Santa Cruz Winery Shake-Up

Roudon-Smith owners split; Skov takes over Scotts Valley, Calif., facility

by Jane Firstenfeld
roudon-smith skov
Owner Al Drewke and winemaker Brandon Armitage will be continuing the Roudon-Smith Winery name.
Scotts Valley, Calif.—Despite local reports to the contrary, Roudon-Smith Winery is alive and well. Owners of the Santa Cruz Mountains pioneer, founded in 1972, have divided the assets: Both the label and the physical winery—with a new brand—will continue, albeit under separate ownership.

Annette and David Hunt, who purchased Roudon-Smith from its founders in 2003, remain in the Bean Creek Road winery built in 1978, operating under the new name, Skov Winery. The Hunts retain most of the winemaking equipment and are building a new home on the property. Al Drewke, who came in as a partner in 2005, is taking the Roudon-Smith Winery brand and much of the wine inventory and moving to an alternating-proprietorship warehouse in nearby Watsonville next month.

Brandon Armitage continues as winemaker for Roudon-Smith, although he may also consult with Skov, according to Annette Hunt. Skov (the “v” is silent) is Danish for “forest,” reflecting Hunt’s Danish roots and the winery’s woodsy setting. David Hunt, who still works as an engineer in Silicon Valley, serves as winemaker, and he is looking for an assistant.

Although Roudon-Smith was making some 6,000 cases annually, and the winery permit allows for up to 10,000 cases per year, Skov’s initial production will be about 1,000 cases, focused on Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($26/bottle) and Chardonnay, plus Zinfandel, and red and white blends retailing for less than $15 per bottle. “We want to hit that sweet spot,” Hunt said. “We want people to buy the wine and drink it, not put it away for special occasions.”

Hunt’s goal is a 60/40 split between direct-to-consumer and distributor sales; Skov already has signed up more than 50 wine club members, despite local regulations limiting the tasting room to Saturdays (and by appointment) only.

“We have a nice following,” Hunt commented. “We are planning to have a fun event at the winery once a month, including ‘unplugged’ music.” The Hunts have cleared out the upstairs space formerly used for bottling and storage. “It’s now a party room,” Hunt said. “It’s just missing a disco ball.”

She said she had instigated the split with Drewke.  “I saw we had different ways of doing business. Just like any relationship, it’s all about communication.”

roudon-smith skov
Skov tasting room manager Fred Reiss poses outside the winery with owners David and Annette Hunt.

Roudon-Smith takes a new route
In contrast to Skov’s quiet rural environment, Drewke hopes Roudon-Smith’s move to warehouse space being developed by vintner Mica Raas will provide more public access to the brand. Raas is currently making wine in Santa Cruz under his Mica Cellars label, which specializes in Bordeaux blends.

Roudon-Smith is scaling down production to about 3,000 cases this vintage, and eventually it will build back up to about 5,000 cases yearly of Central Coast Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the RSW Cuvée house red blend, Drewke said. “We’re also looking toward Paso Robles to source Syrah and Cabernet.”

Roudon-Smith is also aiming for a 60/40 DtC/distributor model, and Drewke thinks the new location, near busy Highway 101, will draw more visitors to the tasting room.

“We’re very excited about the move and continuing the brand,” he told Wines & Vines. “We think of it as a renaissance for the Roudon-Smith brand.”

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