“It must have been something in the air in Brunswick, Maine,” Foolhardy Vintners co-founder Jonathan Edelman wryly says of starting a winery.
Edelman’s freshman year roommate at Brunswick’s Bowdoin College was Hugh Davies, now long-time president of Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga, California. Another classmate a year behind was Nick Peay, now of Peay Vineyards in Cloverdale, California. Bowdoin was also where Edelman met friend and Foolhardy co-founder Daniel Sogg, who lived across the hall freshman year.
Both Edelman and Sogg developed an appreciation for wine at a young age. Edelman’s best friend growing up in New York was a French-American whose father loved wine. Sogg, who grew up in Ohio outside of Cleveland, describes wine as “an essential part of my youth,” principally French wines. At college, the two became close friends.
Initially, Edelman’s interest was cooking. He cooked while at college and subsequently went to culinary school in France, working in Michelin star restaurants. After graduation, Sogg took a job at Brookline Liquor Mart, a Boston area wine retailer/importer. He subsequently spent a vintage working in Bordeaux at Le Vignoble André Lurton, which at the time included Chateau La Louvière, Clos Fourtet, and a group of other Bordeaux chateaux.
After his stint in the culinary world, Edelman worked various jobs, from vice president of business development at Lucent Technologies to a managing director at JP Morgan. In 2008, he started his own business advisory company and has worked with wineries, restaurants, and other businesses. Throughout that time, he retained a strong interest in wine, working harvest for over a decade at Remoissenet Père et Fils in Beaune, Burgundy. Edelman is close friends with former Wine Advocate reviewer Pierre Rovani, the person who first introduced him to Washington wine.
After returning to the US, Sogg spent nine years working at Wine Spectator in its San Francisco office as an assistant editor, focusing on wines from California and later New Zealand. He also frequently tasted wines from Washington, Oregon, and Australia. In 2009, he left to take a job representing Tonnellerie Cavin, a high-end French barrel producer located in Burgundy, where he continues to work today.
“Between [Wine] Spectator and the cooperage, it’s afforded me the opportunity to taste in cellars all over the West Coast,” says Sogg, who serves as Foolhardy’s winemaking lead, though the two make all important decisions in partnership.
When Edelman and Sogg decided to make the leap into the production side of the business, they looked to Washington.
“Washington State had a number of things that were very attractive to us. Vineyards are numbers one, two, and three,” Edelman says. “We were also starting at a point in time when there was an opportunity to get into some of the best vineyards in the state.”
“I don’t think there’s any other top-tier wine region where we could have come in and from the get-go had access to fruit sources of this caliber,” Sogg says.
In looking for vineyards to partner with, the pair put a premium on two things. First, finding sites that were naturally able to make wines that go well with food. “That’s important to us,” Edelman notes. The second is seeking out older vines.
“Old vines give you something that that no winemaking can replicate,” says Sogg. “I’m not saying they’re always better, but they give an intensity and a character that you can’t recreate.”
Foolhardy did its first crush in Woodinville in 2016 but quickly relocated production to Walla Walla. Edelman and Sogg both live there about half of the year as well.
“As somebody who had worked in a winery in Beaune, being near the vineyards and having the culture around me was part of the positive personal experience,” Edelman explains.
Starting out, Foolhardy produced a 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Left Bank-style wine called FH. The winery has subsequently added a Sauvignon Blanc, a Malbec, and a Red Willow-designated Cabernet Sauvignon. Other wines are coming, with production for the 2022 vintage approximately 1,700 cases across eight wines. All of the wines I have sampled to date have impressed.
“We’re purposely trying to have a family of wines that have some aesthetic and winemaking style, but are distinctive,” Edelman says. “Our aesthetic is much more about freshness, fruit, acid, food friendly-styled wine.” The red wines also spend significant time in bottle prior to release.
Foolhardy does not have a tasting room at present. Rather, the wines are sold direct-to-consumer via the winery’s website. Some are also sold through distribution.
Now far removed from their days at Bowdoin and six years into making wine at Foolhardy, Edelman and Sogg continue to be excited about wine. They are also firm believers in Washington.
“We like the camaraderie in Washington State,” Edelman says. “We like to say that it’s still a little bit of the wild west. We don’t have to fit into any model.”
“The potential is vast,” agrees Sogg. “There’s an opportunity here.”
And the name?
“We think it accurately captures the reality of starting a winery. You’ve got to be a little foolhardy,” Sogg says.