In 1993, Joel and his brother Duncan scraped together the money to purchase Palisades Market in Calistoga, transforming the small market into a retail shop with gourmet prepared foods and fine wines. Running the market gave Joel an education in business and a view of the wine industry that allowed him to spot the need for quality, value wines in the marketplace.
Maxing out his credit cards, Joel purchased several tons of Zinfandel from family friend and grape grower Tom Dillian in 1996. He made the wine with the help of his then-girlfriend and winemaker Sarah, whom he married the following year. Praised by the Wine Spectator, the Wine Advocate and the New York Times, Zinfandel helped put Joel Gott wines on the map, and gave Joel the chance to produce additional varietals.
In 1999, Joel spotted another opportunity when a historic St. Helena burger stand came up for lease. Planning to lease only the parking lot for a produce stand, Joel and Duncan decided to rebuild Taylor’s Refresher (now named Gott’s Roadside). The stand quickly became famous for its gourmet burgers and milkshakes. Two additional locations followed in San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace and in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market.
Joel then partnered with Charles Bieler and Roger Scommegna on the upstart wine brand Three Thieves in 2001. Now partnered with Trinchero Family Estates, the two companies produce Bandit, The Show and Newman’s Own. In May 2009, Joel announced a joint venture with Trinchero Family Estates for the marketing and distribution of Joel Gott Wines. Just a year later, Joel partnered with Napa Valley winemaker Dave Phinney and Trinchero Family Estates to produce Shatter, a French Grenache.