Of Purpose, Pigmy Goats and Pinot Noir: Flying Goat Cellars

Norm Yost started his career into the world of wine as a beer drinking football player, specifically offensive guard and tackle. Sure, he was at UC Davis, but he had been recruited right out of high school to play football, Division 2, not to do any mamby-pamby wine related stuff. His roommate in college was studying fermentation science and enology and would conduct wine tastings, which got Norm's attention. “I was really intrigued by it,” he recalled.

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Though football was never going to be a fulltime occupation (his dad wanted him to be a lawyer) Norm found himself out of a job after school. He had done some construction work here and there and his roommate encouraged him to get a job at a winery. Norm didn’t possess any wine related skills, however the construction angle worked. He got a gig at one of the most well known wineries in Napa. “I got a job at Silver Oak for the summer.” OK, so it wasn’t really wine related. “Their new winery was being built and the old one was being torn down. I was tearing off the dormers on the old winery barn.” Not exactly a grand entrance into the world of wine, but by this time Norm was hooked on the wine scene. Norm Yost (Click Image to Enlarge)

Not long after the “summer of destruction” Norm found himself as assistant winemaker at Monticello Vineyards in Napa, “where I cut my teeth,” he said. He continued to take extension classes from UC Davis, actual classes, not running patterns on a gridiron this time, and eventually graduated from the Enology and Viticulture program. After a few years he moved to Mark West Vineyards in the Russian River Valley, where the focus was on the cooler climate wines, including what would prove to become his passion, pinot noir. He escaped to Australia for a season then went to work at wineries in Oregon for nearly a decade. His old winemaker boss from the Monticello days had moved south, working at Foley Winery in Santa Barbara. Norm had been drinking some of the early Central Coast wines; Wild Horse, Byron and Au Bon Climat, and had an inkling of what the central coast region of California could produce.

He left Oregon to join Foley Winery and in 2000, a friend and fellow winemaker, Doug Braun of Presidio Winery, sold Norm four tons of excess fruit. “That was the beginning of Flying Goat,” Norm explains. “I thought I’d make a few barrels. I visited my tax person and they told me I’d either need to start a family or start a label.” He opted for the less stressful (some would argue) avenue of staring a winery. “I thought if I’m going to put my name on a wine, it’s got to be interesting and fun.” For some reason, one he never fully explained, Norm had pygmy goats, and they used to launch themselves off a little house he had built for them, flying through the air with the greatest of ease, to use an overwrought phrase. His first pinot noirs hit the market in 2002.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.