After years of experience working in fine restaurants, the partners at Dept. C Wines discovered they had one thing in common: a passion for old world wines.
Founded in 2005 by Ian Bunje, Stephen Silva and Jonathan Smiga, Dept. C is inspired by Burgundy's fabled "Golden Slope" or "Département de la Côte d'Or," the origin of some of the world's most profound Pinot Noir.
As winemakers, we do everything start to finish. No shortcuts. No excuses. We're the ones doing the work, because we believe being hands-on is the only way to make great wine. From harvest to crush through barreling and bottling, our hands are literally red at the end of the day.
Dept. C is proud to create wines that have a unity of component structure, a complexity of flavors and aromas, and a lasting intensity. That elusive remembrance of place—something unique, personal, and delicious.
Dept. C wines are currently available at fine restaurants and retailers throughout the country.
Ian was introduced to the wine business through his grandfather, a founding manager of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, and one of its long time consultants. Without knowing wine would one day be an integral part of his life, Ian had the opportunity to learn from many early California wine makers. After Graduating from Willamette University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in History, Ian turned his eye to a career in the hotel and restaurant industry and graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 1994 with a degree in Culinary Arts.
Ian has held management positions with the Kimpton Group, Hyatt Corporation, Out of the Blue Inc, and Independent Exchange Services, Inc, as well as several standalone restaurants. His operational experience, along with a strong food and wine knowledge base, makes Ian a perfect fit at Dept C.
Stephen has enjoyed a lifelong passion for food, wine, and the arts. Growing up, he studied jazz and classical music but ultimately decided to pursue a career in cooking. From the Culinary Institute in New York’s Hyde Park to stints at several Michelin starred restaurants in France, Spain and Italy, his work with the world’s best helped enrich his knowledge of great food and wine.
As Executive Chef of Tourelle, a Northern California destination restaurant, Stephen earned "Best of the East Bay" accolades each of the 13 years he was at the helm. During his tenure, he created and managed a 3000 bottle wine list that won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 10 consecutive years and featured extensive selections of Europe’s legendary wines. Names like Jayer, Meo, Groffier, Chevillon, Chave, Jasmin, and Rayas were major influences in his continuing wine education.
Extending his pursuit and love of Pinot Noir, Stephen began to study winemaking in 1995 with Dr. Terrance Leighton at Kalin Cellars in Sonoma. He worked the harvest in California in 1995 and 1996, and in 1997 he traveled to Burgundy to make wine in Beaune for Dr. Leighton. Stephen produced the 1997 and 1998 vintages of Kalin’s Cote du Beaune and Beaune Premier Cru wines and, in the process, became hooked on the wines of the Cote D’Or. The elegance and refinement of these wines are the inspiration for Dept. C.
Jonathan grew up surrounded by great cuisine and fine wines, starting a restaurant career at an early age. After working his way through both front and back of the house leadership roles at celebrated restaurants across the country, he co-founded The Wine Restaurant, a new American cuisine restaurant with over 500 wines.
On the corporate side, Smiga has held senior positions with such market leaders as Illy Espresso, Darden Restaurants, Williams-Sonoma, Robert Mondavi and The Culinary Institute of America. In addition, Smiga has gleaned insights from expansive work in consumer research, private equity, and entrepreneurial ventures that drive his perspective on innovation, market leadership, and enterprise growth.
Smiga has written a thesis at New College on the Aesthetics of Food and Wine. He went on to earn a master’s degree from the prestigious Cornell Hotel School and an MBA with honors from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
As winemakers, we do everything start to finish. No shortcuts. No excuses. We’re the ones doing the work, because we believe being hands-on is the only way to make great wine. From harvest to crush through barreling and bottling, our hands are literally red at the end of the day.
As winemaker, Stephen allows this dedication to reveal itself with delicacy and transparency. Dept C is proud to create wines that have a unity of component structure, a complexity of flavors and aromas, and a lasting intensity. That elusive remembrance of place—something unique, personal, and delicious.
2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast
Our previous rosé wines were made from the classic saignee method of crushing fruit, allowing it to briefly soak on its skins for color and structure and then straining the juice off and allowing the wine to ferment cool to preserve freshness. Our previous rosé wines were full bodied, rich and strong - more Provence than Pinot. In 2012, we aimed to change that. We started with hand sorted whole clusters of clone 828 and pressed the whole clusters directly without the initial crushing. We then cool fermented the wine in stainless steel to preserve all the freshness. After fermentation, we stirred the lees once a week to round out but not fatten up the wine. The wine has a very pale color, aromas of sour cherry, minerals and mint On the palate the wine is delicate and uncompromisingly dry with unparalleled thirst quenching abilities and subtle red fruit and stone notes.
All stainless steel fermented
TA 6 g/L
Clone - 828
2011 Pinot Noir Rose - Santa Lucia Highlands Our 2011 rosé is a classic rosé de saignee. The expression "saignée" in French (literally "bled off") denotes the technique of making rosé wines by leaving the skins of red wine grapes in contact with the juice for a relatively short period, before the juice is "bled off". The wine has a pale ruby color, aromas of ripe strawberry, herbs. On the palate the wine is uncompromisingly dry with red fruit and herb notes and a crisp finish. Half neutral barrel fermented, half stainless steel fermented
TA 6.8 g/L
All 115 and 777 clones
Alluvial-decomposed granite, Arroyo Secco loam
2008 Vista Verde Pinot Noir - San Benito Deep ruby, hard spice, fennel, black fruit, mushroom and earth aromas. Ripe, sweet fruit, currant, mineral, earth, soft tannins, long finish
20 percent new oak
Coopers – Remond, Cadus, Francois Freres
Forests – Troncais, Allier
TA 5.5 g/L
All Pommard clone
Vineyard block planted in 1988
Gravelly loam with limestone fractures
10 percent whole cluster
2009 Paraiso Vineyard Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands Medium ruby, cranberry, violet and spice aromas with earthy undertones. Sweet and elegant red fruits, spice and earth tones, balanced and silky finish
All second year and neutral oak
Coopers – Remond, Cadus, Francois Freres
Forests – Troncais, Allier
TA 5.9 g/L
All 777 clone
Vineyard block planted
Alluvial-decomposed granite, Arroyo Secco loam
100 percent destemmed
2011 Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands Grapes for this wine came from several blocks on the Paraiso Estate in Santa Lucia Highlands. We have been making wine from this estate since 2007. The wines have always been deeply fruited and lush with solid acidity but this year we harvested our blocks a bit earlier than usual. We were rewarded with a wine that is significantly brighter than previous bottlings and more in line with our desire to produce wines that show more than just ripe fruit.
The fruit was picked before dawn, de-stemmed, sorted and deposited in one ton fruit bins. The must was held at 45 degrees for a 5 day cold soak and then warmed and inoculated with RC 212 and Assmanhausen yeasts. Fermentation lasted 12 days with twice daily punch downs during the first 5 days. After day five the wine was pumped over once a day to avoid any harsh extraction. The wines was pressed when dry and the press fraction and free run were kept separate. The wine went through malolactic in barrels and was left on its fine lees for 11 months before a single racking before bottling.
The Santa Lucia Highlands bottling features a deep ruby hue, a nose of bright red fruits, hard spices and a subtle earth scents and a palate of focused red plum and mineral flavors and a long, well balanced finish. Though young now, this wine will prove to be a balanced, harmonious table companion for 5 to 8 years.
Appellation - Santa Lucia Highlands
Vineyard: Paraiso Estate
Clones: 115, 777
Coopers: Cadus, Remond, Francois Freres, Billion - 15% new oak
pH - 3.48
T.A. - 6 g/L
A.B.V - 14%
2011 Pinot Noir - Chileno Valley Vineyard Grapes for this wine came from a single block at Chileno Valley Vineyard in the rolling hills of West Marin County. This is our first vintage from this vineyard which is just a few miles from the marine influences of the Pacific Ocean. The proximity of this vineyard to cool coastal marine influences results in fruit that develops phenolic maturity with significantly less sugar accumulation. This wine is complex and lush with solid acidity and modest alcohol. This vineyard is farmed by Marin County agricultural legend Mark Pasternak. Mark farms most of the vineyards in Marin and has a great feel for the land under his care. he is also our hog farmer of choice and we have made some of our best hams from Mark’s pigs!
The fruit was picked before dawn, de-stemmed, sorted and deposited in one ton fruit bins. The must was held at 45 degrees for a 5 day cold soak and then warmed and allowed to ferment with its natural yeasts. Fermentation lasted 16 days with twice daily punch downs during the first 7 days. After day five the wine was pumped over once a day to avoid any harsh extraction. The wines was pressed when dry and the press fraction and free run were kept separate. The wine went through malolactic in barrels and was left on its fine lees for 11 months before a single racking before bottling.
The Chileno Valley Vineyard bottling features a pale ruby hue, an elegant nose of stone, earth, violet and ripe plum. The palate is broad and lush with plum, spice and mineral flavors and a long, silky finish. This wine is hard to resist now but will aged on its graceful balance for 10-12 years.
Appellation - Marin County
Vineyard: Chileno Valley
Coopers: Cadus, Remond, Francois Freres, Billion - 25% new oak
pH - 3.76
T.A. - 5.6 g/L
A.B.V - 12.8%
2011 No. 6 Pinot Noir - Willamette Valley
No. 6 was created to provide wines of immediate pleasure that offer superb value and true varietal character from a variety of regional appellations.
Grapes for this wine came from the Vista Hills Vineyard in the beautiful Willamette Valley, home to some of America’s best pinot noir. The fruit for this was sourced from younger vines on the Vista Hills estate. Our goal with this wine was to produce a wine with freshness, transparency and, most of all, a wine that’s easy to drink.
A long, frankly cold growing season had many worried that no harvest would take place at all. The fruit was picked before dawn on a 33 degree morning on NOVEMBER 5th!. The fact that we rented a refrigerated truck to bring the grapes down to the winery was a bit of overkill as it snowed in spots along the CA/Oregon border on the trip down.
Once in the winey, the grapes were de-stemmed, sorted and deposited in one ton fruit bins. The must was gently warmed for two days (imagine that in California!) and then inoculated with RC 212 yeast. Fermentation lasted 18 days with pump overs only. The wine was pressed when dry and the press fraction and free run were kept separate. The wine went through malolactic in barrels and was left on its fine lees for 11 months before a single racking before bottling.
The Number 6 bottling features a bright ruby color, a fresh, elegant nose of red berries and earth. The palate is soft and lively with bright cranberry fruit and soft tannins. The finish crisp and leaves you wanting another sip. This wine should be enjoyed now and over the next two years for its freshness and gulpability.
Appellation - Willamette Valley, Oregon
Vineyard: Vista Hills
Clones: 115, 667
Coopers: Cadus, Remond, Francois Freres, Billion - 10% new oak