In 1981, Erich opened Rabbit Ridge Winery and Vineyards in Healdsburg, California named after his college track nickname, "The Rabbit". Rabbit Ridge became a successful, cult winery producing up to 250 thousand cases per year. The winery continued growing and producing wine in Sonoma County until all operations were moved to beautiful Paso Robles, on the Central Coast of California.
In 1998, Erich met his wife Joanne James, a lifelong resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, while promoting Rabbit Ridge wines at one of Disney's top restaurants. Joanne was interviewing with Rabbit Ridge's wine distributor at the same time, and the two met. Having graduated from Northeast High School and Eckerd College, Joanne was working as a runway model and had her own catering business, along with a fledgling interest in good wine. Erich and Joanne were married in 1999 and maintained a residence in St. Petersburg while Joanne's daughter grew up, completed high school and went off to college. Joanne's daughter has since graduated from college Suma cum laude and now works for Rabbit Ridge in Paso Robles.
In 2001, Erich and Joanne began construction on their new winery on San Marcos Road. Erich had always wanted a winery that was high-tech with all the bells and whistles. The couple took design ideas from their trips to Tuscany and the Mediterranean and implemented them to get the look they wanted for the Paso Robles winery - Regal and Old-World.
After years of national and international distribution, Erich and Joanne decided to down-size to the level of the "good ol' days" and get out of the "rat race." Today, Erich and Joanne produce 10 thousand cases per year and farm 200 acres of premium grapes, all grown on the west side of Paso Robles, California.
Rabbit Ridge Winery is proud to announce its winemaking team, Sarah Fleming Garrett and Brice Garrett. Sarah, daughter of owner Joanne Russell, joined the family business after graduating summa cum laude with honors in economics in May 2015 from the University of the South, in Sewanee Tennessee. Sarah joined Joanne in handling the winery compliance, government compliance, direct to consumer sales, wine club, and winery accounting. Additionally, Sarah is working beside Erich and Brice in the winery doing cellar work, and making their own wine- Serrano, with Brice. Sarah worked at the winery last summer when she began to learn the business. Sarah also serves as Tasting Room Manager; you will find her there most weekends continuing to give a family feel to the winery. In fact, on a good many weekends you will find the entire family there.
The second addition is Brice Garrett, Sarah’s husband, who also graduated from the University of the South in May 2015. Sarah and Brice were married, May 2017. Brice interned the summer or 2016 at Rabbit Ridge. He is currently working with Erich Russell, the winery’s founder and Winemaker since 1981, as his cellar master and assists in all day to day winemaking while learning the techniques that have been used for 38 years by Erich- Rabbit Ridge's only winemaker. Having only one winemaker is something few wineries can claim. Brice also serves as the winery social media director and helps create new and exciting sales and marketing materials. Erich and Joanne say “it is great to have the new generation aboard and to continue the family business, as well as give Sarah and Brice a chance to create their own legacy.”
In 2018 Sarah and Brice launched their own brand called Serrano Wine. The couple works 7 days a week running Rabbit Ridge with Erich and Joanne and their own Serrano Wine. You don't want to miss tasting their wines as well as Rabbit Ridge.