Vertin Vineyards |

Vertin Vineyards

If we were defined by what we do, it would be difficult to buttonhole Dave Vertin. Many might recognize him as the man wearing the top hat and tails sitting atop the horse-drawn carriage offering rides around Nevada City.

Some might recall him as the eco-friendly logger using his team of Percheron horses instead of tractors. Others know him as a stand up comedian in nightclubs while some remember swaying to the sounds of his jazz band. And there are still others who could never forget him as their middle grade teacher at Ready Springs School.

Meet him now as owner of Vertin Vineyards, producer of Cowboy Cabernet.

Vertin moved to Nevada County in 1972. In 1999 he hand-planted a small vineyard on his property off of Bloomfield Road, just north of Nevada City. “There was no grand plan,” he explained. “Even though it’s 3,500-feet, it’s a southern slope in a beautiful spot. I thought it would be nice.”

He decided to go with Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. But he never intended to make three wines, only one. He produces what he describes as “a Tuscan-style blend” because “I like that kind of wine and thought it would do well here.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. In 2004 he lost his first crop to frost. Birds took care of the harvest in 2005. Finally in 2006 he managed to pick a little over a ton of grapes.

Although, Vertin had some limited experience with winemaking at Fresno State, he realized he didn’t have the time nor did he want the expense of setting up a winery. He trucked his grapes over to Peardale and Steve Burch of Burch Hall Winery produced the wine for him. Far from micro-managing every detail, Vertin dropped the grapes off telling Steve, “I want the wine to taste good with the food I’m making. Call me when you’re done.”

While that might not sound like a lot of instructions Steve knew exactly what Vertin meant. The resulting wine is not overly tannic, has moderate alcohol at 13.5 percent, is balanced with good acidity and has an intense cherry flavor. “I like the wine,” Vertin said. “It’s very food-friendly. It’s versatile, it goes with fish, it’s great with BBQ.”

I wondered about the name? “I commissioned a painting from Auburn artist Michelle Ottman,” he said. “Cowboy Cabernet seemed like a natural fit, plus I wanted something a little different.”

The wine is not in any stores so it’s a little hard to find. It’s very word-of-mouth. Most people discover it when a friend opens a bottle. The only way to get it is directly through Vertin himself. The price is $15 but it’s case sales only. Ask for the Nevada County discount and get it for a little over $10 a bottle. Call him at (530) 265-8778, but don’t worry, you won’t need a password.

In the meantime Vertin is attending law school.

Rod Byers, CWE, is a certified wine educator, teaches wine classes at Sierra College and is a California State Certified Wine Judge. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 530-913-3703.

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