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Rock, Stock, and a Few Soaking Barrels

Longtime friends honor a Sonoma family ranch with boutique wines.



Drinking Buddies: Joey Cannata and Lucas Heldfond of Rocky Hill Wines.

Jock McDonald

Back in high school, pals Joey Cannata and Lucas Heldfond never would have guessed they’d become proprietors of artisanal wine. Their Rocky Hill Wines began as a fun dream, a few cases for friends to enjoy. Then, Wine Enthusiast stamped a 93-point seal of approval on the second vintage, and a collector-worthy label was born.

Using vineyards from Heldfond’s family compound in Glen Ellen, the friends joined forces with veteran winemaker Don Van Staaveren to ensure a proper pedigree. Van Staaveren’s résumé includes Wine Spectator’s No. 1 Wine in the World in 1999. Rocky Hill’s portfolio consists of a Pinot Gris, a Malbec rosé, and the proprietary red blend, with a Chardonnay and Pinot Gris composite around the corner. At a mere 1,000 cases produced, most of the wines sell directly to its client list, with a few allocated to San Francisco restaurants such as Balboa Cafe, Terzo, and Spruce.

Given that the family ranch dates to 1959 and provided the setting for Cannata’s wedding to Heldfond’s sister, Rocky Hill is a sentimental hobby for them while they run separate businesses. Cannata is the executive vice president of sales and distribution for Rockstar Energy Drink, and Heldfond just launched Epoch, a tech start-up. When they need to unwind, they retreat to the Rocky Hill ranch with their families.

Asked what he loves most about the project, Heldfond says, “We get to share the experience of a place that has played an important role in both of our lives, from my childhood to Joey’s wedding and now with our children. It is a very special place.” rockyhillwine.com.

 

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