Lightpost Winery Wins ‘Wine of the Year’ Award – Morgan Hill Times
Special for the Times
Although only six years old, Lightpost Winery has decades of experience and talent behind it.
From the first vintage, the rewards began to flow. Owner Sofia Fedotova and winemaker Christian Roguenant were thrilled to be awarded Wine of the Year at the 2022 Monterey Wine Competition for their 2019 Lightpost Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, made with fruit from Paso Robles.
He scored 97 points and received a platinum medal. Additionally, Lightpost had eight other Platinum and Gold wines, as well as four Silver wines.
“We are very honored to have received this award and to be recognized by this prestigious competition which showcases many wonderful wines and vineyards,” said Fedotova. “It’s great recognition of our hard-working team and our efforts to create exceptional wines that people enjoy. We look forward to a bright future for Lightpost Winery and many more amazing wines to come.
Visitors can find Lightpost in Morgan Hill, in a small industrial park off Highway 101 at 900 Lightpost Way. Fun fact: the tasting room and cellar occupy the former offices and warehouses of a very famous artist, Thomas Kincade.
The tasting room is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The age limit for this room is 21+. A separate family room is available for those with children. The tasting room accepts dogs.
For Roguenant, earning such an honor is a gratifying affirmation of a lifetime of success in the wine business. Arrived in the United States from France with little English and even less dollars, he got off a bus to make his first snack purchase at a convenience store. When he went to pay for the Coca-Cola, the checker asked, “Paper or plastic?” He thought they were asking if he was paying by credit card or paper money.
Fast forward 40 years and he’s had the chance to pay for plenty of experience with both, multiple times. But one thing has always guided him, and that is to make the best possible wine with carefully grown grapes, because that’s where it all begins.
Roguenant began his career in the United States at Champagne Deutz in Arroyo Grande, which was a partnership between a wealthy French businessman and Beringer USA. He worked in the company from 1986 to 1997.
“I loved California and the opportunity,” Roguenant said. “The Frenchman from Versailles who owned the land and the cellar building kept charging more and more money for the grapes, which pissed off Beringer.”
The partnership dissolved in 1993, leaving him chairman of the company, which was renamed Laetitia, after the French owner’s daughter. Roguenant says Roederer actually acquired the Deutz name and wanted to buy the facility but the price was too high, so they ended up going to Philo in the Anderson Valley.
Eventually the French owner, whose father had made millions importing coffee beans from the Ivory Coast, wanted to sell the facility and it was time for Roguenant to move on. Although he received job offers from Opus One, he was intrigued by the opportunity presented by the Niven family to build a dream winery.
“I knew Tim and Michael Mondavi, but they were only doing one wine at the time, which I found too boring,” Roguenant said. “The Nivens gave me $4 million to design and build a winery. I was there for 20 years, then sold the business, after which I took time off and finally met Sofia.
In fact, he didn’t hang around in the meantime, but rather took care of vineyard projects in Australia and the Loire, where he made sparkling wine from Chenin Blanc.
While Roguenant himself loves Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Fedotova loves big, bold reds: hence Cabernet Sauvignons from Paso Robles vineyards like Onyx in Templeton and Old Oak in the Willow Creek District.
Present in the region for 37 years, Roguenant knows the vineyards and the men who cultivate them.
“Old Oak is on a slope and faces east and is 40 years old, from old clonal material, while Onyx is a new generation of planting, in a flat area with sandier soil,” did he declare.
He also gets grapes from Derby Vineyard in Paso.
Lightpost also sources Cabernet from Bates Ranch and Zayante Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. These taxis are named in honor of Fedotova’s family. Roguenant says the 2019 Sevastien Cabernet Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains (Silver) comes from the Zayante vineyard and is made from 75% Cabernet Sauv and 25% Merlot. It is named after Fedotova’s eldest son.
The 2019 Rion Reserve Cab (Gold, 93 points) also comes mostly from the Zayante vineyard, with a tiny bit of Petit Verdot from Onyx. Rion is the middle name of his younger son Teo and means “Little King”. The 2019 Alexander Reserve, Paso Robles, (Gold, 91 points), is a Cabernet made from 85% old oak and 15% Petit Verdot from Onyx Vineyard. Alexander is a tribute to the name of Fedotova’s father, which means “Defender of the people”.
Two of their Pinot Noirs also come from the Santa Cruz Mountains, one from the Ferrari vineyard and the other from the Saveria vineyard. The latter’s 2019 vintage has just scored 94 Wine Enthusiast points. They got silver for their 2020 Spanish Springs pinot noir from SLO and gold for their Winemakers Select 2020 pinot noir, which features a bit of Edna Valley fruit from a vineyard that was later ripped out, to complement Spanish springs.
Roguenant says the 2020 harvest, with the fires and the unrelenting scorching heat, was the worst thing he’s ever seen from a viticulture perspective.
“When the fires started, I called the majority of the vineyards where we were planning to buy fruit and said, ‘No thanks, please sell the fruit to someone else. “”, did he declare. “We took less than 50% of what we normally get. We did 30 tonnes in 2020, but 80 tonnes in 2021.”
One thing they did more of in 2020 was sparkling wine.
“We picked the second week of August before the heat,” Roguenant said. “It turned out to be a very good sparkling wine, although it was not a good vintage overall.”
They made three sparkling wines in 2020, including a sparkling rosé from Spanish Springs, a Blanc de Blancs from Spanish Springs, and a Brut of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir from the Edna Valley vineyard that no longer exists. These sparkling wines, whose base wine is made at Tooth & Nail in Paso Robles, will be released in the fall of this year.
A friend of Roguenant, who was a winemaker in Schramsberg, owns a special bottling truck for handling sparkling wines, based in Napa. He brings the truck to Paso to do the bottling, after which the wine is shipped to Lightpost in Morgan Hill. There it is aged and riddled.
When ready to be disgorged and finished, the bottles are then sent back to Paso, where the wine is disgorged and the dosage added. The wine is then corked and finished with a metal cap and aluminum foil, then returned to Morgan Hill.
Yes, it’s a lot of work: work that most wineries are happy to hand over to a bigger bubbly house. But, says Roguenant, “if you want to make a good bubbly, you have to make it yourself. I learned that in France.
This is a sparkling wine that has traveled a lot, much like its prodigious creator.
Top Rated Lightpost Wines of the 2022 Monterey Wine Competition
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Réserve Paso Robles – Wine of the Year
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker Select Paso Robles, Platinum Medal 94 points
2019 Paso Robles Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Platinum Medal 97
2019 Rion Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains, Gold 93 points
2020 Pinot Noir Winemaker Select San Luis Obispo County, Gold Medal 92 points
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Old Oak Vineyards Reserve, Paso Robles, Gold Medal 91 points
2019 Alexander Reserve Paso Robles, Gold Medal 91 points
2019 Ignition San Luis Obispo County, Gold Medal 91 points
2020 Pinot Noir Deer Ridge Trail Vineyard Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains, Gold Medal 90 points
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Dessert Wine Los Olivos District, Gold Medal 90 points
2019 Teo San Luis Obispo County, Silver Medal
2019 Sevastien Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains, Silver Medal
2019 Grenache Reserve Paso Robles, Silver Medal
2020 Pinot Noir Spanish Springs Vineyard, Reserve San Luis Obispo Country, Silver Medal
2019 Pinot Noir Reserve Sta. Rita Hills, silver medal