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Prospect Cellars

Prospect Cellars Musings



Jamie Lubenko
August 20, 2018 | Jamie Lubenko

Humble Beginnings: The Story of Prospect Cellars


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Humble Beginnings:
The Story of Prospect Cellars

Six years ago, my husband Ronn came home with four tons of Zinfandel in tow.

Not your typical husband-to-wife gift, but one that changed the direction of our lives dramatically.

While the Lubenko family (Ronn’s side) has been in the wine industry since many of the original vineyards were planted in the foothills in the mid-to-late 1800s, I (pictured above with our winemaker Mo) grew up on a cattle ranch; granted, that cattle ranch is now the site of one of Amador County’s newest wineries.

Still, I didn’t begin my work with wine until 2002 when I became the Executive Director of the Amador Vintners Association. During my 10-year stint there, I watched as the association grew from nearly two dozen wineries to 40 participating wineries. But, actually makingwine was still out of my realm at the time.

Before leaping feet first into the wine world, I had a career in broadcast. After a stint in Palm Springs, something drew me back to my roots in Amador County, where I ended up working for a local radio and TV station for a while, as well as doing public relations for Sutter Health before joining the ranks of Amador Vintners. Let’s just say promoting wine was a bit more fun than writing press releases about infusion centers.

Of course, it helped having a husband who grew up tending one of the historic Zin vineyards, but it was that initial gift of Zin that got the wheels turning. For so many years I had been telling people about the awesome wines of Amador. Finally, I thought, What better time to join them? It was that and my constant bitching about Plymouth’s need for revitalization, i.e. downtown businesses, that convinced me it was high time to get in the game. Opening Prospect Cellars in the old post office building was essentially me putting my money where my mouth was.

One of many historic buildings in Plymouth.

Not only did I have a boatload of grapes in my hot little hands, but I’m part of a family that does not shy away from getting involved, digging deeper. Did I mention my dad is the mayor of Plymouth? If you’ve been in the tasting room, you’ve surely run into him; he’s fondly known as “Grandpa John.” Dad has served either on the city council or the Amador County Board of Supervisors for as long as I can remember, as his father before him did. Needless to say, being all in when it comes to community is in my blood.

Of course, the Prospect Cellars story of winemaking would not be complete without an excellent winemaker. Enter Moises “Mo” Acevedo. Mo started out as the assistant to our original winemaker, but in 2013 our head winemaker at the time said, “Jamie, let’s just make Mo the winemaker; he does all the work anyway.” That was that. He may not be some super slick, UC Davis grad, which is typical in the industry, but he is a winemaker who earned his way up the ladder by working hard. He’s a great person, and I’m a fan of promoting and holding up good people.

And, that’s where we are today. Mo makes the wine and is supported by our team of talented and knowledgeable women in the tasting room and deli, like Macy and Toni. We look forward to seeing you in our little town and sharing more of our story and history with you, as well as our delicious wines, of course!

*Stay tuned for a winemaker profile coming soon: Getting to know Mo.


Time Posted: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Humble Beginnings: The Story of Prospect Cellars Permalink
Jamie Lubenko
August 14, 2018 | Jamie Lubenko

We Put the 'Farm' in Farm-to-Table

I joked at the dinner that half the fun of having Chef Carolyn Kumpe of Vendage and Company cook for us is watching the controlled chaos (i.e. lighting things on fire). But, I am happy to report there were no open flames at our first Farmers Market Dinner of the season. Instead, as usual, Carolyn spoiled us with her delectable farm-to-table fixings. My Prospect Cellars crew and I welcomed 24 guests for our first Farmers Market Dinner of the season last Thursday. Normally, we would brave the heat and take a jaunt down to the farmers market ourselves, but with the smoke and extreme heat, we decided to move indoors and enjoy the ambiance of our historical tasting room (once the old post office).

Carolyn started the evening with a homemade Potted Goat Cheese, Crostini and Almonds paired with Carrot Slaw and our Quick Silver Sauvignon Blanc for the first course.

We moved on to Mixed Greens with Beet-Cured Salmon (beets are good for liver health, you know!) Rarely have I seen that many bright, natural colors all on one plate; plus, it paired perfectly with our crisp Riverbank Rosé.

Next up, we enjoyed a surprise dish of socca, which is a Provencal-style crepe made with chickpea flour; Carolyn topped it with ratatouille (recipe below) made with fresh vegetables from the farmers market taking place a block away. We paired this French delight with our colorful and cutting Pick & Shovel Petite Sirah. 

Finally, we arrived at the main dish: Chicken Braised in Barbera with Fig and Thyme, which was paired with our Cooper Ranch Barbera, an obvious choice. 

We finished the evening with a sweet treat—our Prospect Cellars wine-infused ice cream made by Gunther’s in Sacramento and Carolyn’s scrumptious shortbread cookies.

Farmers Market Ratatouille Recipe

Recipe courtesy Jennifer Segal of Once Upon a Chef

Servings: 8 (Makes about 7 cups)

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 45 Minutes

Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes


  • 1 large (1.25 lb) eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes (1.75 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes, with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan (no need to clean it). Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.

Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months (although keep in mind that the zucchini won't stay crisp after being frozen).



Time Posted: Aug 14, 2018 at 12:40 PM Permalink to We Put the 'Farm' in Farm-to-Table Permalink