amount of money to start a winery and do it right. The challenge is not so much the cost of putting everything together to make the wine. The real challenge is making good wine,” Lee said. “The biggest challenge is to make sure that the wine I make is not just OK wine but great wine. That is what keeps me motivated, to make sure I’m doing everything possible to make great wine.” According to Lee, what makes Wise Villa Winery unique is his background in the biological sciences and his love of farming. “The grapes are a little dream in the little grapevine. The buds are about to break any day or week to start the growth process of making grapes,” Lee said. “The grapes we picked last year are sitting in barrels.” Vivienne Kjono, communications director for American Health Care and Lee’s sister-in-law, is “happy” to help Lee and his wife, Christine, with the winery. “It’s another positive feature and activity for people who are living in Lincoln and for people who are traveling out and about,” Kjono said. “It’s another destination, further out in the country. It’s like taking a mini-holiday going up to the winery.” Kjono said her brother-in-law took a “passion that was a hobby and now it’s a business.” “It’s something that is (done) 110 percent, and what makes a difference is someone can taste the passion,” Kjono said. “Lincoln is adding another gold nugget to the town.”