Secret to Three Sticks Wine: Never crush the grape

Bill Price III left the stodgy private equity world in 2006 to invest his time and money into the wine world.

He is now the proprietor of Classic Wines, LLC and Price Family Vineyards, LLC, which has invested in Durell Vineyard, Gap's Crown Vineyard, Buccella Winery, Kistler Vineyards.  He is also chairman of Kosta Browne and Gary Farrell Winery.

But along the way, he decided he needed own label -- and called it Three Sticks because he was known as “Billy Three Sticks” growing up surfing in Hawaii.

So in 2002, he started a boutique, family-owned winery committed to creating small-lot, artisanal wines.

But he needed a wine maker. And that’s where Don Van Staaveren comes in.

Van Staaveren started out in 1976 as a crush temp at Chateau St. Jean winery and worked his way up to winemaker by 1985.

As winemaker, he tried to find gentler ways to handle grapes and never crushes them. “I didn’t want any macerated grapes,” he says.

His gentleness paid off. Chateau St. Jean became the first ever winery to have five wines featured in Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100.

And that’s right about when Billy Three Sticks scooped him up.

They had met a few times before, but it wasn’t until 2004 that Price extended the job offer.

Now Van Staaveren is working in California's Sonona Valley to create some amazing Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that are the result of the rocky volcanic soils of the Durell Vineyards.

And that’s not the best part about Van Staaveren.  He also creates special cookie recipes for each new release from Three Sticks. His Pinot Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe combines nutmeg, coconut, walnuts and extra chocolate chips for a chunky bite that’s best enjoyed with a Pinot Noir.

Wine and cookies.  The grown-up snack.