Russian Hill is the fulfillment of a dream for Edward Gomez, who retired from a distinguished career in academic medicine to look for a way to combine his experience in the fields of engineering, electronics, business, and government with his love of wine. The only way to use all these skills and have plenty of wine to drink is to start a winery.
Ed's wife, Ellen Mack, after a two year search, found the property that was to become Russian Hill. She is now responsible for its day-to-day operations which gives her many hats to wear - marketing, communication, production, accounting and, most importantly, overseeing vineyard operations. Because of this diversity, she is "the glue" that holds it all together.
Formerly also a practicing physician in academic medicine, Ellen feels medicine and winemaking are of the same philosophy - each is both a science and an art form. She combines her dual careers by serving on the Research and Education Committee of the Wine Institute, and is a member of various organizations including The Society of Medical Friends of Wine and Women for Winesense.
Winemaker Patrick Melley gave up a career in the restaurant business to join his uncle Ed in the pursuit of making great wine. A largely self taught winemaker, Patrick has already shown great talent in making the Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet sauvignon that were our production prior to moving to Russian Hill. He is now excelling in the production of Pinot noir and Syrah. The key ingredient to Patrick's success is his discriminating palate; his level disposition and great personality don't hurt either. What does Patrick love most about a wine (and therefore works hardest to attain) - is mouthfeel. You'll see what this means when you try some of his wines.
Ruska may not like to wear hats, but she also has multiple roles at Russian Hill. She is our Director of Hospitality and, since the day of our inception, has been present for every tour we have given. No matter how big or small the group, Ruska is there to greet our visitors, accompany them throughout their tour, and wish them well as they leave. Ruska is also an assistant to Ellen in Vineyards Operations where she is in charge of our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. She specializes in the large pests - moles, voles, mice and jack rabbits and is so successful in these endeavors that she has been featured in Wine Enthusiast magazine. Ruska's name, by the way, is short for Labrusca, a native North American grape vine; Ruska also means "The Russian" making her aptly suited to our winery.
Kiri (yes, she is named after the soprano Kiri TeKanawa) takes over where Ruska leaves off. She helps out in hospitality by personally escorting every visitor to and from their cars during our open house weekends. She helps Ruska with the IPM program, but specializes in birds, which she faithfully chases off the property and away from the grapes. Kiri's most useful talent, however, is her uncanny ability to find any body of water, no matter how large or small. This not only leads to many leisure time visits to neighboring ponds but also, is very useful for checking the integrity of our irrigation system. There is no reason for Kiri to travel to Calistoga for a mud bath!