Rachel and Sami Ruddick: youthful sister winemakers
These sisters are best friends, roommates and run a winery together—it’s the dream.
Rachel and Sami Ruddick are sisters, best friends, roommates—and they run a business together. Their family has owned a vineyard in Ukiah for generations, and using the grapes, the sisters recently started a small-batch winery called Largo Ridge Wines.
Whenever there’s business to discuss, the women take to the back wall of the cavernous midtown coffeehouse, Identity Coffee. Laptops open, the sisters might be examining their business’ website, designed by Rachel.
On their website, Sami and Rachel double as models, pictured holding glasses and bottles. Rachel, 22, also designed the winery’s labels, while Sami, 25 is more focused on the winery’s business components. They enjoy what they do, something apparent in their omnipresent enthusiasm. SN&R sat down with the pair to talk wine.
How did this all happen, two sisters running a winery?
Sami: We are technically the fifth generation of our family growing grapes. Right now our dad runs the ranch. We sell our grapes to other wineries, but no one in our family has ever before made wine with our grapes. … I had an internship with a winery that ended. I asked my dad what he thought about experimenting with some grapes. My sister was in art school, she knew all about marketing, so we put our heads together and decided to do it.
What kind of acreage of grapes are we talking about?
Sami: Since we do sell to commercial wineries, we have about 100 or 125 acres, but we also have pears, with about the same amount. For the wines we’re making, it’s less than an acre.
What’s it like financially, running a winery at such a young age?
Rachel: It was an investment for our family and us. Our family helped us get started a lot. We are hoping to grow a lot so that it will be a mutually [beneficial] relationship for all of us.
You live here, but the winery is in Ukiah. You must know the route really well.
Sami: It’s like, exactly 102 miles away. I look on my GPS all the time. On a typical weekend, we are rushing back and forth all of the time. We are trying to make the best of it.
How long have the two of you had an interest in wine?
Sami: Since high school, I knew I might want to take over from my dad someday, and I was super interested in the wine industry. I’ve experimented with wine and loved wine for a long time. It just came naturally.
Rachel: We were always exposed to wine growing up in the wine industry, so it’s just always been around, and family has always talked about it.
Can you tell me about your wine?
Rachel: Our first vintage was 2016 cabernet. It takes about two years to finish cabs. With our chardonnay, which we just released, it was our 2017. It doesn’t take as long.
What have your friends said about your wines?
Sami: Everyone loves our labels. Rachel designed them. When it comes to the wines, they’re different. They are lighter, more approachable wines. A cabernet traditionally is a big, heavy wine. Our cab is not. It has all the characteristics of a cab, but it’s lighter and smoother. You can drink it without food. A lot of people don’t necessarily like a cab, but they like ours.
Where is the wine available?
Rachel: It’s available online now on our website, but it will soon be available in some stores and restaurants. Hook & Ladder just started serving our cab on its by-the-glass list, so that’s super exciting for us. The owner let us know it was going to be on the menu. We’ve been in twice already.
Have you had pitfalls?
Sami: Oh my gosh. We had no idea how to start a business, for one, and a wine business, for two. There have been so many roadblocks, with Rachel being in school and me moving here. It’s been really difficult but worth it.
Rachel: We definitely made some mistakes in the beginning, and some mistakes that cost us some money, but we’ve come back from that. And luckily, we are starting small with the hopes of growing big, rather than putting everything into it and then not getting anything in return.
Have you ever experienced any adversity in your business because of your gender?
Sami: We have experienced people in the industry just not us taking seriously because we are a different face.
Rachel: A lot of times in the wine industry, you just don’t see faces of who’s making the wine. … It’s more of an image … But for our brand, we want people to get to know us.