The story of Banshee Wines is a tale of an American dream. Three renegades in the wine business, coming together to write a greater story than themselves. Three friends risking it all by quitting their jobs in different parts of the country and landing in the Sonoma Coast of California. Banshee started in the garage, and not with a gazillion dollars in the bank like quite a lot of startups in Napa. As they talked to friends and made relationships, they slowly started buying fruit from some of the best producers in the area. Then came the blending. And then the first bottling. Then their first Pinot Noir that turned heads. It was love at first sight, and the rest is history.
The saying is true: never underestimate small beginnings. Banshee now has one of the coolest, most written about, and most loved tasting rooms in the heart of downtown Healdsburg. It’s what you experience when you walk through the doors that shows their zest for life, commitment to community, and passion for great wine. Aesthetically speaking, their use of reclaimed wood and metal creates this trendy industrial-meets-farm vibe. You’ll also hear the likes of Marvin Gaye or Jimmy Hendrix coming from none other than… a record player. And I obviously love that. But sporting an impressive vintage vinyl selection isn’t the only thing that’s cool. They constantly partner with local city chefs to offer wine tasters something new and exciting every time they come in. Oh, and the wine…
The concept of what Banshee wine is stems from their great love for the wines from France: Burgundy and Chablis. Even some Bordeaux. And you can really see it in their offerings. Their Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, a house favorite at the Killingsworth’s, is staying true to how they got their start: a blend from some of their favorite producers’ properties, and from fruit that they, their friends, and family hand harvested! It’s seriously like Red Burgundy meets California. Full of crisp fresh strawberry and cranberry, with an undercurrent of earth and acidity. It even has an amazing almost-salty edge that I go crazy for! At an average of $22 retail, it’s hard to find something as tasty, especially something 100% Pinot Noir and made in a natural way. They also make a handful of the usual suspects: Chardonnay (Chablis-type style), Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon (on the leaner, elegant style). The fiery red-headed-stepsister of the bunch is their blend they call Mordecai. It’s a super-thought-out kitchen sink of different varieties and is so, so delicious. They’re also experimenting with some cool stuff that is tasting room only like Grenache Gris, and a Syrah that is more Rhone than California. To me, the show-stoppers in their portfolio are the single vineyard Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast. While they are naturally higher-end, the Costlands, Jack Hill, and Rice-Spivak Vineyards are absolutely stunning, and even age-worthy. If you haven’t had the pleasure already, I hope you try some of their wines. They’re wild and delicious. Here is a ‘meet the band’ and a look at each of the guys that make up Banshee:
Baron Ziegler (left), Co-Founder & Director of Sales
A native of Minnesota, Baron began buying Bordeaux futures at the age of 15, the sale of which later funded the down payment for a Boston condo while in college at Boston University. At 18, he was hired by Food & Wine Magazine’s 2012 ‘Top Sommelier’ Peter Eastlake, to work in his wine retail shop where he worked ‘under the radar’ for three years. By 21, he was managing three stores and purchasing wines by the container. Baron then deferred medical school to work for a James Beard award-winning wine importer, Eric Solomon. After managing most of the East Coast for five years, he took over the role of national sales director, where he ran all aspects of sales for the next five years. Baron moved to California in 2007 and two years later Banshee Wines became a reality. Today Baron manages the company’s sales while overseeing all aspects of Banshee’s evolution and direction.
Noah Dorrance (right), Co-Founder & Winemaker
Noah’s passion for wine began as a freshman at the University of Missouri where he would regularly host wine tastings in his dorm room. He soon got a job at a local wine bar where he shared his favorite finds with customers, as both a buyer and a bartender. After college, Noah worked with Hotels.com which fortuitously sent him to Paris for two years. While there, he explored French, Italian and Spanish wine regions on the weekends and continued to delve deeper into the world of wine. In 2006, he went to work for San Francisco-based Crushpad, where he assisted customers in both making wine and marketing. While there, Noah made his first barrels of wine (including the initial version of Banshee) that he shared with family and friends, including Banshee co-founders, Baron and Steve. In 2009, the downed economy gave Noah and his friends the opportunity to affordably purchase grapes from a number of high-end vineyards and Banshee Wines was officially born. Noah is now head winemaker at Banshee Wines.
Steve Graf (center), Co-Founder & Director of West Coast Sales
While at the University of Pennsylvania, Steve studied abroad in Italy and fell in love with the European way of life. After college, he moved to Manhattan where he worked for the renowned wine and spirits shop, Sherry-Lehmann. He spent his free time reading a wine atlas and learning everything he could about wine. He left New York to follow his dream of living in California and was hired by E.&J. Gallo Winery as a San Francisco sales representative. Steve left Gallo to help run Vintage Berkeley, a boutique wine shop in the East Bay. His weakness for European wines eventually led him to an opportunity to work for French wine importer and pioneer, Martine Saunier at Martine’s Wines. There, he served as the East Bay sales representative and later as Martine’s brand manager. At Steve’s college graduation in Philadelphia, he met Baron, who eventually married Steve’s sister. Steve was then introduced to Noah in San Francisco and the rest is Banshee history. Steve now leads the company’s California and West Coast sales operations.