It took going to the westside to a wine tasting to meet Hancock Park winemaker Jeff Strauss and his wife Mindy Schultheis, owners of Longtable Winery in Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Windsor Square resident, wine expert and publisher of food and drink journal Zester Daily, Corrie Brown introduced me to Strauss and Schultheis and their three delicious wines they brought to the tasting at a mutual friend’s home last weekend.
Veterans of the entertainment industry, Strauss and Schultheis have nurtured their dream of making wine and telling stories for more than 15 years while working as television producers and raising their three children in Hancock Park, volunteering at their kids’s schools and local sports leagues.
Strauss told the Buzz, his biology degree and his love of story telling mix nicely with his vision that wine is like time travel. As a winemaker he can capture a moment in time and place. Lots of hands have help make the wine, bottling it and then sending it out into the world for other to enjoy and make their own.
After years of searching for the right opportunity, in 2001 Strauss and Schultheis purchased the former “Kitty Hawk” Vineyards with 18 acres of vines in rocky slopes of Mount Veeder at an elevation between 900 & 1,100 feet. The winery was known for producing good fruit thanks the way the weather affects that particular spot of the mountain.
“Location is key,” said Strauss who explained he is only farming part of the vineyard with room to grown if necessary. “Ten acres is more than a little, far from a lot.”
As fate would have it, the vineyard also brought him winemaker Charles Thomas, who was curious to meet the new owner of the vineyard where he had made wine earlier in his career.
Strauss and Thomas hit it off, becoming great friends as well as business partners. Thomas is one of Napa’s winemaking stars whose provenance includes Mondavi, Lokoya, Cardinale, Rudd and Quintessa. Thomas and his wife, Lili Hsi-Thomas, a wine-business veteran, notably with Robert Mondavi, and Jackson-Family wines, are now partners with Strauss and Schultheis. Together they have produced five vintages of wine.
In addition to making wine and hosting wonderful dinners at long tables — the inspiration for the name of the winery and the vintage “Forks on the Left” a 2013 vintage of mixed blacks — Strauss hosts a podcast about food and Hollywood, appropriately named “Forks on the Left”.
A serious home cook, Strauss is very interested in the intersection of food and story telling. He told us his first interview with was with comedian, writer, producer and Fremont Place resident Phil Rosenthal about his hit food discovery show “I’ll Have What Phil is Having”
Inspired to tell more stories, Strauss is working on a proposal for a television drama inspired by his encounters with people in the Napa region.
Longtable wines are available locally at Larchmont Village Spirits, Wine and Cheese at 223 N. Larchmont and at Domaine LA at 6801 Melrose Avenue. Or, you can contact Strauss by email at [email protected].
“I usually have some cases nearby in cold storage and can arrange a delivery in 24 hours or so,” said Strauss, happy to accommodate neighbors interested in his wines.