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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Lifestyles: Jazz Cellars in Dogpatch

 
July 3rd, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

Perhaps it’s an unlikely topic for a blog on a website all about EDA and IP, but making wine is the subject herein nonetheless, and the reason is simple: Long-time EDA veteran Bob Smith, Senior VP of Sales and Business Developmental at Uniquify, has been leading a double life – EDA exec by day and wine-maker extraordinaire by nights/weekends.

Smith and Joe Lazzara started Jazz Cellars winery back in 2005, and since that time have burdened friends and family with their obsession for making fine wines, now award-winning fine wines. Their operations are centered in Dogpatch, a distinctly trendy neighborhood in San Francisco just south of the ballpark that’s grown even trendier now, thanks to Dogpatch WineWorks where Jazz Cellars and other boutique vintners share the costs of doing business.

Those costs include owning and operating the grape crushing equipment (sign-up way in advance of your desired dates for access to the presses) and the vats for making the wine (the secret sauce for every vintner), storing hundreds of huge oak barrels in floor-to-ceiling racks (you can buy barrels from other vintners on-site as your fortunes rise and theirs decline) and operating the forklift to get the barrels from Point A to Point B in the place (driving the darn thing is one of the perks of doing business), owning and operating the bottling equipment (all-hands on deck, Friends and Family, for this seasonal exercise), and hiring a sommelier (someone who really knows wine) to host the wine-tasting room (open to the public with enigmatic hours, Thursdays through Sundays).

Of course, none of this would be news if Bob Smith had actually studied viticulture when he attended U.C. Davis, but he didn’t. He studied electrical engineering, and went from there to Stanford to get an MSEE before starting his career as an analog designer at HP.

He then moved to IKOS Systems, Synopsys, LogicVision, and Magma, serving in various executive roles with a focus on business development, including helping take Synopsys public in 1992 and Magma public in 2001, before moving to Uniquify.

Clearly, Bob’s an engineer and a business leader in EDA, so how in heck did he end up making wine? He says that’s easy to understand.

Back in 2005, he and his neighbor Joe Lazzara started talking about how much they liked wine and how fun it would be to make their own. Proving that ignorance is bliss, they bought some grapes and started crushing, mixing, blending, aging, bottling, and tasting the fruits of their efforts in a small hobbyist wine makers’ facility in San Francisco – nights and weekends, of course – all the while keeping up with their day jobs.

By 2008, the budding vintners were actually making some money, placing their limited-edition wines in local restaurants and earning a growing set of admirers. Knowing that they needed more room to expand production, and varietals, Smith and Lazarra decided to look for a space that catered to true professionals. Enter Dogpatch WineWorks.

The fit was great one: Jazz Cellars needed more room and the wine-making facility needed tenants. Bob and Joe set up their operations there and since then have been commuting from home to long hours of work in Silicon Valley, from work back to home, and then as time allows, from home to San Francisco to make Jazz Cellars wine – juggling all of the balls they have in the air with an amazing amount of aplomb, not to mention energy and unflagging commitment to all of it.

Which is where the story gets personal for me. Earlier this year, I had a chance to meet up with Bob, his family and several friends, to take a tour of Dogpatch WineWorks. Wow, it was so much fun to see the crushing equipment, the vats, the racks and racks of barrels, the bottling equipment, the forklift (!), the wine tasting facility, and best of all, tasting the wine. It was so cool, but it gets even better.

Several weeks ago, I was back at Dogpatch WineWorks, this time for a full-on Thursday evening wine-tasting event. So many people, so much wine, so much buzz and jazz and up-scale urban chic. It was just great.

People from San Francisco were there, people from the Peninsula were there, people from Silicon Valley were there – all enjoying Jazz Cellars wines, tasting, sampling, buying, signing up for the Jazz Cellars Wine Club, chatting and enjoying a lovely summer evening in The City. It all felt so hip and in-the-moment. Does life get any better than this?

Okay, you get the idea. Bob Smith’s a busy guy. He’s got acknowledged EDA chops and now has increasingly acknowledged wine-making chops as well. Uniquify is growing and Jazz Cellars is growing.

Bob and Joe’s list of reds and whites – Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, Petite Sirahs, Viogniers, and Jazz Cellars’ signature Rhapsody, a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne Rhone varietals – have won over 50 awards in juried tastings and can be found in an increasing number of lovely eateries in the region. I don’t know how they do it, keeping up with their day jobs and the wine business as well.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I do know how they do it: Through their commitment to their business partnership, and through the commitment and loyalty of their families. Together, they all make a great team – and some darn great wines.

If you haven’t tried them, you should. Either at a restaurant like San Mateo’s Central Park Bistro, Menlo Park’s John Bentley’s, Belmont’s Vivace, Palo Alto’s Baumé, or Sunnyvale’s Lion & Compass, among others – or by taking a road trip to Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco.

It matters not how you do it, just do it because you won’t regret the experience – or the wine!

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