Celebrating 35 years of turning water into wine | July 25, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - July 25, 2018

Celebrating 35 years of turning water into wine

by Renee Batti

When Karina Mudd of Woodside took over as CEO of Cinnabar Winery in late 2016, she was no newcomer to the enterprise. In fact, her physical presence at the winery went way back — strange as it may sound, to a time before she was even born.

The winery was established in 1983 by Karina's parents, Tom Mudd and Melissa Frank of Woodside, who together built Cinnabar from the ground up. And in the mid-80s, as Melissa pruned and tended grape vines on the 22-acre property above Saratoga, the couple's soon-to-be first child went along for the ride: Melissa worked the vines while pregnant with Karina, and later, she toiled in the cellar while pregnant with their son Jack.

Much has happened during the time between those early years, when young siblings Karina and Jack found endless opportunities to turn the winery grounds into their own playground, and today — including Tom Mudd's death in 2007, and Karina Mudd's college and career experiences on the East Coast. But she's now back as head of operations as Cinnabar celebrates its 35-year anniversary on Saturday, July 28.

The party will include barrel tasting, music and food, with paella a highlight of the menu. It will give guests an opportunity to meet longtime winemaker George Troquato and cellar master Alejandro Aldama, who was hired by Tom Mudd to work the vineyards when he was only 18.

It was Tom Mudd's fascination with legendary alchemical transformation that inspired the name Cinnabar — a nod to the mineral that alchemists of centuries past believed could help turn base metals into gold and silver. Mudd, who was a scientist and a two-term member of the Woodside Elementary School District board, likened that purported alchemical process, which proved to be a fallacy, to the natural transformation of water, soil and sun into grapes, which then could be turned into wine.

Karina Mudd was 19 when her dad passed away, studying at Connecticut College. After college, she worked in New York as a professional modern dancer, in the restaurant business and with the Council on Foreign Relations, she says in an email. In 2017, she moved back to Woodside to run Cinnabar, though she now lives "a bi-coastal existence between California and New York," she says.

Regarding her role at Cinnabar, she writes: "It has been rewarding to continue my father's legacy and learn the business inside and out. The hope is to continue making great wine for our wine club members and customers to enjoy!"

Her mother, Melissa Frank, brother Jack and stepmother Deborah Stipek Mudd aren't involved in the day-to-day operations of the winery, but they "all provide moral and strategic support," Karina Mudd says.

Cinnabar's wines include a Bordeaux-style red blend called Mercury Rising, and pinot noir, chardonnay, mourvedre, zinfandel, and others. Its 2014 Dry Creek zinfandel was a double gold-medal winner in the San Francisco Chronicle's 2018 wine competition, according to the Cinnabar website.

The July 28 anniversary party is from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $85 for the general public and $75 for Alchemist Wine Society members; they may be purchased in advance online at cinnabarwinery.com or by calling the winery's tasting room at 408-867-1012. Tickets must be purchased in advance and won't be sold at the door.

Guests can visit the tasting room after the party, and with a ticket stub can receive a 10 percent discount on wines bought that day.


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