With a family connection to Eric de Rothschild, Rudy wrote a letter asking to do an internship at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. Each year the Chateau had been hiring an intern from the French winemaking program at Montpellier. Thinking that two minds are better than one, Mr. Rothschild invited Rudy to work for the 1985 harvest as their first American intern. (The result was so successful, that each year since the Chateau has chosen a new Davis graduate to work as an intern at the winery.) Rudy returned to Napa Valley in the spring of 1986 and was hired as the enologist at Trefethen Winery and Vineyards. In 1988, he became the assistant winemaker in charge of production at Newton Vineyards in St. Helena.
Shortly after their marriage in 1989, Rudy and Rita von Strasser set out looking for a vineyard property to make their home. Having already developed a deep passion and talent for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Rudy was committed that the property must be in a microclimate blessed with the ability to grow and produce the finest red wines in Napa Valley; wines worthy to carry the von Strasser family name. Serendipitously, the old Roddis Estate Winery on Diamond Mountain had just been put on the market, and in the spring of 1990, the von Strasser label was born.
The history of the property reads like a who’s who of early California Cabernet History. After being denied a permit to turn his estate into a golf course, William Bounsall decided to subdivide his property, and in 1968 sold 1/3 of his property to Albert Brounstein. Canadian born, Al pioneered the modern decade of winemaking in this AVA by planting Cabernet Sauvignon in three distinct vineyard sites and bottling each separately under the name Diamond Creek Vineyards. The next year, 1969, Bounsall himself decided to get into the grape business and planted 2 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon with bud-wood from the famous Martha’s Vineyard. In 1978, Bill Roddis bought the Bounsall ranch and started Roddis Cellars. The wines were made by Andre Tcheistcheff, and in their days where considered by many to be the biggest wines made in the Napa Valley. In 1985, the winery was sold to the Gilby family (British gin), who used it as a corporate retreat. The vineyards, now totaling about 7 acres, were leased to Pine Ridge Winery, who bottled the grapes separately as their “Diamond Mountain” Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1990, Rudy and Rita von Strasser bought the property and began the fulfilling task of renovating and modernizing the estate and the vineyards to make the property one of the gems of Diamond Mountain.
The building that houses the winery is an historic barn that was built in the late 1880’s. Through careful planning it has been remodeled into a modern winemaking facility while retaining its working-ranch charm. To take full advantage of the hillside location and to better control the variables of winemaking, the von Strassers added caves to their property. Dug into the virgin hills, these caves retain an ideal climate for barrel aging, and average temperature of 55 degrees and an average humidity of 80%.