inventorWhen I tell people why I love living in this wine-growing region, I always say it’s because of all the clever inventors we have in Wine Country.

These out-of-the-box thinkers run the gamut – from vintners to winemakers to brewers to vineyard workers to chefs to farmers.

Some of these clever artisans are those I’ve written about in stories. Others are those who I’m intent on learning more about.

I plan to chronicle this “Inventors in Wine Country” series by focusing on the most imaginative in recurring posts. Here’s my first:

Vinnie Cilurzo is no ordinary brewer. He’s even turned the head of renowned chef Thomas Keller who tapped him to make a specialty brew (White Apron) to serve in some of his restaurants.

Cilurzo’s highbrow artisan beers push the brewing envelope at Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewery.

Keller may be Cilurzo’s most high-profile fan, but it turns out he’s one of many.

The brewer has a cult following, with his February release of Pliny The Younger forcing his fans to wait for hours and line up for blocks to get into his Russian River Brewery on Fourth Street.

What sets Cilurzo apart from other brewers is his passionate experimentation, particularly when it comes to second fermentations. He’s a pioneer of aging beer in oak barrels.”

I tasted one of these barrel-aged brews called Supplication, a brown ale aged in a French oak, pinot noir barrel that had been partially filled with pitted dried cherries. It was a tasty concoction: pinot meets beer. The brown ale had notes of concentrated cherry, smoke and spice. Was it a beer or a wine? Who cares? The striking blend played well.

Natalie, Cilurzo’s wife and manager of the brewery, describes her husband and business partner as “very driven, very focused, a creative innovator.”

Cilurzo is a true Wine Country inventor. Keep an eye out for posts on others because our wine-growing region is fertile with them.