The History of Roudon-Smith
Bob and Anna-Maria Roudon, and Jim and June Smith initially founded Roudon Smith Winery in 1972. The Roudons conceived the original dream as a radical lifestyle change, when they moved to the Bay Area in the early 1970’s. Roudon met engineer Jim Smith in the early days of the growing computer industry while working together at Silicon Valley’s Amdahl and began sharing his plans for a small winery to be established in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. Dreams soon led to action. In the spring of 1972 the two engineers purchased vineyard land high up in the mountains and began to juggle winemaking with their “day jobs”. With the help of all their families they completed their first crush in a tiny basement winery. As the Roudon-Smith reputation grew, the two couples eventually took the leap, quit jobs, moved fortunes and families to the Santa Cruz Mountains and never looked back.
In 1978 a newly expanded winery that would accommodate their 10,000 case production goal was completed near Scotts Valley, designed and built by engineers Roudon and Smith. The goal was (and still is) to maintain a size of operation that can be sustained and hand-operated by the Roudon Smith workforce itself. As the original owners entered semi-retirement, production was ramped down to 2,000 cases annually. Finally the winery was sold in 2003 as they went fully into retirement. In 2006 Al Drewke bought half the winery and took over leadership of its “renaissance”. Al has almost 30 years’ experience in increasing senior management levels within the electronics industry as well as being a graduate of Bordeaux Business School’s Wine MBA program. One of the first additions he made to the winery was the hiring of Brandon Armitage as winemaker. He comes to Roudon Smith after successful stints in Colorado, New Zealand, and Oregon and brings a strong background in both viticulture and winemaking with a particular desire to make world-class Pinot Noir. With this new team the winery started to grow production capping out at roughly 5000 cases in the 2008 crush as the recession hit. With the recession the distributor for the winery dropped us which led to some very challenging years as we worked through financial and inventory challenges. This led to a break-up in the partnership as Al took full ownership of the winery in 2011 and moved it from Scotts Valley to Watsonville. With Brandon’s decision to focus solely on Pinot Noir in 2012 winemaking was transitioned from him to Mikael Wargin who continues crafting our wines today. The winery has just relocated and now makes our wine at a facility located in San Carlos. We are still “between tasting rooms” but hope to have one up and running in the downtown Santa Cruz area in the near future!
This new facility is an “alternating proprietorship” facility which means we are in a coop…this has really allowed us to fine tune our financials and minimize the amount of hard assets we need as well as overhead costs (rent et al) associated with the business. A final benefit of this is we are in a full featured production facility with trained staff along with a full lab capability…this promises to allow us to move to “the next level” in terms of wine quality as well as establishes a very clear ability to support our growth plans in the years ahead.
The once visionary venture of the 70s has aged well. Currently Roudon-Smith enjoys a solid maturity, built by a consistency of product that has won medals for the winery from the very beginning. Roudon-Smith specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Zinfandel. A particularly popular item in our product line is the house red blend, called RSW Cuvee, which is always a charming entry to the product line. The winery doesn’t own any vineyards itself and prefers to seek out small growers in the Central Coast of California with which it can form long term relationships. The goal is to find and maintain great fruit sources to sustain our renewed push towards an annual production level of 5000 cases once again.