Lone Buffalo Vineyards unveils new location, tasting room

By: Gloria Young, Reporter
-A +A

Lone Buffalo Vineyards tasting room
Where: 7505 Wise Road, Auburn (entrance on Buttes View Lane)
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday
On the Web:  lonebuffalovineyards. com
Phone: (916) 663-4486 or (530) 823-1159

Showcasing the foothills for the wines that grow best here is what drives Auburn’s Lone Buffalo Vineyards and has brought awards and sold-out vintages along the way. Now owners Phil, Jill and their daughter Jocelyn Maddux have moved the winery from Burgard Lane to a larger site off Wise Road.
“The business naturally expanded along with the whole wine industry in Placer County,” Jocelyn Maddux said. “There was no room (at the Burgard Lane location) to accommodate that.”
The new site gives them 12 acres. A recently completed 2,400-square-foot building houses the tasting room as well as production and storage.
The move was more about consolidation than expansion, Phil Maddux said. At the old location, the initial processing of the grapes took place in a different building. Now it will all be done in one place.
“It won’t make any difference in terms of how we do it, but it will make it more efficient,” he said.
Once they decided they needed more room, it took the Madduxes nearly three years to find the right property and complete the required paperwork and approvals.
“It was important to continue here in the Auburn community,” Jill Maddux said. “It’s not an easy task finding the proper zoning and working through the county permitting process.  We’re staying in Auburn and are still very connected to the community that has helped us grow.”
The new tasting room reflects the winery’s Western ranch theme and buffalo inspiration.
“We’ve had a long history enjoying the buffalo for the great American animal it is, as well as our wine,” Jill Maddux said. “So it was how do we take that building and give it that buffalo flair — fit for cowboys and kings? And I think we nailed it.”
There are still a few finishing touches to complete, but that didn’t impact the tasting room’s mid-January opening.
Lone Buffalo, established in 2007, produces 1,200 cases a year and Phil Maddux anticipates some increase in production but not an extensive expansion.
“We can see an increase within a year with the 2013 vintage, which comes onto the market two years later,” he said. “(There could be) an increase to the 1,500-case level and it may go higher than that. But we don’t anticipate getting bigger than 2,000 cases a year.”
Keeping the small, family boutique winery atmosphere is a priority.
“It’s important for us to have the time to connect with our customers, so our goal is to stay boutique,” Jill Maddux said.
About a third of the winery’s production is from estate grapes, including from vines grown on the Burgard Lane property as well as a petit syrah vineyard on Slade Ridge Road and a zinfandel vineyard on Mt. Vernon Road that the family manages. The other two-thirds are from other Placer County and foothill growers, said Jocelyn Maddux, who also works as an aide to Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery.  
This spring, they’ll be planting syrah, zinfandel, tempranillo and malbec grapes at the new site.
“Malbec will be new for us and I’m not sure there are other malbec (grapes) growing in the county,” Phil Maddux said. “There’s been a tremendous upsurge of malbec, particularly from Argentina recently. More and more (growers) in California are planting it, including in El Dorado and Amador counties. It should do just as well in Placer. I like the wine and want to make some Malbec.”
  The climate is what really makes the difference.
“We choose the varietals we enjoy and that we know will grow great here in the foothills,” Jill Maddux said.
Phil Maddux has been making wine for more than four decades, starting in Sonoma County in the 1970s. He credits those long years of experience with producing his distinctive vintages.
“We do some things that make our wines very user friendly,” he said. “We are trying to produce wines that really express the terroir of Placer County. By that I mean bringing out the flavors that reflect the growing conditions. …When you taste my wines, they are not going to die on the back of your palate. They’re going to have a long finish. You’re going to taste them all the way down and it is going to be a pleasant experience.”
His wines have won numerous awards, including, most recently, a 2010 zinfandel that took a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition.
“We generally enter, at least what we consider to be, the two major competitions — the California State Fair and the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition,” he said. “We entered five wines in each and got five medals in each of those.”
One of the wine’s longtime fans is Nevada County resident and surgeon Gary Glaze, who was the wine club’s first member.
“I love wine and I’m starting to make wine myself,” he said. “The way I came in contact with (the Madduxes) is I read an article that profiled the winery and it seemed they were doing exactly what I wanted to do.
“I went over and sampled what they had and found out what a phenomenal winemaker Phil was. Their big flagship is their Rhone brand, Where the Buffalo Roam.”
“The first time I tasted their offering, I couldn’t believe how good it was. Depending on the year the grapes are better than others, but Phil brings out the best the grapes will offer that  year.
“Jill and Phil are very welcoming. Every time I’ve been to visit, it’s like old home week. They love having you there and engage you in intelligent conversation. I’m glad to see they are doing well and that they have a new home and expanded operation and will be able get their fine wines to even more people as a result.”
In addition to the tasting room and wine club, Lone Buffalo Vineyard wines are available at many area restaurants, Whole Foods, Total Wines and several upscale wine shops.
“We have a wonderfully growing wine club,” Jill Maddux said. “Most of our customers are from California but we do ship out of state. The business is very locally driven.”
And they sell out of all of their wine production each year.
For the Madduxes, having a successful winery is the fulfillment a longtime dream.
“We both have a passion for it,” Jill Maddux said. “He has a passion for making the wine and I enjoy the gratification of watching the things we’ve made and seeing people enjoy it. There’s a lot of heart, hard work and education to it. It’s a serious dedication and we enjoy it and it fulfills us. … We feel really blessed that the three of us all bring something to it. It’s really a family deal and we want to retain that quality.”