Harvest, Family, and River Park Red

It has been a slow start to harvest for us here at Puppione Family Wines, but with the recent warm weather, we are about to welcome more grapes into the cellar in the coming days. This waiting time has given me time to reflect on what harvest means to me—and it has also allowed me a chance to share with you a delightful surprise to come.

To me, harvest is the season when the earth yields its treasures—a time of grit and grace, where the grower’s toil and the land’s generosity meet under the sun’s unyielding gaze. In the harvest, we find life’s simplicity and its profound beauty in the bountiful fruits of our labor. The harvest, like family, is an unspoken bond of hard work and shared moments, where the sweat on one’s brow mirrors the unity of kin. Just as a family’s strength lies in its collective effort, the harvest’s bounty relies on the hands that work together in the vineyards, cultivating life’s sustenance, and delivering it to us to craft into beautiful wines. In the end, both family and harvest teach us the value of coming together to reap the rewards of our shared endeavors.

And so it was a few years ago, after making the first Puppione wines, it occurred to me that I wanted to celebrate my mother’s side of the family—the Walkers and the Batemans. Much of what I know about family and holidays and the wild in-between times was experienced in the River Park neighborhood of East Sacramento. As such, there has always been a special place in my heart for Sacramento—and most especially for the two homes built side by side on Sandburg Drive where the entirety of our family was effectively raised in one way or another. And so, just as I wanted to bottle up the love and excitement I had about becoming a father for the first time in 2017 (which led to the birth of PFW), there has been a deep desire welling up inside of me to capture the warmth, the raucousness, the hilarity, and the goodness of reveling with my Walker and Bateman family.

But, I let this idea simmer a bit while Dee and I tried to get PFW up and running. In that time, I also started looking into a little history about River Park, and I discovered something really fun. Anthony Preston Smith—who purchased 50 acres from John Sutter in 1849 and created a resort there that would later become River Park—was also the first to bring the Zinfandel grape to the west in 1853. The vines that are the descendants of these early Zinfandel cuttings now populate much of the present Sierra Foothill vineyards. Now I had a wine connection to the old neighborhood beyond just the countless bottles my family had shared over the decades.

At this point, I began discussing my idea with those of my generation to see if they would be willing to join me in this little enterprise honoring our collective family. And along with my cousins Evan, Johnny, Jamie Ann, and Ralph, we decided to launch Walker Bateman Wine Co.—a small but mighty brand dedicated to make just two wines—a red and a white—to give thanks for the gift of one another.

Truly, the most challenging part of this whole endeavor was coming up with a logo and a label for our first wine, which we agreed should be a Zinfandel from the Sierra Foothills. Most important of all, we wanted to express our love and affection for our family and for our spiritual home tucked into a bend of the American River. And that was just it—home—or rather, the two homes.

My grandmother and her sister built their respective family homes next door to one another, and between the two lots (that were not separated by a fence of any kind in those days), these remarkable women raised nine children. And for those children, my grandmother and my great-aunt built traditions that formed the memories we still share as we gather at our holiday table each year. Two homes, one family, one heart—this would be the label for our Walker Bateman Wine Co. red wine.

So, my cousins and I created and bottled the 2021 River Park Red from two barrels of delicious Zinfandel from the vineyards alongside Highway 50 heading up to our beloved Lake Tahoe—where my mom’s family has spent their winters and summers together since the 1940s. And while we secured our own stash of these special bottles, one of the most important things we learned growing up in those two little homes in Sacramento was to share our bounty with others. The doors were always open. There was always room for one more. We always had more food, more laughs, and of course, more wine.

The 2021 River Park Red is 75 years in the making, and it is full of the kind of comfort and joy that washes over you when you find the place where you feel most at home. A lush, opulent wine showcasing the Zinfandel grape’s signature profile of blackberry, black cherry, cinnamon, black pepper, sage, clove, and sweet tobacco, the 2021 River Park Red is a delicious ode to good times to be shared with those you love.

With National Zinfandel Day approaching on November 17th—and with Thanksgiving following closely on its heels—we will be sending out a very special offer to our mailing list and our wine club members on October 17th. This will be the only time we are making the 2021 River Park Red available for purchase outside of our immediate family, because we simply don’t have much left after divvying up our share of just 48 cases. This bottle is one of a kind and we will not be making another vintage of it.

It is harvest time—a time for reflection—a time to celebrate what we gather—a time to give gratitude for that which we have been given—a time to share the love with those around us. Keep an eye out for the exclusive email offer coming on October 17th as we welcome you to join us at the table to enjoy the 2021 River Park Red.

If you are not on our mailing list and want to have access to this wine, click [HERE] and take just a moment to sign up.