Meet the Maker
Winery Spotlight: Revolution Wines
Colleen Sullivan is a spunky, 20-something winemaker on a mission to put Clarksburg Chenin Blanc on the map.
By Sarah Hoffman
October 16, 2019
Napa-Shmapa. When it comes to premium wine, we’ll bet there’s one city that isn’t on your radar — Sacramento. When searching for a white wine that would crush it in a can, we kept hearing about this spunky, young winemaker named Colleen at Revolution Wines who was putting a Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg, CA on the map.
Colleen is a Sacramento local who went to school with a dream and returned home with a mission. After majoring in enology at UC Davis she came back to the city with a vision of shining a light on unique grape varieties and local wine regions like nearby Clarksburg and Amador county.
And there was only one place that she wanted to work: Revolution Wines.
The Rev Wines Story
Rev Wines is Sacramento’s first (only?) urban winery and restaurant in the heart of downtown. It’s got an upscale but approachable vibe, and ridiculously good wine.
In 2005, Gina and Joe Genshlea started Revolution with the dream of bringing the tradition of winemaking back to Sacramento and highlighting local AVAs in the process.
Gina remembers when Colleen first came knocking on their door — at the ripe age of 21.
“Colleen showed up at my doorstep and said I want to work here. I will work here. I’ll do whatever it takes to get my foot in the door.”
But Gina was skeptical. Lots of people ask to work at Revolution, but they rarely follow up. Colleen kept coming back. After her 5th visit, Gina was so impressed by Colleen’s persistence that she decided to give the 21-year-old a chance.
When their previous winemaker left, Gina decided to take another leap of faith and call Colleen up to the big leagues after only 3 years at the company.
“Her tenacity is how she has moved into the head winemaker position. This industry takes a lot of hard work, and she’s demonstrated she’ll do whatever it takes. I trust her implicitly.”
Colleen Sullivan at Rev Wines, Sacramento. Photo credit: Alina Tyulyu.
Making Her Mark with Chenin Blanc
As it turns out, Clarksburg, right on the California Delta and 15 miles from downtown Sacramento, is one of the best spots in the world for growing Chenin Blanc.
In 2014, Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman (important wine guy) named Revolution’s Chenin one of the top white wines in the nation for pairing with oysters. After getting the top spot, Colleen was ready to prove that the top of her game was at the bottom of the barrel. Colleen immediately made a mark by putting her own spin on the Revolution Chenin Blanc. She researched and found Wilson vineyards, local first-generation farmers, and sourced two blocks of Chenin from nearby Clarksburg.
"We want to show off what we have from vineyards that are mainly within an hour's drive."
That’s why Colleen sources all their fruit from within 60 miles of the winery, before crushing, fermenting, and bottling all wines on-location in the heart of downtown Sacramento. The hot days and the cool Delta nighttime breeze in Clarksburg led to a bright wine with great acidity and minerality. While Chenin Blancs are known for their characteristics of stone fruit and honey, she loves that their Chenin is just the right balance of fruity and funky. We love dressing up her Chenin with oysters and fancy stemware or taking it straight outta the can with spicy takeout.
Update: this can has been picking up press left and right! This zippy, zesty canned Chenin has won a Gold Medal from the Women's International Wine Competition and was rated 93 points by the NY Int'l Wine Competition (competing against bottled wines!). We can't wait for you to try this award-winning wine.
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