Red Thread Wines
Red thread wines

Connecting Wine, Love and Life

According  to  Chinese   legend, the gods would  tie  an  invisible red thread around the ankles of people that fate would one day bring together. The invisible string would be their way of finding one another. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.

Gretchen and Brian Brakesman discovered their red thread in 2001 when they met on a chance encounter at a bar in the Mission District of San Francisco. The meeting was serendipitous since Brian was far from his home in Angwin, CA, approximately 75 miles from the city. At the time, Gretchen, a city girl living in San Francisco, never imagined she would meet and fall in love with a farmer. The chance meeting proved timing is everything.

Brian lived and worked in Napa Valley, overseeing his family’s farm, Summit Lake Vineyards, twenty-acres of premier vineyard property at the top of Howell Mountain.

At the time, Gretchen was a sales executive and her territory spanned Northern California. Inseparable since they met, Gretchen ended up moving to Napa Valley so they could be closer together. The two eventually married in 2003.

Brian learned the family wine business from the ground up. He did everything from driving a tractor, supporting harvest and wine production every year and learning how to make wine with mentor winemakers Bob Lamborn (Lamborn Family Vineyards) and John Gibson (Stags Leap, Vine Cliff, JGW Consulting) who taught him the fine nuances of blending.

red thread wines

Gretchen embraced Napa Valley and immersed herself in the wine business. She took on various leadership roles within the Industry both at wineries and within the local community, and always had multiple projects and business endeavors underway. Soon Gretchen and Brian realized they could leverage her dynamic skills in sales and marketing and his hands-on knowledge of the wine business  to  open  their  own  wine  consulting  business,  Red   Thread  Wine Company. The full-service consulting firm offers partner wineries support from dirt to glass, including vineyard sourcing, production services, winemaking, and custom sales and marketing.

Eventually, the Brakeman’s decided they wanted to harness their passion and the premium services they were offering other brands into the creation of their own label, and soon after, Red Thread Wines was born. In 2014, they produced their first two barrels of  wine  from  the grapes they harvest from Summit Lake Vineyards, the Brakesman family property. The flagship vintage set the stage for the uniqueness of their brand with the introduction of their Zinfandel Rose’. The process they undertook was atypical for Howell Mountain fruit, picking the grapes at twenty-two brix, resulting in lower alcohol. The wine is bright in color and lively on the palate, with notes of summer fruit and based on its’ popularity, they plan to use the same wine to produce a Howell Mountain Sparking Brut Rose made in the traditional Methode Champenoise. When they release it in January 2020, it will be the first of its kind. They also produce a voluptuous Estate red blend produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. The Estate Blend is a true representation of the terroir with its balance of dark fruit and full body.

While wines from Howell Mountain are renowned for their luxury, Gretchen and Brian have priced their wines to be approachable and accessible as possible, hoping to connect the fate of other wine lovers who share their same passion. Using their unexpected destiny as their muse, they believe they have “created a wine that will connect people with the many joys, laughter, and love that life brings.” Just like the Chinese legend, connection is everything. The Red Thread connection creates a bond through the brilliance of wine creation, food pairing, personal enjoyment and sharing with family and friends.


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Article By: Laura Larson