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The Story Behind Cypher Winery

So, people continue to ask, why Cypher? After growing Four Vines to 140,000 cases, Christian and I longed for the old days of running and working a smaller winery. I was anxious to get out from behind my desk of number-crunching madness and re-claim my title of "Mother-Trucker." (Yes, I hauled grapes from our many vineyards at pre-dawn, death-o-clock in the morning runs during the months of harvest in our early years as a winery.) I longed to get back into the vineyards and enjoy the diversity of daily responsibilities required in running a smaller operation. While Christian loved developing and growing the Naked Chard and OVC projects, he wanted to dedicate his time towards pushing his creativity with high-end "extreme winemaking." So, here we are…. on the other side, loving life.

Have you ever really looked at the Louis Cypher label? It is a window into the creative and insane mind of the Zinbitch. How in the world does he blend 12 eclectic varietals to create a wine that comes together so beautifully? Unconventional?.....Yes. Massive vision?...Yes. Years of creative development in the making?...Yes.

Having just sold out of the 2008 vintage, I stared at one last empty bottle and contemplated our new world as Cypher Winery. It's been 1.5 years since we sold our Four Vines brand and re-grouped the Freaks under our new Cypher label. The months were consumed with brainstorming sessions, vineyard meetings with growers, mad blending sessions by the Zinbitch, label design, bottling and most important - releasing our line-up of new Cypher wines. We are proud and thrilled with the outcome…. The Zinbitch, as always, Rocked It!! Full Speed, full contact winemaking…pushing the extreme.

The thought behind naming our new label Cypher was that the process of growing and creating a fantastic wine is like unlocking a puzzle or riddle. There is no play book, no recipe….whenever you deal with mother nature, you are certain to be thrown curve balls. Winemaking is no exception, and without blending enough art into the science you will fall short of extraordinary. Winemaking by the numbers equals boring, uninteresting, "safe" wines. Yaaaaaaaawwwwwn.

Nothing great comes without risk and passion, and our team has never fallen short in either of those areas. Back in the early days of developing our Four Vines label (working out of a glorified bike shed behind a Victorian house in severe stages of remodeling) we created our first 4V OVC Zin. The funding for this project came from a credit card cash advance combined with maxing out my Berkeley grad student loans. A little nerve-racking, but we never looked in the rear view mirror. The move to focus on hi-end wines in a down economy can be considered a bit insane, but we have never been shy of insanity either.

"7 "Eccentric" Geniuses Who Were Clearly Just Insane (borrowed from
History is full of insane geniuses. Humans who mentally put the petal to metal and sometimes through the floor. Here are 7 brilliant men who seemingly over-revved the neurological engine; who watched as the gearbox and chassis of their brains flew off onto to roadside and kept on accelerating.

7. Pythagoras – Greek mathematician
6. Lord Byron – English Poet
5. Tycho Brahe – Danish Astronomer
4. Michelangelo – Italian Painter
3. Nikola Tesla – Physicist & Engineer
2. Empedocles – Greek Scientist and Philosopher
1. Yukio Mishima – Japanese author"

And our vote for eccentric genius #0 ……drum roll please….our own beloved Zinbitch, Paso Winemaker and Firestarter. We are stoked to have you join our pack of insane Cypher-loving Freaks. This new winemaking journey as Cypher will continue to push the art of winemaking. Enjoy the ride.

Yours in Anarchy,
SAM ZinPunk



Christian Tietje

Christian Tietje
aka "ZinBitch"

Susan Mahler

Susan Mahler
aka "ZinPunk"
(Queen Executive Officer)


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