Stew Lauterbach grew up in the Chicago area where he developed a love for the outdoors and became an accomplished swimmer. In college, he pursued aquatic sports and taught canoeing and kayaking – often running trips to Canada. During this time he also became a volunteer firefighter and paramedic, which led to his ambition to pursue a medical degree.
Barbara Swary Lauterbach grew up on a farm outside a small rural town in Northwest Ohio. She spent many days of her childhood driving the tractor on her family’s 40 acre farm where the primary crops were winter wheat, oats, alfalfa, soybeans and corn. In this small town, the primary occupations for girls were nursing or teaching – and Barb chose nursing, pursuing her degree in the much larger metropolis of Cincinnati.
Stew met Barb in Cincinnati where he completed his medical degree at The renowned University of Cincinnati. Here they began a 25 year relationship that encompassed their love of adventure, travel, medicine, and, eventually, wine. Upon Stew’s completion of medical school, a residency computer match sent the young couple to Highland Hospital in Oakland, California in 1981, where Stew completed his emergency medicine training.
In California, they soon discovered hiking in the Sierras and the Coastal Range and eventually took a sabbatical to explore the inland waters of Alaska by sailboat. On this trip, the Lauterbachs had a revelation that eventually led them to Sonoma County and Stew’s position in an Emergency Department at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
In this new paradise, Stew and Barb found a ranch in the Russian River Valley, an area famed for grape growing. Here they planted Pinot Noir and Syrah, varietals that flourish in the area.
While Barb enjoyed nursing, the desire for a more flexible schedule and the arrival of son Nathan led to her pursuit of a law degree. Now Barb combines both her medical and legal interests in her position as Director of Legal Services for the Council on Aging of Sonoma County.
Stew has taken on the role of grape grower and winemaker, while continuing to work 11 shifts a month in the County’s trauma center, a job he loves. This stressful medical role is balanced by the patience and tranquility necessary to produce world-class wines in one of California’s most popular wine producing regions. Barb and Nathan are at his side, enjoying the agricultural lifestyle while winning awards for excellent Syrah and Pinot Noir. For this adventurous family, winemaking remains a challenge with great rewards.
Vineyard operations are performed by Lee Martinelli Jr.. Lee is a next door neighbor and farmer extraordinaire. He won the Sonoma County young farmer of the year award in 2004 and manages his own properties as well as our land. Lee comes from a family with over 80 years in the Sonoma County wine industry.
The relationship with Lee has been like dying and going to heaven. He is a perfectionist, who treats the land like his own and has a crew that is incredibly compulsive and efficient. Communications and cooperation could not be better.
Every effort has been taken to farm in an environmentally sustainable way. After all, we know that without healthy land there would be no grapes or great wine. Every year we have been reducing chemicals while continually producing incredible fruit.
Twenty-two years of representing the Napa Valley and its wines around the world gave Ziata Wines
owner/founder Karen Cakebread the desire and know-how to develop her own wine brand, which she
named in honor of her mother and officially launched in March 2008.
Karen is a well-known representative of and cheerleader for the Napa Valley. Her wine experience
started with Cakebread Cellars, for which she worked for 18 years. While living in Hong Kong, she
assisted with the winery’s marketing efforts in Hong Kong and in Singapore. After moving to the Napa
Valley in 1989, she oversaw the winery’s educational, corporate hospitality and international marketing
efforts. She also managed the winery’s American Harvest Workshop, an annual event that brings
together noted chefs, artisan food purveyors and media to help build awareness and improve the
availability and marketability of American wine and food products.
Karen has also worked tirelessly to promote the Napa Valley through her involvement with the
Napa Valley Vintners, the non-profit trade organization responsible for promoting and protecting the
appellation and its wines. She served on the association’s Board of Directors for four years and has
chaired various marketing committees. In addition, she has served on the steering committee for its
annual fundraiser, Auction Napa Valley—the world’s largest charity wine auction—and was a co-chair
when Cakebread Cellars chaired the Auction in 2006.
Living and working abroad fed Karen’s sense of adventure and her passion for exploring the world,
and her journeys—beyond work-related travel—have taken her through Nepal, Turkey, Mongolia and
India. She was also a founding board member of Elaine Mackie Charitable Trust, which raised money for
breast cancer research by “trekking” mountains around the world, including Mt. Kilimanjaro, with other
like-minded Napa Valley women, including Paula Kornell, Nancy (Andrus) Duckhorn, Janice Mondavi and
And as much as she enjoys exploring the world, Karen’s roots are now firmly planted in Calistoga,
where she lives among her newly established Sauvignon Blanc vines (watch for an estate Sauvignon Blanc
in a few years) with Pearl and Moet, her lovable Labradors.