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Out of the Shadows

A hobby turns into a bustling wine business -- the first in Walnut Creek since the 1920s


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Joe Budd

The hill across from Tim and Courtney Jochner’s house in Walnut Creek used to be covered with wildflowers, until one year, when the couple decided to plant some grapevines instead. They made some wine. And it was pretty good.

The Shadowbrook Winery, opened in 2005, is the first and only winery in Walnut Creek since Prohibition, with 20 acres and nine different varietals. “It’s a hobby gone wild,” Tim Jochner says.

In the early 20th century, grapes were the cash crop of the region. Then, a plant disease spread among vine roots, followed by Prohibition, and growers switched to walnut trees. But the climate at the foot of Mount Diablo has always been great for grapes, Jochner says, with the evening breezes off the mountains cooling the fruit, slowing ripening, and building strong flavors. “Walnut Creek was Napa before Napa,” he says.

And now, the local newcomer is challenging Napa Valley giants: Shadowbrook won two double gold awards at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for its 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and its 2007 Encore “party” blend.

There’s a waiting list for Shadowbrook’s wine club, limited to 150 members, but anyone can purchase its wines online or order them when dining at Bing Crosby’s and Massimo in Walnut Creek, and Moresi’s Chophouse in Clayton.

For more information, go to shadowbrookwinery.com

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