John Bry wears two different hats – one that’s broad-brimmed to ward off the sun when he’s working outdoors in his Wildcat Canyon Vineyard and the second, a scrub cap he wears as a long-time vascular surgeon.
Dr. Bry finished his medical training in Boston and launched his medical practice in Berkeley in 1994. Prior to medical school, he worked in research at UCSF, where he joined a wine group that provided a basic introduction to the art of winemaking. In a rambling phone conversation, he shared what he considers the most important lesson learned: “Lousy grapes make lousy wine.”
Motivated in part by his fond memories of the “huge garden” that his father had cultivated and his recognizing “the privilege and responsibility that one has when owning a property,” John purchased his Wildcat Canyon property in 2002. He did so despite protestations from family members who questioned his sanity. With a temperate climate, a hillside with a southwest exposure, and rich soils, he saw it as the ideal location for a vineyard that he named “Perfusion” – another term for the circulation of fluids in the body, “thus tying together his career path with his pursuit of viticulture.”
In 2006-2007, after researching the local climate, water, and soil chemistry, John rented heavy equipment and personally undertook nearly all the prep work. In 2007, the first grapes were planted. John says he selected Pinot Noir because of “its delicate and complex character with a wide range of flavor profiles which vary dependent upon seasonal weather patterns.”
The first harvest in 2011 was a total disaster, as John wasn’t sufficiently aware of the voracious appetites of an assortment of “predators” ranging from deer to birds and bees. Better prepared in 2012, one full barrel of Pinot was produced under the supervision of Thomas Leaf – as has been the case with all subsequent vintages. Leaf is now the Head Winemaker of Dogpatch Wineworks, and John described him to me as an ideal partner – “passionate about Pinot Noir and exceedingly attentive to detail.”
Currently, four vintages are available from 2014 through 2017. The 2014 has been especially well-received earning an Editors Choice 92pt rating from Wine Enthusiast Magazine and 93pts from Tasting Panel Magazine. Depending on a number of factors, the amount of wine produced varies between fifty to seventy-five cases annually.
The wines are available for sale online through the Perfusion Vineyard website and also available at the vineyard itself during periodic special events. Lastly, for the past several months, John has been selling (and sampling) at the Grand Lake Farmers Market. After researching local farmers markets online, he decided that AIM’s Oakland market would be his best opportunity to maximize brand exposure and be part of the local community. Typically, they’re at the market every other week, but with the grape harvest looming, that schedule is likely to change.
In addition to the grapes, John is also growing five different varieties of Tuscan olives for premium olive oil. There are sixty-seven trees, which ultimately should produce thirty to thirty-five gallons of olive oil available each year in November. Organic, but not certified as such, it typically sells out within four months and is in such demand that approximately one-third of this year’s oil is already spoken for.
Dr. Bry is a member of the Bay Area Surgical Specialists Medical Group associated with Summit Hospital in Oakland and John Muir in Walnut Creek and he specializes in the care of patients on dialysis.
His wife, Kirsten Sedestrom, is the Design Director for Coyuchi, a San Francisco-based home textile company that specializes in organic bedding, linens, and apparel. John describes her as the “Queen of Perfusion’s aesthetic” who is responsible for all their artwork, including, most importantly, a logo that features a grapevine configured as a model of the human circulatory system. On one of their very first dates, John drew a sketch of that logo on the back of an envelope and Kirsten refined the logo while also discretely including their initials and those of their children on the individual grapes in the cluster that forms the heart on the label.