• 65mag

Red Stitch Wine Hits a Homerun

By Nora Heston Tarte | Photos by Bob McClanahan

The name might give it away. Red Stitch Wine Group is owned by a couple of Major League Baseball players. If the winery’s moniker doesn’t make it obvious, then a quick reading of the owners list, which includes Rich Aurilia (who played 11 seasons with the San Francisco Giants) and his former Giants teammate and current Dodger’s manager, Dave Roberts, will spark recognition for most locals. The other four owners are Aurilia’s wife, Amy, Roberts’ wife, Tricia, and John and Noelle Micek, a couple the two Major Leaguers met through Bay Area wine tasting parties while they were playing in San Francisco.

The wines are available direct-to-consumer through the company’s website (at $50 to $150 per bottle) and in select local restaurants and wine shops. The 2020 portfolio includes standouts such as three single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, a singlevineyard Chardonnay, and the flagship wine, a Napa Cabernet blended with less than 2 percent of Malbec.

Aurilia’s desire to start a wine label came in 2007, during his final seasons with the Giants, predating his retirement by two years. He knew that his baseball career would soon end and wanted to get his next venture underway. Growing up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, he was surrounded by basement wine makers, and wine was a big part of the food experience at home.

“It was always a passion of mine, something I loved, and something I still love today,” says Aurilia about wine. In 1997, he began soaking up more wine knowledge from the foodie scene in San Francisco. “[There], you have access to great restaurants and great wine lists,” he explains. When they weren’t practicing or on the road, Aurilia and Roberts attended blind tastings. During a Malbec blind tasting, they met John Micek and bonded over their shared passion for vino.

When an injury forced Roberts to step down from playing, he brought Aurilia a slew of wine-related ideas that included opening a wine shop. Ultimately, both wanted to be more involved in the process, and they settled on launching a boutique wine label focused on producing the Napa Cabernets they loved. “It was a total new ballgame for us, learning all the ins and outs of the wine industry,” says Aurilia, who owns a home in Healdsburg.

One of their main goals was to create wine that tasted good, not to simply slap their names on a product to try and sell it. The name, an obvious nod to baseball, came from Roberts’ brother-in-law. Aurilia says it’s subtle enough, but admits that his celebrity in the Bay Area may help sell bottles. It certainly gives him an edge when he’s handling the daily sales and marketing duties.

In addition to the three families, a winemaker on staff handles the products from start to finish and manages operations. Aurilia, Roberts, and Micek attend bottlings, blendings and harvests, tasting the wines each step of the way and giving input on barrel type and aging processes. Aurilia is also involved in the company’s day-to-day operations.

Ultimately, Aurilia doesn’t want to be known as a baseball player who makes wine. “We take a lot of pride in what we do,” he says. “We want to be looked at as serious vintners and people that make a high-quality wine.”

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