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In the tradition-steeped wine industry an appellation can take decades, if not centuries, to establish itself as a source of consistently noteworthy wines. Armed with the knowledge that theirs is a distinct corner of the viticultural world, a small but tenacious group of growers and winemakers in Mendocino County’s Yorkville Highlands have begun to turn heads with wines from this young appellation. The Yorkville Highlands appellation consists of approximately 40,000 acres straddling Highway 128 between the Alexander Valley to the southeast and the Anderson Valley to the northwest. The appellation was first approved in 1998 and has since increased its acreage nearly six-fold, with its largest plantings in Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.
Emboldened by the great fruit produced by the land, its owner and founder, Theodora R. Lee aka Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards, a bold and dynamic Texan and San Francisco trial lawyer, is now bottling her own award winning wines. In addition to bottling the richly intense and flavorful Petite Sirah and Rosé of Petite Sirah, Theopolis Vineyards strikes a lighter note by bottling a Symphony, a white wine, which is a crossing of Muscat and Grenache Gris. Theopolis Vineyards also bottles an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir and a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.
Ms. Theodora Lee, a senior partner and trial lawyer at Littler, founded Theopolis Vineyards in 2003. Her passion for wine began upon her arrival to San Francisco from Texas in 1987, primarily due to the influence of her law firm mentors, many of whom owned vineyards. This led Ms. Lee to take several viticulture classes at UC Davis, before deciding to develop her own vineyard. In 2001, Ms. Lee purchased sheep land in the Yorkville Highlands of Anderson Valley, and began developing her vineyard. This process was quite complex from clearing land, doing soil tests, obtaining permits to remove some trees, drilling an agricultural well, and terracing the property. Finally, in 2003, Ms. Lee planted her 5 acre vineyard. Ms. Lee adopted her Greek name from pledging Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and established Theopolis Vineyards.