A West Coast Winemaker in Miami
By Jon Warech
Chris Radomski enjoying a glass of wine at The Standard.
When thinking of the best place to find a vintage Cabernet, Napa Valley probably comes to mind for a bottle of 2001, 2007, or even 2012. If you want a bottle of fine wine in Miami Beach in 2014, you have to ask a sommelier; grapes and sand don’t exactly mix. But for Chris Radomski, president of Hundred Acre Wine Group, Miami Beach is now officially wine country.
“Over time my family, especially my wife, always asked [me] where I wanted to end up,” says Radomski, who moved his family to Miami Beach from California last August. “As time went on, we decided we wanted to be in a place where we could spend the rest of our lives and raise our family.”
The move to Miami wasn’t the first time Radomski, 40, followed his gut instincts. Growing up in Canada, he earned a college degree in biochemistry and went on to law school (in Canada and at the University of Detroit Mercy) before moving to the Caribbean to work in finance. But by the mid-’90s, he decided to pursue his passion: wine.
Radomski on the deck at The Standard.
It started with a friendship. He and his partner, fellow Canadian Jayson Woodbridge, whom he met while skiing on Whistler Mountain, shared a love of wine and shook hands on acquiring property in Napa Valley to produce a small, single-vineyard Cabernet. “When we started the winery, we put everything we had into it,” he says of the bold move west. “It was an all-in proposition for us.”
The bet paid off in 2003, when they released their first vintage Hundred Acre Cabernet from their 2000 harvest. They made about 400 cases of the ultra-luxury cult wine, received a top rating from Robert Parker, and had a hit, which over the years has earned five perfect scores from the critics. “Before we made a Cabernet, we probably lined up 100 different Cabs and French wines and not only tasted them but also went to the regions where they’re produced, looked at the soils, and gained that knowledge,” Radomski says.
Since the first batch, the business has grown to include four more wine brands: Cherry Pie Pinot Noir, a small production out of Napa; Cherry Tart Pinot from Central Coast, California; Layer Cake Wines, sourced and produced from vineyards in California, Argentina, Spain, and Italy; and If You See Kay, a Cabernet-based wine from vineyards in Lazio, Italy.
At the winery in Napa, testing recipes for Layer Cake’s cooking journal.
While Radomski and his wife, Gina, relocated from California to Miami so their four children could be in a good school system and surrounded by the city’s “great mix of cultures,” the move also makes sense business-wise because of Hundred Acre’s international clientele. “I still have a significant West Coast travel component, but in terms of working and marketing our brands and running the business around the country, [living in Miami is] not such a big deal. Dallas is close, [so is] Chicago and the whole Eastern Seaboard. California is really the only big travel ticket. For the rest of our brand, I travel around the world, so Miami is a great place to travel out of.”
It also helps that his distributor, Southern Wine & Spirits, is located right here in Miami Lakes. Keeping the distributors excited about the brand is part of the job, so the idea of being able to call up a top representative and take him or her to Prime 112 on any given day is yet another business perk.
Things at home are also going well. Between the neighbors and the families at the kids’ schools, new friends of all different nationalities, cultures, and religions surround Radomski and his family. “I have to say that it’s been interesting just to meet and interact with these people,” he says. “In my daughter’s school, I think there are kids from 40 different countries.”
And new friends for Radomski usually lead to new business, so while time will tell whether this year will produce a successful vintage, there is no doubt that, both personally and professionally, 2014 looks to be a very good year for him.
photography by gary james
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.