Sonoma County wine entrepreneur embarks on second act with Marine Layer brand, syrah project

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It’s a story repeated on occasion in the Sonoma County wine industry in recent years.

A young entrepreneur creates a brand that takes hold in the market, then a bigger company comes calling with a big salary to buy them out and grow the label.

After a period under a non-compete agreement, the winemaker begins Act 2 and carves out a smaller niche for himself that is usually much more of a passion project than the glare of staring at Excel spreadsheets and worrying cash flow.

The examples: After selling their Kosta Browne vineyard to a private equity group, Michael Browne left to focus on his CIRQ estate, while his partner Dan Kosta founded AldenAlli.

Wells Guthrie fled to Mendocino County with his DuPuis Wines label after selling Buddy to Jackson Family Wines. Jackson also bought Siduri from Adam Lee, who went on to create Clarice Wines and Beau Marchais.

The time to think about where to go next with the financial resources “can be quite freeing and help you focus on some really exciting prospects,” Lee said.

That’s certainly the case with Baron Ziegler, who even stands out among recent examples of the breadth and energy the 43-year-old tattooed father of three daughters is creating after selling Banshee Wines to Foley Family Wines in 2018 for an undisclosed amount. quantity.

Industry insiders say Ziegler is arguably one of the most interesting people in the US wine industry to watch in the coming years as he embarks on two ambitious local projects: Marine Layer and Halcon.

“It’s rare that you find someone like Baron who is everything,” said Rusty Rastello, director of wine at SingleThread Farm, the three-star Michelin restaurant in Healdsburg that serves Zeigler’s new Marine Layer brand.

“Most people are really creative, or they work hard, or they have a great palette. Baron has it all.

The first post-Banshee example is Marine Layer, which made its first release with the 2018 vintage. The label is a small-batch brand where Zeigler sources grapes from highly regarded local locations, such as Durell Vineyard and Gap’s Crown. for their pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. They are made by winemaker Rob Fischer from the winery that Zeigler purchased from Ramey Wine Cellars and is within the city limits of Healdsburg.

“We paid a ton of money for these grapes, and we said we really don’t care what price we have to charge because we’re going to do 150 cases,” he said of the plan. initial business.

A Minnesota native, Zeigler had an entrepreneurial streak at age 15 when he started buying Bordeaux futures. He later abandoned medical school plans for the wine business, starting with the retail business and later imports. He founded Banshee with the help of investors, and he released his first vintage with the 2008 harvest.

Decades later, he said he still had the same motivation when talking about Marine Layer.

“It’s the synthesis of everything we’ve learned about this wonderful growing region: the Sonoma Coast. The best vineyards. The best barrels. Which barrels to use with the best vineyards? he added.

The brand has also caught the attention of wine managers and sommeliers nationwide to the point that Zeigler has now said it has limited the amount it ships to those accounts. Rastello recently posted about Marine Layer on his social media account and said he was amazed at the reaction from his fellow wine professionals.

“I had sommeliers all over the country saying, ‘I love these wines. They were talking about it in a way that most people don’t talk about California wine,” Rastello said.

He also noted that they are considered affordable in the $40 to $75 a bottle price range in the top Burgundy varietals from Sonoma and Napa counties. “They talk about their elegance and value for money.”

The quality of Marine Layer wines has also been amplified in its marketing reach in its symbiotic relationship with SingleThread, which has become the number one culinary destination in the United States since its opening five years ago.

They were part of a recent pop-up event in Park City, Utah. The restaurant’s chef, Kyle Connaughton, oversaw the wine pairings in the new Marine Layer tasting room. The hospitality space just east of Healdsburg Square opened in September with a coastal-inspired design that includes a fireplace, pendant lamps sculpted by Oaxacan artists and oversized Moroccan wool rugs the along with abundant natural light shining through the skylights.

The food options are all plant-based, like a chickpea cracker sprinkled with pieces of dried kale. “We literally have a culinary experience that no one in the world has,” Ziegler said.

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