The paths winemakers choose to take as they master their craft can vary greatly, whether gaining hands-on experience under world-renowned winemakers, attending a winemaking school or learning the ropes of their family business.
For Sandor Faludi, owner of Prohibition Cellars in Woodinville, Washington, he was influenced by each of those paths. Growing up in Hungary, Faludi watched his grandfather tend to his own vineyard, sparking his interest in the industry and leading him to open Prohibition Cellars on January 16, 2020, the 100th anniversary of Prohibition. From his experience in California’s most popular wine regions to how he discovered Washington wines, we sat down with Faludi to learn a bit more.
1) How did you get your start in the wine business?
My grandfather was a winemaker and viticulturist in Hungary where I grew up. He had his own vineyard, and I helped him out there as a child, picking and pressing grapes during harvest. As an adult, however, I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and started my own tree nursery. Shortly after marrying my wife, we moved to California and were immersed in wines and wine culture. When we moved back to Hungary, I decided to become a winemaker and attended school in Villány, a major wine-growing region. After working as an assistant winemaker, we moved back to California, where I worked at wineries in both Sonoma and Napa Valley. I knew I wanted to start my own winery, so we moved to Santa Monica, and I got a job in refrigeration that helped fund my hobby winemaking until we moved to Washington and could start a winery of our own.
2) What’s behind the name Prohibition Cellars?
When we lived in Santa Monica, I started making wine and beer in my small garage, which opened up into the alley. Every time I rolled up the garage door, a neighbor would come over to see what I was doing — and taste some wine and beer, of course!. When our first harvest came around, we had friends, neighbors and my very pregnant wife helping to de-stem one ton of grapes by hand. I felt like I was in the middle of the Prohibition Era, and my garage was a speakeasy. That’s when I decided to name my future winery Prohibition Cellars.
3) How did your wife influence your relationship with food and wine?
When I met my wife Sabrina, she was visiting from the U.S., attending college in Hungary. She introduced me to many new foods and another aspect of wine culture that I didn’t have growing up. I remember, on our first date, she opened a bottle of white wine to go with dinner, and I thought it was weird that she did that. My family never served wine with dinner, only on special occasions. Nevertheless, I went with it, but when she opened up another bottle of wine on our second date, I couldn’t help but think, “does she have a problem?” It’s funny to think back on this now because, since then, wine has become an engrained part of our everyday life. It makes our dinners special, inspires our travels and introduces us to great people!
4) What drew you to move to Washington and settle on Woodinville?
I really wanted to start my own winery, but in California, I couldn’t see any chance of this happening. I started looking toward Oregon and Washington and tasting more and more wines from those regions. I was really amazed by the big Red Mountain Cabernets first, so in 2016, we took a road trip to look around, visit wineries, and see if we could live here in the Pacific Northwest.
While Oregon was an option, we had our hearts set on moving to Walla Walla. When we got there, we were blown away by the amazing wines and felt the deep sense of community, but we couldn’t see ourselves living there. On our way to Seattle, we both felt disappointed because we knew we wanted to move to Washington, but we had no idea where to move to. While I was driving, my wife did a Google search on “best places to live in Washington” and she said, “Hey, check this out! There’s this city called Woodinville, that’s just 20 minutes to Seattle, has a great school district and there are more than 100 wineries there.”
We headed straight there to check it out and knew immediately this was the place we would call home. We visited a bunch of wineries, talked with some winemakers and I just could see the big opportunity that waited for us. I loved the people, everybody was so nice and helpful and the winemaker community here is awesome. It is still very personal.