William “Bill” Easton
President & Winemaker at Domaine de la Terre Rouge
Fiddletown, Amador County, California
Bill Easton was born and raised in Sacramento in the heart of California’s Central Valley, steeped in a culture where wine was an integral part of daily life. His father was a wine enthusiast and good wine found its’ way to the table with every meal. Easton found a taste for wine at a young age and began to develop a discerning palate. He attended the University of California at Berkeley and received degrees in Political Theory and English Literature. He entered the wine business in 1975 in sales and production. In 1978 he opened Solano Cellars, a pioneering wine shop in Berkeley, California that featured California’s finest artisan producers and was later expanded to handle Europe’s finest wineries. The store expanded to include a wine bistro/bar and Easton traveled annually to Europe to make wine selections.
Concurrently in 1985, Mr. Easton set out to redefine winemaking in the Sierra Foothills by establishing Domaine de la Terre Rouge in Amador County. By focusing on the production of a limited amount of high-quality wine from Rhône varietals, old-vine Zinfandel, and other rarities, Easton felt the area could be raised to world-class status. This is one of the most historic wine regions in California which began to be revitalized in the 1970’s. Mr. Easton has brought his 32 years experience in the wine business to bear on the region. He was initially attracted to this area because of its’ soil composition (decomposed granite and volcanic) and its’ warm days and cool nights. He has been able to craft wines that have great fruit, power, and complexity, as well as an uncanny elegance. These wines are evocative and a reflection of this great place — The Sierra Nevada. Easton says, “Winemaking here not only gives one a connection to nature’s annual cycles and California’s historical past, but also intuitive insight into feelings about the primordial connection between wine and people. Wine mysteriously connects, binds, and relates to all those things that make us human, social, and vibrant”.
Domaine de la Terre Rouge first garnered accolades from Robert Parker writing in his Wine Advocate, and later, Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wines, where their 1994 and 1995 Syrahs received that journals highest rating of three puffs ***. In their December 1997 and December 1998 issues the Terre Rouge “Sentinel Oak – Pyramid Block” Syrah was listed as one of the top 10 wines of the year. The influential wine critic, Michel Phaneuf writing in his Québec- published Le Guide Du Vin ‘98 rated the Terre Rouge Noir as one of the top 20 wines of the year in 1997 out of a veritable who’s who of International wines and it was awarded his prestigious “La Grappe d’Or”. A continuing stream of praise in more recent years has come from Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, The California Grapevine, Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, The Wine Enthusiast, and The Wine Spectator. In 2002 the winery released its’ first luxury cuvée Syrah called Ascent that was from the 1999 vintage. Parker called it, “one of the finest I have tasted from California” and it was the top-rated California Syrah of 2002 in Decanter Magazine, Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, and the California Grapevine. Most recently, in the July 2005 issue of Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, Terre Rouge again garnered the highest rating of 97 points and Three Puffs for its’ 2002 Ascent Syrah and Two Puffs and 92 points for the 2002 Sentinel Oak Syrah. Domaine de la Terre Rouge is generally heralded as the top property in California’s Sierra Foothill region and is considered to be one of the top innovative wineries in California. It has been rated three out of four possible stars by both James Laube in his book, California Wine and Hugh Johnson in his Pocket Wine Book 2003. It is the only California winery to garner such praise.
Domaine de la Terre Rouge wines are marketed throughout California and over 35 other states in fine retail outlets and better restaurants. They can also be found in British Columbia, Québec, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and the United Kingdom. Current production levels are at 25,000 cases per year.