Robert Sinskey Vineyards: No Formula, Lots of Sheep

Posted June 18, 2015

Stacy Brody


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Since enjoying a bottle of Robert Sinskey Vineyards (RSV) Pinot Noir with a friend at dinner, I was curious to learn more about the producer. I knew a decent amount already. RSV follows biodynamic farming practices - hence the sheep on the label of their Cabernet blend - and the vineyards are certified organic. From talking extensively with a winemaker who trained at RSV, I was able to gauge their style and philosophy., I knew they consistently produced worthwhile, high-quality wines.

No thanks, Parker

I learned that RSV is a second-generation family-owned winery in Napa. They’re not your typical Napa winery. One big difference? Rob Sinskey, Jr, who took over from his father Robert Sinskey, Sr, in 1996, has written honestly (and often and strongly) on his opposition to the Robert Parker rating system, and to ratings in general. RSV does not submit wines for review. The winery’s philosophy is to make worthwhile, honest wines which are reflective of terroir and are to be enjoyed with food (and, I would add, with friends and family). Lucky for us, Rob Sinskey’s wife Maria Helm Sinskey is a talented, well-respected chef. Two words: Dream team. They offer recipes and pairing recommendations on their website, as well as small plates in their tasting room if you are fortunate enough to visit.

No formula for artisan wine

The Sinskey dream team also includes winemaker Jeff Virnig. Virnig has been with the winery almost 25 years, long enough for him to really get to know the land and the grapes. This is essential to crafting exceptional wines, especially at Sinskey where the style is based on Old World philosophies. There is no “formula” for artisan winemaking. Virnig keeps batches separate, depending on the vineyard site. Thus, he is able to adapt his methods to the grapes, depending on the site and the vintage. There is no forcing the wine to become something it isn’t; there is only an expression of the land.

These expressions are exquisite, as Sinskey vineyards are healthy. Rob Sinskey, Jr, transitioned the vineyards to organic production and employs biodynamic practices. Sheep graze the land instead of using mowers (hence the sheep photos on the POV label). Sinskey is even exploring truffles (the fungus, not the fancy chocolates) as an additional crop to diversify the vineyards.

Close your eyes after you finish reading this prompt: Imagine a meal enhanced by truffles and Pinot Noir grown on the same land.

Is that drool?

And that’s what Sinskey is all about. They’re bringing it home. They may sound like hippies, and their logo may look like a yin-yang. They’ve got that “Indie rock band won’t sell out” thing going on.I’m so glad for that. Their wines wouldn’t be the same - and they wouldn’t be nearly as good.

My friend and I absolutely loved their Pinot Noir with our dinners. In fact, she asked me to bring another bottle on our next night out. Seeing as it’s now summer, I’ll pick up their Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, fully confident she’ll love it.

Read what Rob says on the Sinskey Vineyards blog and you’ll get a small snapshot of their philosophy: “We wanted to make wines that would not only make you want to finish the glass, but the bottle - and leave you wanting more! We wanted to make pure, living wines with a distinct character and a vibrancy that allowed them to work with the food on your table.”

I think they’ve succeeded.


Stacy comes to Wine Library from the production side of the industry. After studying agriculture in college, she found herself working at a local winery and, at harvest season, snacking on as many Pinot Noir grapes as she could take before the winemaker noticed. She enjoys reading, hiking, and scoping out what's in season at the local farmers' markets.

Item: 86297

750 mL

Retail: $49.99

$30.99 per btl

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750 mL

Retail: $31.99

$24.98 per btl