Windsor Oaks Vineyards is a long-time supplier of ultra-premium grapes to some of California’s best known wineries. Having kept a low profile for many years, the estate is taking steps to increase its distribution and has hired veteran winemaker Margaret Davenport, famed for her work at Clos du Bois Winery as well as her eponymous wines, to head up the winemaking team. Davenport’s first wines from the 2012 vintage, an unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, are due to be released in March 2013. In the meantime, wines produced by former winemaker Julie Lumgair will be available on a limited basis.
The winery’s plan calls for gradually building distribution, while keeping production small. The winery will specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the estate’s Russian River Valley grapes and Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals from the vineyard's Chalk Hill blocks, which extend to nearly 1,000 feet above sea level.
“I bought this property in 1992 and did significant work to expand and upgrade the vineyards,” estate owner Bob Stein said. “The property had been the historic Balverne Cellars, one of the very first ‘cult’ wineries in Sonoma County, where winemakers Doug Nalle and John Konsgaard started their careers. We began selling fruit to a long list of wineries, including Sonoma Cutrer, Flowers, Pax, Pali, Sojourn…about 35 wineries in all. For the last couple of years, we’ve been making a small amount of wine from what we felt were the best blocks on the property and selling it to our friends, but we’re ready now to start getting our story out to a wider audience. The addition of Margaret Davenport to our team is a significant step in that direction.”
Loving wine, wanting to live in the countryside, and possessing a college degree in biochemistry made Davenport a good candidate for her first winery job, a laboratory position at Simi Winery in Healdsburg. Routine laboratory work was not her true interest, but positions in the laboratory or the tasting room were the only choices for women in 1980. It was extremely unusual at the time that Simi’s winemaker, and later winery president, was a woman, Zelma Long. DAvenport’s brief two-month experience during the 1980 harvest encouraged her to study the science of winemaking. A year later, she enrolled as an enology graduate student at the University of California, Davis, and was awarded a Master of Science degree in 1985.
After holding a position as a maker of sparkling wines at Wente Brothers (now, Wente Vineyards) in the Livermore Valley, she returned to western Sonoma County in 1987 to assume winemaking duties at Clos du Bois. There she focused on crafting small lots of single vineyard wines from the Alexander Valley. In 2003, she took her career in a new direction by starting her own business, Davenport and Company, making Russian River Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel from her Rockpile vineyard, while also providing consulting services for winemakers and winery owners. In 2004 she became consulting winemaker for Passalacqua Winery and later, Merriam Vineyards, where she served as its first winemaker.