11 Questions for Corey Jones and David Reynolds of Leona Valley Winery
October, 2007 - Issue #36
Northern Los Angeles county is home to several new wineries producing top-quality, award-winning wines. Many wine snobs will turn up their noses at anything that doesn't originate in Napa or Sonoma county; too bad, because they're missing out on some great grapes. One of the newest wineries is Leona Valley Winery, straddling the San Andreas fault between the SCV and Palmdale.

Corey Jones and David Reynolds own Leona Valley Winery. The couple bought their Leona Valley property in 2000 and soon decided to embark on their winery adventure.

1. Did you have any experience with winemaking before starting your winery?

David: Corey was a mortgage guru and I was a tae kwan do master, so, zero.

Corey: We both like to drink a lot of wine. We had to decide what to do with this big backyard of ours. I didn't want to plant more cherries. I wanted something beautiful to look at, something different, and I love going up north to Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles. But we didn't know that doing it would be a lot of work.

2. Who is your winemaker?

David: Nick Morello, a resident of Castaic. He's been with us from the beginning. We brought him in to make a sample wine in our barn in 2003. He is so passionate about the wine. We're so excited to have him with us.

3. What types of wine do you produce?

David: Mostly reds. We grow Bordeaux varietals up on the mountainside, and we grow Burgundy varietals down by the creek where it's cooler. A friend of ours, a big time grower and winemaker in Napa told us, "Whatever you guys do, you have to plant what you like, because you might have to drink it all." Corey likes Chardonnay, so we planted Chardonnay. I love Pinot [noir] so we planted that, too. And lo and behold, those are doing incredible. Because we're at a higher altitude, we get a freeze in late November or early December. The grapes freeze solid and we make an ice wine. We deliberately leave some of the grapes on the vine to do ice wine, which is normally something that only comes out of Canada, or New York.

4. Do you have to fight the impression that only good wines come from Napa or Sonoma?

David: We have to put that in their face that we're not buying grapes; that the grapes are from Leona Valley. I don't see it as fighting it, as it is a predisposition that people automatically think that great wines only come from up north. So there's some convincing we have to do. But once they taste our wine, it's very pleasing to see the reaction people have: "This is great, is Leona Valley in Napa?" people live 20 or 30 minutes from here and don't know where Leona Valley is. People can't believe that there's such a paradise so close to the SCV.

5. Have you won any awards?

David: We took part in a local wine competition. We submitted three of our red varietals, they took first, second and third in the red wine competition. We also submitted our Chardonnay; it took second in the white wine competition.

6. Have you participated in the Loose Goose Wine Festival?

Corey: Yes, last year and this year. It's a huge presentation for us, because we're local. We feel that our presence there should be enormous. We want to make a big deal about it.

David: Our strategy in working with Loose Goose is that Peter (Goossens) does it right in associating fine wines with exceptional service and experience. You go to Loose Goose, it's a cut above the norm. He goes above and beyond to make the experience second to none, and that's what we do with our wines.

7. Do geese drink wine?

Corey: They might. If they drink red, they'd probably turn red.

8. If they drink enough will they become loose?

Corey: If they drink the right wine they would.

David: Chardonnay would do the trick.

9. Do you have a local winery that people can visit?

David: The phone keeps ringing with people asking for that. Since there's such demand we're opening a tasting room in Rosamond, about 20 miles up the road. It's our secret hole in the wall. We'll have tastings, wine dinners and even tours. My biggest excitement is the bar - the bar was brought here in a covered wagon from Texas. The tasting room will open in early September.

10. Where can people find your wine?

David: The tasting room. Or people can visit the website at People can save the trip to the store, go online and we'll ship it the next day.

Corey: Or you can call 270-WINE.

11. Who would win in a fist fight between Leona Valley Winery and Agua Dulce Vineyards?

Corey: I'm taking the fifth on that. But if I had to arm wrestle, I'd win. It's a camaraderie. We want to stay close to everyone out here. I would dance with them, not fight with them.

12. What's your favorite winery that doesn't start with Leona Valley?

Corey: I like Caldwell wines. He makes boutique, cult wines—and the wine is out of this world. He reminds me of Willy Wonka.

David: My favorite right now—it changes all the time, it's part of my research—is Kosta Browne, a Russian River winery that takes grapes from several different vineyards and makes great pinot noir.

13. When you bought the property did you have a winery in mind?

Corey: Not a winery, necessarily. We thought we were going to grow the grapes and do it right. But I got emotional about it—I didn't want to sell my grapes to anybody. So we decided to crush and make our own wine.

David: Of two horse barns, one was sacrificed to make wine in that first year, 2003. We made wine in the barn—we put in air conditioning, and concrete, everything to make wine there. We said, "OK, if we can prove this is good wine then of course we can sell the grapes." And when we took it to market, we talked to some of our connections in the high-end wine industry in Napa and they got really excited about it—they couldn't believe that wine came out of the very first crop of a new vineyard. It was very inspirational because they were so excited.

14. What was on your property when you first acquired it?

Corey: A lotta weeds.

David: A glorious beautiful valley for cows and horses.

Corey: and lots of cherries.

15. Does all your fruit come from the Leona Valley?

David: Yes.That's a common question because it's so good. People say, wine this good can't be local. You must be buying your grapes from Napa.

16. Is it true that wine grapes have been grown in the area for decades?

David:There are vineyards that are over a hundred years old that are still producing. We make wine from one of the mission vineyards—it's small production, only about 300 vines, but they're all totally organic, natural, they don't water them. And the history is significant to what we're doing and that's part of the pursuit. Before prohibition there was a winery here, one of the first wineries in this country, and we're bringing it back.

17. Do you own those vines?

David: The owner is a neighbor. We make the wines and he gets a case of wine for letting us come and play with his grapes.
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