Meet Our Team – Bill

Bill Thompson is the owner and winemaker for Wandering Cellars and a partner with Croze and Smith Wooton.  After a very successful engineering career, Bill chased his dream and entered the wine industry.

Bill helps with all aspects of our business and splits time between Minnesota and the Napa Valley.

Favorite music to listen to at work?

Styx Radio on Pandora

What is your favorite wine from our companies?

Debut and Melange

What is your favorite wine outside of ours?

Barrel fermented and aged Chenin Blanc’s from South Africa

If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be? What would you eat?

My mom’s I lost them when I was very young.  My parents told me I loved to hang out at their farm.  So, it would have to be farm fresh grilled vegetables, mashed farm grown potatoes slathered in real butter and garlic with a great steak from their farm raised cattle.

What is your favorite part of the wine industry?

Tasting our wines with new friends and family.

What is your favorite meal? What wine would you pair with it?

Pasta Carbonara with a barrel fermented Chardonnay. The creamy mouthfeel pairs great with the carbonara.

Who in the wine industry do you admire?

Pierre Seillan of Verite Wines. He is my inspiration to produce world-class wines true to the varietal.

Do you prefer aged wines or younger wines? Why?

I prefer an aged wine. I love the old earthy ground floor notes from a red blend or Cabernet Sauvignon.  With an aged white, I love the nutty aromas and flavors.

Weirdest/most interesting wine story?

Meeting Jess Jackson of Kendall Jackson wines at a Verite wine event many years ago. He was a humble man and very easy to talk to.

What is your fondest wine memory?

Chris and I were sitting outside of a restaurant now called PF8 Nitro Ice Cream Lab in Yountville. We were having breakfast, I recall Chris saying she was not ready to fly back that day.  At that moment I said let’s stay another day.  I did not even get the words out and she said yes.  A quick call to Delta and we enjoyed another day in Napa.

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Meet the Team pt 2

Daniel Benton is the vintner behind all the brands in our family of wines.  He runs the wine production and vineyard operations for us and is our in-house chef and proud father.

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Daniel Benton, Vintner

Favorite music to listen to at work?

It depends on the day and the task. If we are bottling I love to listen to Reggae.  It gets all the staff and the wines in the right mood for a tough day.  When I am blending or analyzing wine, I like Jazz.  It seems to set the mood and keep me focused on the delicate nuances of the wines.  Vineyard work must be Americana or country music.  I definitely tailor the music to the day.

What is your favorite wine from our companies?

That is a hard question. I get asked it all the time.  It really depends on the situation, the company and the meal in front of me.  I usually just answer with the one that is currently in my glass.

What is your favorite wine outside of ours?

I have a lot. I really enjoy supporting our colleagues and friends in the industry.  I lean towards Napa wines, but like a lot of other California wines as well.  I also love great Burgundy.  I don’t think I can choose just one. 

If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be? What would you eat?

This is a question I have thought about many times. I am lucky that I get have dinner with my favorite people each and every night (Kara and Callan).  But if I had to choose someone from the wine and food industry I would say Thomas Keller.  I have been lucky enough to eat in many of his restaurants and I have a deep appreciation for his philosophy on food and service.   I have walked the French Laundry gardens and watched the dedication his team has to the basic ingredients.

What is your favorite part of the wine industry?

The people. Hands down.  I have met some of the best people through this industry.  Wine has a way of bringing like-minded people together. 

What is your favorite meal? What wine would you pair with it?

I love classic recipes.  I would have to say a beautifully marbled prime ribeye steak with Croze Vintners Reserve is my favorite.  We have a couple great purveyors of beef here and when I want to celebrate I go crazy.  You should see the tomahawk ribeye’s we get from 5-dot

Who in the wine industry do you admire?

Well I have to say that we have been luck to call some of the greatest people in this industry our friends. I admire all the small vintners who have taken a chance to chase their passion.  This is a very competitive industry with an infinite number of wines and brands from all over the world.  It is intimidating and having the courage to accept the risk and chase a dream is sign of strong conviction.  I know that is not an actual answer, but I don’t want to name specific mentors and friends.

Do you prefer aged wines or younger wines? Why?

It depends on the wine. A well-made wine is great with a decade of bottle age on it.  However, not all wines age well.  Knowing the difference is key.  I always get asked if our wines can be aged and I usually respond with a question.  Do you like the flavor profile of aged wines?  As a wine ages it shifts from fruit forward to more earthy flavors.  There is less brightness and more complexity.  I love to age our wines.  I would say I am right in the middle.  I love wines with 8-12 years in the cellar. 

Weirdest/most interesting wine story?

Man, there are a lot.  I believe I will pass on this one so I do not incriminate myself or any of my colleagues.

What is your fondest wine memory?

My first trip to Napa. It was my wife and I’s first anniversary.  That is when we fell in love with this place together.  We knew we wanted to be a part of this and worked to find a way to make it happen.  We visited some iconic wineries and came home with a lot of great stories, memories and wine!

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