Food & Drink

February 13, 2011

Interview with Ellman Family Vineyards, South Florida’s local vintners

Back in October I attended the Gaja wine dinner at Casa D’Angelo and met Neil Ellman. We talked about his family business which included Ellman Family Vineyards and of course I jumped all over this and invited him to speak to my wine appreciation class about being a vintner; it was here that Neil brought both the Ellman Family Vineyards Alexis Skye and Jemma to my class for the students to taste it was also my first taste of the Ellman wines. Alexis Skye is a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast and Jemma is a proprietary blend made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. The wines are lovely and speak for themselves. I’ll be writing more about the wines in the coming weeks as I’ve been invited to taste the newly released wines with Lance and Neil Ellman.

Lance and Neil Ellman

Lance and Neil Ellman are the brothers behind Ellman Family Vineyards and live full time in Fort Lauderdale and commute to California where the inner workings of Ellman Family Vineyards takes place. Ellman Family Vineyards is a relatively new player in the wine world but certainly not a lightweight as all the wines in the portfolio have been received with great accolades from wine buyers and restaurateurs alike, having been placed in some of the top restaurants in South Florida. The spotlight interview today introduces readers and wine enthusiasts alike to Ellman Family Vineyards, South Florida’s local vintners and California’s new boutique wine contender.

South Florida Food and Wine: How did it come about that you became vintners?
Ellman Family Vineyards: Our passion for wine extends over 20 years. Being born in South Africa and moving to the United States at a young age, led us to travel and experience food and wine from different parts of the world. Neil, living in California in the early 90’s let him to experience the Napa Valley in which he immediately fell in love. Eventually though many friends and connections we decided to make our own wine.

South Florida Food and Wine: If you had to classify your wine, what type is it? (value, moderate, cult) And why did you choose this classification?
Ellman Family Vineyards: Because we this more of a passion for us, we strive to make the very best wines we can. We will always limit our production to make sure we get the quality we are accustomed to. So in a nutshell, being only a few hundred cases of wine, I guess that puts us as boutique winery that is beginning to have a cult following.

South Florida Food and Wine: How many wines do you currently make?
Ellman Family Vineyards: In 2011 we introduced 2 new wines, bringing our total to 4. We have two distinct Pinot Noirs, our Alexis Skye from the Sonoma Coast (100 cases), comes from a very special vineyard called Gap’s Crown. And our new Amanda, a Russian River Pinot (50 cases) from the exclusive Amber Ridge vineyard. We then move into our blends with B.B. (brother’s blend) (75 cases) which is a 60% cab / 40% merlot blend from Napa Valley. A lot of the fruit comes from the Beckstoffer vineyards in Napa Valley and finally our Jemma (125 cases), primarily cabernet with a majority of the fruit sourced from Beckstoffers famous Georges III vineyard.

South Florida Food and Wine: At this time your portfolio is made up of red wines are there plans for a white or sparkling wine in the future?
Ellman Family Vineyards: Our focus is to make the best red wines we can. Our wine team is focused on reds. This will stay our focus. Although, we never say never.

South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most challenging thing about being a vintner?
Ellman Family Vineyards: The most challenging thing is relying on nature to produce the best fruit possible. Which can change year to year, this is one of the deciding factors in choosing Northern California for our vineyard sources and winemaking.

South Florida Food and Wine: Where can your wine be purchased?
Ellman Family Vineyards: About 50% of our wine is sold on a first come, first serve basis via our website. ( You can purchase our wines now and I would hurry because they are selling through quickly. We then selected the finest restaurants in Southern Florida, Southern California and Colorado to place our wines. We also sell a few exclusive retailers. We are very picky about who we sell to.

South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to share a bottle of your wine with and why?

Neil Ellman- I would love to sit down with Jack Nicholson one of my favorite actors and talk about his experiences in making some of my favorite movies. For that, I would probably go with the Jemma.

Lance Ellman- I am a huge fan of the winemaker Robert Foley, I would love to spend some time getting to know him and getting his opinion on all four of our wines.

South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your quaff and meal be?

Neil Ellman- at the moment I’m in the mood for a 1961 Latour and a fine steak. The balance between the two would be perfection.

Lance Ellman- I would love to sit down with a bottle of 1994 Harland Estate and some wonderful cheeses from around the world. Nothing would make me happier.

South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at and did you order your wine?

Neil Ellman- I’m always searching for new and exciting restaurants. I was home in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday so we did start at my house introducing the new B.B. to a group of my friends. We then went to Dos Caminos a New Mexican restaurant with other locations in New York. The food was excellent, but I was in a beer mode that evening and enjoyed drinking some very powerful Belgian ales. We did start at my house introducing the new B.B. to a group of my friends.

Lance Ellman- On Saturday evening, we tried a place called Café Sharaku. A hidden gem in Fort Lauderdale. The theme was French Asian and the restaurant only had 18 seats. Going with the theme, my wife and I decided to order a few bottles of excellent Sake.

South Florida Food and Wine: Other than your own wine, what is your wine of choice?

Neil Ellman- tough question. I love all wines it depends on my mood. Last night for example we explored a very small cult producer from Central California making Rhone style wines. The wine was over the top and evolved over a couple of hours. It was magical!!!

Lance Ellman- Two wines come to mind immediately. From the other end of the pond, one of my favorite Bordeaux chateau would be Ducru Beacaillou , of course the good vintages are spectacular. From California, the portfolio of wines from BOND stand out as some of my favorites.

Follow Ellman Family Vineyards on Twitter and Facebook
Visit the Ellman Family Vineyards Website
Join the Ellman Family Vineyards mailing list to receive regular updates and information on new releases

Click here to read more from the Spotlight Series


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