Meet a Southern Winemaker in Sonoma County – Garden & Gun
Without a small fortune at their disposal, Dallas-Fort Worth native and Baylor University graduate Alison Smith Story and her husband Eric Story had to get creative to launch Smith Story Wine Cellars about an hour north of San Francisco, in the wine country of Sonoma County, Northern California. With the promise of creating a sustainable winery that would pay fair prices to family winemakers, Alison sold her home in Austin, the duo bet their life savings, found an angel investor and turned to Kickstarter to make their winery dream vineyard a reality.
As they faced a long list of stressful unknowns – business licenses and taxes, not to mention all the natural challenges of viticulture – their giant Goldendoodle, Lord Sandwich, made them smile. In two years, in 2016, their day jobs in the wine industry were gone, and with Smith Story vintages of sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, riesling and rosé, Lord Sandwich had its own wine label. Alison and her popular dog (currently pursuing 73,000 followers on Instagram) have also found time to start a non-profit organization called Socks For Sandwich, which donates new socks to those in need.
Always rocking, Smith Story is successfully writing the next chapter in his family winery saga with the recent opening of a new tasting room in Healdsburg, considered by many to be the epicenter of Sonoma County wine country.
What are some of your favorite wineries in Healdsburg?
Many of my favorites all have one common thread: hard-working families behind the wines. There’s Flambeaux Wine with its New Orleans roots; the beginnings of Williams Selyem are very similar to those of Smith Story Wine Cellars; Texan-owned Aldina Vineyards, and then there’s Kistler Vineyards, whose winemaker likes to get away from it all after harvest season on a quiet ranch outside San Antonio.
How do your Texas roots show up when you run a winery?
My Texas roots give me unstoppable superpowers. The past few years have been difficult for any small business, but the wildfires in northern California’s wine country have been particularly devastating. Dedication and perseverance kept our lights on and the wine in the cellar. My grandparents farmed outside of Dallas-Fort Worth in a little town called Maypearl. I have fond memories of my welcoming and entertaining grandmother; the warm and delightful hospitality runs deep.
How is your adorable Goldendoodle, Lord Sandwich, involved with Smith Story Wine Cellars?
He’s been our employee of the year every year, of course! Welcoming guests and having fun as a vineyard dog on social media is his calling in life.
Texas wines on your bucket list?
My long-time favorites include McPherson Cellars and Wine for the People. I believe the best winemaking in Texas is made by people who have traveled the world and brought their inspiration home.
What California wines would you recommend right now?
I love our new Smith Story 2021, BRAVE, our first carbonic red wine meant to be sipped in the summer. I always have bottles of Gros Ventre Cellars Chenin Blanc and the superb LaRue Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir nearby. The new Lord Sandwich Blanc 2021 (a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Verdelho) is more than delicious.
Texan touches in Smith Story’s new tasting room in Healdsburg?
A super fun part of the cellar is my small collection of antiques and vintage decor to buy. I almost always have vintage handbags from Texas designer Enid Collins for sale as well as the new Opal R. Helm leather bags. Wine evokes memories, and Smith Story’s sundries shelves are also full of nostalgia.