Winemaker Charlie Gilmore believes that the best wines are made with simplicity. He put this philosophy to the test when he founded Cormorant Cellars in 2018. The winery specializes in producing Old World style wines made from certified organic grapes sourced from vineyards in Sonoma, Monterey, and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
All Cormorant wines are made exclusively from grapes grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Gilmore takes a hands-on approach in the winery, using only ambient yeast from the vineyard and minimal amounts of sulphites. He avoids excessive manipulation of the wines and does not freeze them. The result is a collection of wines that are clear, purposeful, and reminiscent of California wines from the past.
When it came to naming his winemaking project, Gilmore drew inspiration from his childhood trips to Monterey with his father. They used to spend hours observing and photographing the iconic cormorants of the coast. The fond memories made it an easy decision to name his winery Cormorant Cellars.
Gilmore was born in Sacramento, California, and knew from the start that he didn’t want a desk job in a fluorescent-lit office. He discovered his passion for winemaking while taking an “Intro to Grape Growing” class at UC Davis. This led him to graduate with a degree in Viticulture and Enology.
From 1999 to 2004, Gilmore worked with various wineries, including Artesa, Rosenblum, Gundlach Bundschu, St. Hallet (Barossa, Australia), and Caves du Cazaubon (South of France). He wanted to gain exposure to different winemaking approaches and business profiles. This diverse experience proved invaluable in his education as a winemaker.
In 2004, Gilmore joined Fetzer, where he spent 12 years overseeing white winemaking and eventually becoming the lead winemaker for the Fetzer brand. In his last four years there, he also took charge of the red wines, notably Jekel Vineyards.
However, Gilmore always harbored the desire to make his own wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc. In 2018, an opportunity presented itself, and he seized it. Gilmore shares, “It took me 18 years, but the timing was right, and I had access to excellent fruit from a friend who had space in his winery. It all starts with great fruit from a great site. Then, I use primarily seven-year-old French barrels and some stainless drums to make my white wines. I minimize the use of machinery and do not freeze the wines. My winemaking approach is designed to let the wine speak for itself.”
Cormorant Cellars is everything Gilmore hoped for. He takes pride in the ownership and responsibility it entails. He states, “If it’s good, it’s my success, and if it’s bad, it’s my fault. This is exactly where I want to be.”
Image Source: Charlie Gilmore @ Instagram