In 1996, Joel purchased a few tons of Zinfandel from family friend and grape grower Tom Dillian. With the help of then-girlfriend—and winemaker at Joseph Phelps—Sarah, Joel produced his first vintage of Dillian Ranch Amador County Zinfandel. The wine received praise from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, which was all the encouragement Joel needed to produce additional varietals.
A Sauvignon Blanc followed in 1998, and the year after he and Sarah produced California appellation Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon by shopping the entire state for the best fruit, creating a wine shaped by various regions instead of a single estate. This style and commitment to quality wines blended from hand-selected vineyards helped guide the direction of Joel Gott Wines.
In 2003, 815 was added to the California Cabernet Sauvignon label to celebrate the birth of Joel and his wife Sarah’s first daughter Lucy on August 15th. That same year, Alisa Jacobson was hired as the assistant winemaker, and the following year Sarah left her position as winemaker at Quintessa to focus on a growing family and winemaking at Joel Gott Wines.