Chris Brockway

Winemaker + Owner

The Broc Cellars story begins with a move from Nebraska to California. Chris Brockway grew up in Omaha, where his stepfather always had wine on the table. Chris felt drawn to wine. Specifically spicy, brambly Zinfandels from California, and took the leap to move out West. He received an oenology degree from Fresno State and began making his first wine in 2002 – it was just one barrel. The following year he made three barrels, and by 2004 had 14 barrels of wine to call his own. Broc Cellars was born and had its first official release in 2006. At the time, the mentality surrounding California wines was “bigger is better”. Chris personally felt the wines to be too big, too much alcohol, too much everything. He set out to do something else. In 2008 he moved to his first winery space in Berkeley, which was originally known as Grape Leaf Cellars, located only one block away from where we are now. This is where Broc found its way.


Influences:

Chris had two major influences that paved the way. The first was a book called “Real Wine: The Rediscovery of Natural Winemaking” by Patrick Matthews that he read during school, not assigned, but on his own. The second was San Francisco’s first natural wine bar Terroir in its opening year. He learned about varieties and wines he had never heard of before. He tasted wines that woke up his palate and senses and left him wanting to create that same feeling.


Chris was also inspired by many restaurants in the Bay Area focusing on ingredients sourced locally and more simply prepared – the best way. He noticed most wine lists focused mainly on imported wines. What you eat influences what you drink and Chris wanted to make wines that complimented dishes. He wanted to bring back the history of California wines and what they were originally – great table wines. He set out to make lighter, fresher, lower alcohol wines that are more affordable. And so began the creative and learning process of making natural wines and where we are today.  


How we make wine:

Our goal in making wine is to bring out the natural expression of the grape. We start by using only native fermentations, a process that means we only use native yeasts and bacteria that exist on the grapes in order to make wine. We pick grapes early while they are still healthy and less desiccated. This allows for an easier fermentation without the need to add yeast because you don’t have copious amounts of sugar. We also pick the grapes early for good acidity. We don’t add anything – this includes nutrients, yeast, bacteria, enzymes, tannins or other popular fermentation agents. Sulphur is a naturally occurring element in all wine and the amount found can vary. We add little to no sulphur, depending on the wine and style.  


Where we source grapes:

We source an eclectic mix of grapes from all over California, working with vineyards as far south as Paso Robles and as far north as Mendocino. All of the vineyards are smaller and farmed organically.