Charlie Tsegeletos is a professional wine judge, past President of the Sonoma Valley Vintner’s and Growers Alliance, an avid snow skier and motorcyclist. He resides on an old chicken ranch in the hills of Sonoma with his wife and daughter and an overgrown dog. “He’s 125 lbs and is a ‘block dog.’ He visits people up and down the road.”
In 1981, while visiting his Uncle Jim and Aunt Betty on North Castle Road, he walked up the road to apply for a job at Hacienda Winery. '
He never left Sonoma, but did move on to other wineries and in 2002 he joined , where he’s responsible for winemaking and production for Cline, Oakley and Jacuzzi Family Vineyard brands.
SP: You live on an old chicken ranch. Do you have chickens now?
Charlie: We have foxes in our area- so decided against the chickens. But my Mom and Dad raise chickens at their place off of Napa Road. A few weeks ago my Dad watched a fox run across his yard with one of his chickens in its mouth.
SP: Good decision about the chickens. Are you having “ski withdrawals” due to the lack of snow?
Charlie: My daughter Olivia and I got a day in a couple of weeks ago and it was pretty grim. It’s looking much better after this recent storm.
SP: What’s up with the motorcycles?
Charlie: I ride a KTM in the dirt and I just bought a BMW RT for the street. And I have an odd, custom Ducati I put together a few years ago.
SP: How did that passion start?
Charlie: When I was about twelve my Mom and Dad refused to let me have a mini-bike. I begged, I pleaded, I presented my case but still no mini-bike. When I turned 15 1/2 (the legal age for riding a motorcycle with a learners permit) I told them I was buying a bike or moving out! It worked, and I haven’t been without a motorcycle since.
SP: Your great grandfather, Guippe Guidotte, grew grapes and made wine in Sonoma County in the 1930s. Was it your destiny?
Charlie: I once read that “destiny is a matter of choice, not chance.”
SP: People who aren’t in the industry view it as “glamorous.”
Charlie: It has its glamorous “tuxedo” moments and then there’s, “It’s my birthday and I’m stuck in a pair of rubber boots being stung by a yellow jacket” moments.
SP: What’s the most challenging grape you work with?
Charlie: A lot of winemakers would say Pinot Noir but I think that Chardonnay can be a bear. The grapes give you fits during cold and wet years, but trying to capture the butter flavor after a malo-lactic fermentation is a challenge. And then, do you oak it or not?
SP: Are you involved in the community?
Charlie: My wife is very active with an organization called “Little Kid’s Rock.” They give musical instruments to kids and set up music classes at schools. The kids have to keep their grades up to keep the instruments. And we do what we can for the Sonoma Community Center.
SP: If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
Charlie: I don’t know but I hope my hands would be getting greasy.