In 1978, Barbara Olesen and Patricia Herron bought a 36-acre vineyard in the heart of Sonoma Valley— a piece of property that in the 1840s, General Mariano Vallejo had traded to his children’s music teacher in exchange for piano lessons. They christened it with a combination of their own first names, calling this piece of land Barricia. Neither knew anything about grape growing, but Pat learned how to drive a tractor, prune the vines, and check the leaves for virus. Before long, the blackberry and pepper-spiced wine made from their 100-year old vines was singled out by a string of well-known Sonoma wineries, finally settling at Ravenswood for its emblematic Sonoma Valley Zinfandel.
This kind of makeover wasn’t uncharacteristic of Pat. In her mid-30s, having already spent time in a convent, gotten degrees in literature and history, and served as a dean of prestigious colleges on both coasts, she’d decided to become an attorney, putting herself through law school by selling real estate. Unenthused with the combative side of the courtroom, she subsequently developed a professional skill for defusing highly charged confrontations—which may be why, after the minimum ten years of practice required for judgeship, she was appointed to the Superior Court bench by Governor Jerry Brown. And only a year and a half later, her male peers elected her presiding judge of the Seventh Circuit Court in Contra Costa County.
After Barbara passed away and Pat turned 80, Pat reluctantly decided to let go of the ranch. As it happened, Mel and Angela Dagovitz had been searching for a vineyard for years. Frustrated in trying to find a spot in Napa Valley that seemed right, they were on the verge of giving up when Mel pulled into Pat’s driveway in late fall of 2006, and upon seeing the ancient vines in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain, he fell in love with the Valley of the Moon.
Selling her vineyard was the hardest thing that Pat had ever had to do. Neither she nor the Dagovitz’s considered it a good idea to get to know the other party, but after the deal was finalized, Pat wanted to make sure that Mel and Angela had the proper contacts. She invited the couple to a local grape growers’ party, and as it turned out, the three hit it off. From there, the relationship grew, and now they see one another regularly.
After taking over the property, Mel and Angela at first intended to change its name. As they came to know it and Pat, however, they got a feeling that they were a part of a larger family. In the end, they decided to keep the name as it was before they found it; only then, like Pat and Barbara before them, did they learn that “barricia” is Spanish for wine barrel.
Location: Sonoma Valley
Year(s) Planted: 6 acres Zinfandel planted before 1892, 4 acres Zinfandel planted in 1995, 2 acres Petite Sirah planted in 1998
Acreage: 10 Acres of Zinfandel, 2 Acres of Petite Sirah
Soil Type: Very old, volcanic, cobbly red clay loam
Climate: “Banana Belt of Sonoma County”
Elevation: Sea Level
Exposure: Slightly Western