For three weeks each year, John Haggard is at the beck and call of the world’s most powerful men. The other 49 weeks, he’s just a guy from Monte Rio who happens to run a world class wine shop. Nestled deep among the coastal redwood groves of West County, Sophie’s Cellars seems a rather lonely spot to be selling small production local pinot noirs and artisan cheeses until you realize its less than a mile from Bohemian Grove, the annual secret retreat of the world’s most powerful men. In a single day, a member once spent $20,000 at the shop. And oh, the stories Haggard could tell you about the goings-on at the Grove. But, of course won’t — except to say that if you’re a winemaker hiding some of your best stuff in the basement, expect a call next July. Possibly in the wee hours.
Wine insiders look to Haggard’s encyclopedic knowledge of the local landscape to fill their cellars with wines from Rochioli, Flowers, Lynmar, MacPhail and Williams Selyem. The wine veteran can rattle off the rootstock of various vineyards with more authority than some winemakers, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he often knows exactly what a wine will taste like before he even opens the bottle.
But don’t think Haggard, who spent much of his career catering to high rollers at restaurants and hotels, isn’t equally happy to sell a $15 bottle of chardonnay. In fact, he seems to get just as much satisfaction match-making visitors with local eateries and tasting rooms (with maps and coupons), giving insider menu tips and suggesting tasty wine pairings. Call him the Concierge of West County. 20293 Hwy 116, Monte Rio, 707-865-1122. Open 11am to 7pm, closed Wednesday.