Eric Sussman, Winegrower/Proprietor
Eric Sussman established Radio-Coteau in 2002. Born and raised in New York, Eric graduated from Cornell University, with a degree in Agricultural Systems and Environmental Sciences, with a focus in sustainable viticulture.
Harvesting the Radio-Coteau estate vineyard in 2015
After graduation, Eric moved to Yakima, Washington, eventually becoming the winemaker at Staton Hills (now Sagelands, owned by Chalone). Realizing that he needed to spend some time in France, he immersed himself in old-world techniques and was present for two exceptional vintages in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1995, he worked at Chateau Baron Phillipe de Rothschild in Paulliac. In 1996, Eric moved to Burgundy to learn more about that region and natural winemaking, working at Comte Armand in Pommard and Jacques Prieur in Meursault. It was from winemaker Pascal Marchand (of Comte Armand) that Eric first learned about biodynamic principles. Rounding out his period in France, he studied in Beaune and visited many of the great cellars and vineyards in France.
In 1997, Eric headed back to California to work at Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz, then settled in Sonoma County in 1998 to become associate winemaker at Dehlinger, where he stayed until he started Radio-Coteau in 2002.
Harvesting Alberigi Vineyard, August 2015
Radio-Coteau, which is slang in French for "word of mouth," produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel from select, cool-climate coastal vineyard sites in Western Sonoma County and Anderson Valley. Radio-Coteau has long-term vineyard contracts with small, family-owned vineyards that are farmed sustainably, organically and biodynamically (one vineyard, Terra Neuma, is certified biodynamic).
Picking the Radio-Coteau estate vineyard under a setting full moon
Radio-Coteau employs many of the natural winemaking techniques Eric learned in France. Primary and secondary fermentations occur from native yeasts, very little sulfur is added, only free-run juice is used and the wines are racked only once, at the time of bottling. Bottling occurs in-house on their own line, offering better control over the timing of a critical step in the winemaking process. The Radio-Coteau winery has been Demeter certified since 2008.
One of the goats on the farm
In 2012, Radio-Coteau acquired a historic wine ranch in West Sonoma County, which sits on a ridge above the town of Occidental. The farm is a diverse agroecosystem, with livestock, fruit trees and a large, productive garden; well-draining Goldridge soils are found throughout the property. The vineyard is dry-farmed, and contains several blocks of zinfandel vines that are over 80 years old, as well as a block of syrah. In 2014, Radio-Coteau planted 10 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the farm.
County Line Vineyards is the companion label to Radio-Coteau; the wines are made using the same winemaking techniques and in the same winery as Radio-Coteau. The intention is to work with exceptional vineyard sources to create naturally made, appellation-based wines, in an approachable style.