Toasted Toad CellarsToasted Toad Cellars

About Us

Jeff Werter - Owner and Assistant Winemaker (Dad)

 

I keep wondering how I got here and I guess I should either blame (or give credit to) my mom. She started me off cooking at an early age and watching Julia Child and later, Graham Kerr. Those special meals we prepared together required libations. So, off we would go to one of the local wine shops in search of that perfect Riesling or a Trockenbeerenauslese like the ones my parents had tasted while in Europe. Somehow, mom was always able to sneak me a tast while on our outings.

 

There were also the visits to my cousins' in Northern California, which often included dragging us kids along to Napa and Sonoma. The wineries looked like fairy tale castles and the smells they held were wonderful, along with the cool barrel rooms providing us momentary escape from the summer heat. Of course, mom even snuck me an occasional taste.

 

Later, I found myself as a young adult having gone through the college drinking stage of life and once again rekindling my enjoyment of cooking and drinking wine. I was still waiting for my tastes to expand and recognize the complex and mature joys of the reds. Enlightenment finally happened during the 80's while on a trip through the wine country. For the next decade or so I broadened my palate and ended up starting to collect a few bottles.

 

Work moved us to Northern California and one of my projects had me located just a long lunch to Napa. As a result of those frequent trips, I ended up significantly expanding my collection and developing a few friendships with tasting room staff at several wineries. One day, while visiting one of my frequented tasting rooms, I was asked to buy some tickets to a fundraiser put on by homewinemakers. Once there, I was confronted by tables of homemade wine and people having an uncommonly great time. The result was that by the time I had reached the 7th or 8th table, I had bought half a ton of grapes and was about to make my first barrel of wine, along with a few brave recruits from my work. The grapes were Zinfandel and it was time to start learning, quick!

 

After buying a barrel, a corker and a book from UC Davis on making homemade wine, along with locating equipment to rent for crushing, destemming and pressing, I was ready to ferment. Finally, the call came and it was time to pick grapes. I loaded the kids in the truck and off we went to meet our friends and pick. My daughter was 7 and my son was 4, armed with their knives and in the vineyards picking. Well, the Zinfandel ended up not only drinkable, but really quite good. It grew from there with several more vintages and the addition of more varietals and more barrels.

 

After a short respite of not making wine, fortune smiled upon me and I ended up meeting another home winemaker named Rich. We have been making wine together, along with other friends and some of his family members ever since. We recently started entering competitions and have been pretty successful to date. In 2008 we won 12 medals for 16 entries and in 2009 we won 10 medals for 13 entries. In 2010 we won 20 medals for 25 entries.

 

So, as I blame or credit my mom, it is my daughter, Laura, that seems to have inherited the wine bug from me. As you can read from her story, she and I share a mutual dream and this venture is the start of it. It is an exciting time for us and I can honestly say that I can think of nothing better than to be doing this with her and with the help of my son, Brian (he is a beer brewer). What more could a parent dream of than building a family legacy on a mutually shared passion? Who knows, with any luck, we may expand into hand-crafted beers with Brian leading the way because it is a well-known fact in the wine industry that it takes a lot of beer to make good wine!

 

Thank you for visiting and I hope you stay with us as we start this quest to make wines for you to enjoy with great food, your families and your friends.

 

 

Laura Werter - Partner and Winemaker (Daughter)

 

My passion for wine and food began at an early age. My mom is in real estate so she worked on the weekends. We would go to karate and to the local farms to pick fresh produce. I can remember spending all day watching cooking shows on television, blasting music and cooking with my dad and my brother. Homemade pastas, bread and tarts among other delicious dishes were common in my house. For as long as I can remember, my parents loved wine. I remember being dragged along to Napa and Sonoma all the time. I would collect grape-shaped soaps, taste any food samples and smell the wines my parents were tasting.

 

By the time I was seven, my dad had gotten the crazy idea that he could make wine. One day he woke me up way too early in the morning and took me to Napa to pick grapes. The vineyard owner was afraid to even give me a knife because I was just a kid. When we brought the grapes home we put them in primary fermentation containers (a.k.a. Rubbermaid trash cans). To this day, one of my favorite smells is that of fermenting grapes. We would argue over who got to go punch down the caps during fermentation. After that initial year, there were many days of stained driveways and garage floors from pressing and bottling.

 

It only grew from that point and became an annual activity. I always enjoyed going out into the vineyards. Every aspect of the winemaking experience was exciting to me. Perhaps the first indication that I was destined to be in the wine industry was when I told my dad at 10 years old that we needed to bottle the Zinfandel. It was ready and had a wonderful vanilla characteristic. What 10 year old says that?

 

I continued to make wine with my family and family friends until I graduated from high school and went off to college. Unfortunately, being on the quarter system greatly interfered with harvest and I wasn't able to help with much of the home winemaking while I was attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I started off as a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Economics. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life and figured a Business degree could help me with any career. During my junior year I studied abroad in Australia. One of the first places I visited was a winery. As I walked through the cellar looking at the tanks and the barrels, smelling that wonderful smell I missed so much, I realized that this is what I wanted to do. When I got back from Australia I decided that I was also going to minor in Wine and Viticulture and that I needed to get a job in the wine industry.

 

The weekend after I turned 21 and had returned from celebrating in Vegas with my dad, it all began. I started off working in a tasting room, sharing my knowledge and passion for wine with visitors. It was the best job I had ever had. Who can complain about talking wine all day, working in a beautiful vineyard setting and the perks of the industry? I certainly can't. I have worked all aspects of the wine industry from tasting rooms, to wine clubs, to events, to cork sensory and cellar work. I was trying to figure out what I liked best. Wouldn't you know it, I went full circle and decided that I really enjoyed making wine.

 

So, after years of talking my dad into it, here we are, living the dream. So please, talk to me about wine and let me share my passion with you, but I warn you, once I get started it is hard for me to stop.

 

 

Brian Werter - Cellar Toad (Son)