The word belvedere rings with loveliness in sound and meaning. Yet today, in its wine parlance, the Belvedere Winery of Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, is downplaying its name so that it is virtually unnoticeable. On winery labels, the emphasis is wholly upon the names of the vineyards from which the grapes for these outstanding wines have been taken.
By its own definition, "Belvedere is a group of outstanding professionals dedicated to the art of fine wine making." The story of the chief protagonist, Peter S. Friedman, begins in New York with his longstanding friendship with Rodney D. Strong, when Strong was the choreographer of a Broadway hit, "New Faces," and Friedman was a director of marketing for one of the country's most trend-shaping advertising agencies. As wine lovers know, the Broadway choreographer became one of the leading California wine makers, with a whole odyssey of marketing adventures, from the initial mailbox appeal of Tiburon Vintners to Windsor Vineyards to Sonoma Vineyards, with its French connection with Piper-Heidsieck, and now the distinguished Rodney Strong varietal wines.
In 1963, as Friedman recalls, Strong's enthusiasm for potential wine sales in California was nothing short of contagious. One conversation was all Friedman needed to change his life. He resigned from the agency, moved to California and joined his friend in marketing Windsor Vineyards wines on that now well-known direct-to-the-consumer program. Friedman remembers that Strong told him: "Fine wines are made in the vineyard." In my early years along the wine trail, I heard that wisdom from my own mentors, Herman and Ernest Wente, Louis Martini, Andre Tchelistcheff and Richard Peterson. It's an unassailable truth. Fine wines can be made only from fine grapes.