The first time Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf came to Sonoma County wine country, it wasn’t for the Pinot Noir. It was for the Peanuts.
Over a glass of her light and chalky, Provence–style 2018 Hay Penny Rosé ($19), Ducrocq Weinkauf explains how she was a fan of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts gang long before she cared a whit about California wine. When a conference brought her to San Francisco, she stole away to visit a dream destination: the Charles M. Schulz Museum, then only a part of the Snoopy Ice Arena.
After enduring hours on North Bay buses, she arrived at closing time, and pleaded with the attendant—she’d come all the way from France! Ultimately, she enjoyed a friendly tour.
Although she’s a native of France, and her family enjoyed wine, a career in wine didn’t seem approachable to Ducrocq Weinkauf.
It wasn’t until she was in Chile, working for a forestry products company, that she got interested in studying wine and working for wineries. There she met Paul Hobbs, the international winemaker based in Russian River Valley. Had she heard of it? No, Ducrocq Weinkauf laughs, recalling their conversation. Napa Valley? Nope. Then she asked, excitedly, “Is it near Santa Rosa?” The winemaker was dumbfounded. Santa Rosa?
After working for Hobbs in Argentina, Ducrocq Weinkauf moved to Sonoma County. But here again, everyday wine seemed less approachable. “I thought, ‘Wow, it’s going to be really expensive to drink wine that I like . . . I’m French, I never drink just one glass.'” So she started Picayune Cellars with a friend in Napa Valley.
The idea, at first, was to make a little wine they and their friends could enjoy, and sell some to bring down the cost. Well, the quality of the balanced, fruit-forward but food-friendly wine she blends from top sources, and the prices—for the area—proved popular. Now, she’s the sole proprietor of a tasting room and eclectic boutique in Calistoga.
Ducrocq Weinkauf explains the merchandise aspect: “It started with the knife and the blanket.” Her hometown is near France’s cutlery capital, and she imports Laguiole and Thiers knives from family owned businesses like Jean Dubost, Jean Neron and Goyon Chazeau. She’s also a fan of Native American jewelry from New Mexico artists, and Pendleton blankets may be found alongside French linens from Jacquard Francais and Tissage Moutet. It’s all, and only, about stuff she likes and has found in her travels, Ducrocq Weinkauf says, and much of it’s from woman–owned enterprises. “Because we have some catching up to do!”
Picayune Cellars, 1329 Lincoln Ave. Suite B, Calistoga. Daily, 11am–6pm; Sat, 10am–6pm; Tues by appt. 707.888.9885.