Bob was born in Sacramento, California, moving to Saratoga as a child. Now part of California’s Silicon Valley, during Bob’s childhood Saratoga was still mostly rural and filled with open spaces, orchards and vineyards. He attended the University of San Francisco, working as a sous-chef to pay for college, and it was in the high-end restaurants of that gourmet city that he developed his passion for fine wine. As a young professional in real estate and then satellite communications, Bob collected wine, driving to the Napa Valley to pick up cases of fine Cabernet when most of his contemporaries were buying kegs of beer.
He met Bonnie Leise when he walked into the commercial real estate company where she worked, and they married in 1981. Living in suburban Sacramento, with one child born and the second on the way, they decided to find a home in a rural area where their children could have the same sort of outdoors childhood they had both enjoyed. A friend referred him to his father, who owned a large ranch outside Folsom in what would eventually be developed into El Dorado Hills. When Bob was looking for his property there was very little in El Dorado Hills but rolling open space, oaks and beef cattle. After some Richelieu-caliber negotiations, Bob purchased 10 acres at the very crest of the ranch, with 360 degree vistas and a view of Folsom Lake where he and Bonnie built their dream home.
They had three children, and when the last left home it was time for a project. Still enamored with the wine industry, Bob studied viticulture for four years with Benjamin Falk, vineyard manager of the storied Cain Vineyards. He also worked with David Gates of Ridge Vineyards, and both men remain friends to this day. Having consulted with the best, Bob was ready to plant his vineyards, and helped by his expert mentors, he sourced some remarkable rootstock, notably the Opus One Malbec clone, old vine Zinfandel from one of the last pre-phylloxera vineyards in California, and cuttings from a world famous Ribera del Duero Tempranillo. The rare, superb wines of D’Artagnan Vineyards were – almost – born.
Bonnie Leise was born in Butler, Pennsylvania, in the rolling farm country sixty miles outside of Pittsburgh. She moved to California as a child and graduated from Ponderosa High School, less than ten miles from where D’Artagnan Vineyards now lies.
When her third child entered junior high school, she decided to take her talent for dessert-making public. She landed an interview for the pastry chef position at the exclusive Serrano Country Club near her home, and at Bob’s insistence showed up with a cheesecake in hand and promptly got the job. She began to take classes at San Francisco’s venerable California Culinary Academy (22 courses in all) and moved from there to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in the Napa Valley. When she turned 41 she got the wildest idea of all – she would enroll in Chicago’s world famous French Pastry School, leaving Bob alone for six months with three teenagers in the house while their wife and mother gloried in the intricacies of sugar sculpture, chocolate and fondant.
She has created desserts and pastries for such impressive venues as Sofitel Hotel, Trader Vic’s Palo Alto, the Sterling Hotel, La Provence and Bistro 33. She was the first pastry chef ever with the Fat’s restaurant empire. It was during one of her wine classes, this one at UC Davis, that she told her instructor about the winery dream she shared with her husband and was referred to Benjamin Falk at Cain.
Now out of the restaurant bustle, and loving being chatelaine of the D’Artagnan Vineyards estate, Bonnie offers semi-private hands-on cooking classes to wine club members and D’Artagnan enthusiasts, hosts intimate wine dinners with Bob, and personally prepares every morsel at every soiree celebrated by the winery.
Bob and Bonnie’s son Brandon Reitz was born in the same hospital as Bob in Sacramento, California. He grew up on the top of the hill that Bob and Bonnie found, loving tractors and building things, only leaving to attend Cal State Chico, majoring in Construction Management.
He later returned, disillusioned with the construction industry and not sure where his passions truly lay, just in time to help his father rip up their hilltop homestead and plant their vineyards. This hard, rocky, and dirty job Brandon embraced fully. Moving to Napa, working harvest at a custom crush facility and attending Napa Valley College’s viticulture and enology program, he believed he found his passion. His dedication and energy caught the interest of one of the custom crush clients, renowned cult winemaker Mark Herold, who cultivated the eager young student and became his mentor.
Now a winemaker at a custom crush facility with a full crew under his supervision, Brandon has come home to work with his parents at D’Artagnan Vineyards, parlaying his remarkable technical and stylistic education with Herold into the creation of world-class wines with his dad’s pedigreed vines. His Malbec is distinct from any other, unleashing complex and fragrant aromatics and lush, supple fruit. He treats Zinfandel with restraint, in a bordelaise style that comes as a revelation to those used to heavy, fruity, alcoholic Zin. His Riesling reminds devoted gourmets why classic dry Rieslings are the greatest food wines in the universe. Brandon wowed the D’Artagnan faithful with a stunning 2013 Tempranillo that was awarded Double Gold at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Soon to be added to the D’Artagnan wine menu will be a 2014 El Dorado Cabernet. And there will be more… A young winemaker to follow for sure and we’re glad he’s ours.