Steve Burgess is the president of Burgess Cellars in Deer Park, Calif. His father, Cuyahoga Falls native Tom Burgess, launched the vineyard in 1972. Burgess has owned the hillside winery with his brother, Jim, since 2011 when they started purchasing it from their dad. Steve will be in town June 9 for the Akron Art Museum’s 23rd annual Akron Wine Auction. This will be his second appearance at the auction. For ticket information on the museum benefit, go to: akronartmuseum.org/auction/. For more on the winery: burgesscellars.com.
Back in Akron
We are trying to give back and continue our relationship with the people we hold so dearly. Things like art museums and wine go hand in hand. Culturally, Ohio is an amazing place. The work ethic. The honesty. We really appreciate that spirit.
I don’t need a map when I go to Ohio. I definitely feel like it’s home. There’s a list of places that are real special. Papa Joe’s. Diamond Grille is a great place to go. I love going through the valley and seeing the Winking Lizard in Peninsula. It’s a great place to stop. The Towpath is a lot of fun. I’ve ridden the Towpath a few times. Cleveland is a great town, too. Ohio City, Tremont. That’s one of the things I love about Ohio. The food and wine scene is just amazing.
We have 32 acres planted on a 60-acre parcel. Twelve thousand cases are produced yearly. Five of the six wines produced are available in Ohio for purchase. There’s a lot of maintenance around here, so I better know how to fix it. I don’t like hiring anyone to do that.
When he’s not making wine
I am a volunteer firefighter. That takes up quite a bit of my free time. [He serves as a member of the Deer Park Volunteer Firefighters Association on Howell Mountain, part of the Napa County Fire Department. Burgess worked 53 straight hours during the devastating fires last fall in California wine country].
It’s a miracle more people weren’t killed. We were doing a lot of evacuations that first night. Life safety was the priority. We knew we couldn’t put the fire out because by the time all the fires got big, it was already too late. We said, “Let’s save lives first.” Once everyone was evacuated, then we could start fighting the fires.
I wasn’t really that worried about this place. We are surrounded by vineyards. Vineyards don’t burn. They are wonderful fire breaks. My wife and kids hung out the first day. They evacuated just because of the air quality. It was pretty smoky. This place was abandoned for a couple of days. The fires were still going on when we resumed picking.
I’m blinded by the sheer number of the great wines in Napa. Off the top of my head, I would say bubbles from Schramsberg are world class, and Barnett [Vineyards], up on Spring Mountain, are some of my most favorite wines. I’m a big fan if Italian wines also, especially Tuscany and northern Italian. I’m kind of dabbling in Barolo a little bit. It’s kind of fun exploring.
Steve’s Faves & Raves
Lake Tahoe is a favorite vacation spot. It’s about three hours away [from Deer Park] without traffic.
I’m a skier or snowboarder, depending on the snow. I like to road bike and mountain bike in the summer.
Cooking and camping
Barbecuing and camping, I guess those are my hobbies. We try to make life’s necessities enjoyable and then that becomes your hobby. Really good food, and good wine.
— Phil Masturzo
Vintner Steve Burgess on wines, fires and appreciating the Akron Wine Auction