When someone starts their own business, it is often with the dream to become a household name, to achieve fame and fortune.
Not Paola Sordoni.
The Darienite, who is president and founder of Darien’s JuneRay Wines, doesn’t want to be the biggest — she just wants to be the best.
A Darien winery, you say? You don’t remember passing a vineyard while traveling down Middlesex Road or West Avenue?
That’s because though the company is Darien-based, the vineyard and wine production is in the Napa Valley region of California — the perfect company structure for a working mom who loves wine and wants to create it.
Sordoni, a native of Brazil, said she moved to New York City after she graduated from college — unfortunately, the year was 2008, and the economy was not great for job hunting.
A former bartender, Sordoni was always fascinated by fine wines, and a visit to the wine country of Napa Valley cemented her interest.
Sordoni, who moved to Darien with her husband in 2010, opted to give up her job search and instead start an entrepreneurial wine business in 2008, after doing research on wine making and the wine market.
She partnered with a boutique winery in Napa, and JuneRay Wines’ first 2008 vintage came out in 2011, Ashlow, a Cabernet Sauvignon proprietary blend.
Sordoni works her schedule around her 14-month-old daughter, and travels with her husband to Napa twice a year, once for the picking of the grapes in October, and once in January to meet with the winemakers.
The wine is made from the fruits of the St. Helena and Coombsville regions of Napa, which she said “creates a special balance, particularly if the grapes are from the right vineyards.”
JuneRay’s inaugural vintage, the 2008 Ashlow, was awarded 91 points by wine critic James Suckling, formerly of Wine Spectator, and was named a finalist in San Francisco’s Cabernet Shootout.
According to Sordoni, the Shootout is judged by both men and women and the wine scored highly with both — something that often doesn’t happen.
“Usually, wines that women like, men don’t like at all,” she said.
JuneRay Wines sells exclusively over the Internet, about 50 to 100 cases a year. They are available in one area restaurant, Ferrante, an Italian restaurant in Stamford.
Other than that, Sordoni wants to keep her product exclusive — if it is ever available in local wine shops, it will only be one or two.
That doesn’t mean her product isn’t far-reaching.
“We ship all over the country, Georgia, Florida,” Sordoni said.
Sordoni said JuneRay Wines buck the current trend of leaning toward high-alcohol, low-acidity wines.
“They don’t balance well, they don’t age well and they don’t pair with food well,” she said.
“We try to make a more balanced wine, and that has been hard to find in the marketplace. Many have been looking for it, including myself,” she said.
“Our wine really ages well for 30 years, every year it keeps getting better. It pairs really well with food like red meats and rich heavy sauces,” she said.
JuneRay Wines’ Ashlow sells for $97 a bottle, and Sordoni tells her customers that cost is for quality and cost invested in the product, not money spent on marketing or making a huge profit.
“Our goal is to make the best wine we can for our customers, and we spare no expense,” she said.
Sordoni said JuneRay’s approach to wine making is “no compromises,” and handcrafting limited quantities means the company has high costs per bottle.
The 2009 vintage Ashlow will come out this September.
And that’s not the only new arrival this fall — Sordoni and her husband are also expecting their second child in September.
Sordoni said she is living the bi-coastal business dream others might believe to be impossible.
“Wine lovers want to own a vineyard but don’t think they can — this way, the vineyard is in Napa, but you can still run a wine business,” she said.
As for the future growth of JuneRay Wines, Sordoni has no intention of making whites (she prefers red) and might increase production a bit, but nothing that will compromise product quality.
“We’ll always be a small boutique winery. For me, this is more bout passion than profits,” she told The Darien Times.
More info: JuneRayWines.com