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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Afternoon with Winemaker Dennis Johns

Round Two on Red Lake
Dennis Johns, extraordinaire winemaker in the Napa Valley for over 30 years is the founder of White Cottage Ranch wines. Dennis sold the White Cottage Ranch (WCR) in 2008. and bought acerage adjacent to the Howell Mountain Winery. His new winery is called Round Two  (or here we go again) and is located on the famous Howell Mountain. On our recent visit to California, we visited Round Two and tasted his latest wines under the willow trees against the estates’ placid Red Lake. This delightful afternoon proved once again that when in comes to making wine, Dennis Johns is a genius. Dennis is not only a great wine maker but has become a good friend over the years. I was first introduced by Alan and Leslie Baribeault in 1993 at the original old Deer Park winery on Howell Mountain, where Dennis aged his early WCR in oak in the Ivy covered Deer Park stone building. 

In person, you would never meet a more modest man despite being famous in the Napa valley as one the regions best winemakers. As the winemaker at St. Clement Vineyards for twenty years, Dennis established his early reputation as an innovative and highly respected winemaker. Dennis first started growing grapes on Howell Mountain in 1990. Dennis and his wife Adele’s steadfast belief that fine wines are ‘grown’ is certainly a proven fact as demonstrated on Howell Mountain at his Vineyard WCR. As a man driven and full of energy, Dennis has also mentored fellow winemakers in Napa.
Dennis Johns - the Little Big Man

His supply of handcrafted-small run wines at WCR were largely snatched up by friends and wine club members. Since nobody can quite keep a secret about great wines in the Napa Valley, WCR soon found they needed to expand to keep up with demand. Which is what they did, however, in 2008, the downturn in our economy forced the over extended Dennis Johns to sell the WCR to the Adams Wine Group, a privately held collection of premium wineries. Dennis new 68 acres  estate is called Round Two Wines.

We tasted the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Chardonnay, 2007 Syrah, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Lake County) and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa). We missed the 2010 Rose from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape (see note below). Every one of these wines was uniquely a Dennis Johns wine, delightful on the palate, full of character, and a full value wine when compared to would be contenders. To get their wines on line, see http://www.roundtwowines.com/WINES.html
Wine Tasting among the Wilows

Sipping wine with Dennis is a lesson about tasting and wine making. I brought my son Robert and his wife Leslie, her brother Ed. Larry a wine merchant and his two guests from New York joined us. The day was a bit cool but Dennis kept us comfortable with a gas heater. Adele had provided great bread and olive oil from the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company to cleanse the pallet. Larry pointed out that the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company was also selling a 30 year old balsamic. (We stopped there later)

A promise of days past. A wine I first tasted of WCR was a blend that became the wine Dennis called Ezivese (pronounced "EE-zee-vay-zee") made from perfectly ripe Sangiovese and Zinfandel. The wine was discontinued by WCR but will be coming back under the label of  ROUND TWO soon. This is my favorite red wine but also one of the largest, fruit forward wines I ever had. If complex and large (think super Tuscan on steroids) is your bag, this is the ONE!

Dennis never enters his wine in competition nor allows critics on his property. Although all of his wines are a real pleasure to drink, the wines get far less attention that they deserve. This does not bother Dennis at all. Dennis and Adele “make the wines we love to drink and what’s left over, we sell.”
How great a day we had

For more on Adele and Dennis Johns see


Email Dennis at info@roundtwowines.com 

We ordered wines from California including the Rose from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape and it was wonderful and refreshing.

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