Meet Sonoma County Winemaker, Brad Beard of Mercury Wine in Geyserville
Brad Beard is all about love, acceptance, and the endless pleasure of wine—all of which he's found in Sonoma County as the winemaker and owner of Mercury Wine in Geyserville. A former Navy pilot from Arizona, Beard served during the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" years, always careful to keep his sexual orientation private in order to keep his job. In the mid-2000s, when he dreamed of starting a winery in Northern California, he worried that its small, rural farming communities wouldn't accept a gay winemaker. But he was immediately put at ease when he chose to start his small-production label, Mercury Wine, in the northern Sonoma County town of Geyserville.
"Everybody here, to a T, was welcoming and inviting," Beard remembers fondly. "They were just asking, 'How can we help?,' and saying, 'We don't care about your sexuality—do you make some good wine? Oh, your wines are tasty? Great, then we're your good friends.'"
Beard's wines actually surpass tasty and head straight to excellent. Having learned how to make wine in Australia, Spain, Italy, and France, and employing the quality grapes he's discovered in Sonoma County, he's developed a refined yet expansive winemaking style all his own. "I can get almost any grape varietal that I want here," Beard says, "and as a winemaker who enjoys a wide variety of things, this was it. Sonoma County is the mecca of high-end grape growing, allowing me to really express myself with all the different kinds of wine I like to create."
Sourced from vineyards throughout the county, Mercury's wines range from Bordeaux-style blends to unusual offerings like a Dry Creek Viognier, a Mourvedre rose, and a sparkling Petite Sirah. The only way to purchase these beauties is to call or visit the Mercury Wine tasting room, set in Geyserville's Old West-vibe, 60-yard-long stretch of downtown, with a fun, funky space room and sprawling back garden it shares with local Ramazotti Wines. Beard often stops in here with his beloved black labrador/door greeter, Freddie Mercury, and a welcome fixture behind the bar is Brad's brother, Grady, who leads tastings of Brad's wines with a real sense of joy.
Speaking of joy: A few years ago, much of Geyserville came together to throw its first gay wedding when Brad married his husband, Danny Fox. The community continues to make the couple feels treasured, and Beard feels the same way about them, as well as his chosen home.
"Geyserville embraces everything Sonoma County has to offer," he says, "from amazing food at restaurants like Catelli's and Diavola, to world-class wines, all with this wonderful historic feel. The beauty of the whole county is reflected here, with Geyser Peak one one side, Mount St. Helena on the other, and the Russian River running through a carpet of grapes. I don't know...what more can you ask for?"
Mercury Wine is open for tastings by appointment, which can be made on their website. Their Geyserville tasting room is open for bottle purchases daily from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can learn about more of Sonoma County's 400+ wineries here.