Charlie is the former owner of a company that bears his namesake Sawyer Gas based in Jacksonville, Florida, now part of the national AmeriGas Company. Charlie was inducted into the LP Gas Hall of Fame as the class of 2014. Yes, there is such a thing as that! As a wine fanatic, he decided to turn his passion into a business.
With a little over 30 years of winemaking experience at Robert Mondavi, Brad left in 1999 to join Charlie as the Winemaker of Sawyer Cellars. Brad bases harvest decisions on taste over chemistry, although he does do certain chemistry analysis in the wine lab. Brad truly motivated Charlie to turn his estate in Rutherford into an actual winery that people and Sawyers around the country could come to enjoy and remember.
Charlie’s daughter, Charlene Sawyer, is a talented business professional with diverse experience across multiple industries. Charlene holds a BS degree in Psychology from Berry College and a MS degree in Human Resources from Georgia State University. An integral part of the new era of Sawyer Cellars, Charlene has entrepreneurial business experience, budget management, team collaboration, project management, and a rich marketing background.
Charlie and Joanne met Brad at the annual Napa Valley Wine Auction at Meadowood in St. Helena. Brad was working at Robert Mondavi winery at the time.
He recalls a rare 27 Liter bottle of Robert Mondavi produced sparkling wine hand painted by Margrit Mondavi being up for auction that night. He encouraged Charlie to bid on it –and he did. Charlie and Brad bonded over their shared passion for wine that evening.
Charlie became more intrigued by wine and in 1994 he purchased the Yaeger’s family estate in Rutherford. Charlie intended to sell grapes to wineries near the area as vines were already planted on site.
The only thing on the property was an old barn from the 1930’s. After selling their grapes for the 1994 harvest, Brad suggested they make wine from the second crop the following year.
Brad would help Charlie with the wine making when time allowed as he was still working at Robert Mondavi. However, that did not stop him from making 135 cases of Meritage wine. The vintages of 1995 through 1998 were made at what is now Pina Winery along the Silverado Trail.
After nearly 30 years working at Robert Mondavi, Brad left and became Sawyer Cellars’ Winemaker in 1999. A year later, Charlie officially opened his winery tasting room Sawyer Cellars.
The last vintage entirely from the original Rutherford Estate was the 2014. Then, Sawyer Cellars continued to source some fruit from this property for one more year.
Today, little under 500 cases are annually produced sourcing grapes from other select vineyards in the valley.
Still very much family owned, the Sawyer family has stepped up to take part in the family business. East Coast-based daughter, Charlene, has been involved in sales for the winery for many years and she also manages the strategy and branding of Sawyer Cellars. Whereas Brad, he continues to craft delicious wines for the family.
Sawyer Cellars is currently located in a business/industrial part of the Napa Valley where artisan producers, often without vineyards, make their wines under the radar. Tastings are currently available for wine enthusiasts looking for a highly personalized tasting in the self-titled small ‘Sawyer Room’. Tastings include a flight of current release wines and often a barrel sample pulled by Brad himself.