WaterMark Wines: Napa’s Best Kept Secret from the Winemaker of Diamond Creek Vineyards

watermark label and valley and mountains

WaterMark Wine is a small longtime under-the-radar boutique winery run by Phil Steinschriber. Phil is also winemaker for the much coveted Cabernet Sauvignons of Diamond Creek Vineyards and because of his long history (35+ years) working in the wine industry in the Napa Valley has access to the best fruit sources, which he uses to make these wines. 

 WaterMark Wines: “Great wine transports you, overloads your senses, mesmerized, you smile, life is good”

Before we go any further into WaterMark Wines, let’s talk about the journey that led up to the creation of one of Napa Valley’s best wineries.

Phil Steinschriber grew up on a small chicken farm in New Jersey that his parents purchased after immigrating from Europe after WWII and the Holocaust. Both parents survived concentration camps in Poland and Germany and decided to move to the U.S. for a better and new life. The farm ended up closing and the family moved once again. Los Angeles California was in their sights! The family purchased a small liquor store in L.A. with the little money they had to spare. The store was Phil’s first introduction into the wine and spirits industry. Phil would help his father in the store selling cheap ‘wines’ such as Thunderbird, Annie Green Springs and MD 20 20. After selling and most likely drinking some of those so called ‘wines’, Phil started to wonder what good wines actually were like, what secrets were hiding behind beautiful labels and spongy corks? 

He packed his bags, said goodbye to his parents and headed down the street to UCLA where he received is bachelors degree in 1973. The following year, he decided to travel Europe. So with just a few bucks in his pocket Phil left the states for nearly a year to explore the fascinating cities and countrysides of Amsterdam, Greece, Italy and France (popular wine producing countries! I wonder if he drank any wine on his travels?).


After returning to the states, Phil and his father went into business at the store together. Unbeknownst to Phil, everything he learned and experienced on his travels would end up shaping his future. Phil took on the role as wine buyer for his father’s store and soon began gaining a wealth of knowledge of wine and the industry. He loved wine so much that in 1979, he decided to go back to school and took chemistry courses before transferring to Fresno State University where he earned a masters in Ag Chemistry. Wine world watch out! In 1983 Phil was offered a position with a company in the Golan Heights of Israel. There he was tasked to produce Kosher wines in the modern California style. Peter Stern, famed for revolutionizing the wine industry in Israel, was his first mentor. While in Israel, Phil met Al Brounstein of Diamond Creek Vineyards. Phil mentioned that he was interested in perusing a winemaking job for them but was not taken serious by Al who took it as a joke and laughed it off! This was not going to slow down or hinder Phil from following his dream however!

Phil came back to the states two years later and worked in Albuquerque, NM as a winemaker at a small winery. In 1986 he returned to California and became winemaker at Napa Creek Winery. Again, Phil ran into Al Brounstein and asked him for a job. This time he was in luck! Phil became the winemaker at Diamond Creek on February 1st, 1991. While at Diamond Creek, Phil worked with Jerry Luper (known for putting wineries such as Freemark Abbey, Chateau Montelena, Rutherford hill and Diamond Creek on the map) and who was the consultant for the winery at the time.

Now where does WaterMark come in? Phil’s own venture began back in 2004. At WaterMark he produces a Napa Vally Cab, Mt. Vedder Cabs, and an estate wine designated Howell mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (in partner with his wife). He founded the winery to produce his own wines with quality in mind, but at an affordable price. Phil has received numerous awards and has over the years made nearly all 90-95 point wines. His WaterMark wines continue his tradition of great winemaking. These wine tastes like a wine that costs $150 or more under other, more famous labels. If you are a fan of Diamond Creek, Lokoya, Dunn, Togni, Cade, or Colgin, you should treat yourself to a case of this beauty.

Current Release:

15 WM2014 Watermark Cabernet

96 points! This dark ruby colored wine is a mélange of dark berry, cherry and vanilla on the nose, The sweet entry yields to a lightly structured, elegant mouthfeel, with concentrated dark berry, mocha and oak characters. This youthful wine finishes extra long and can be drunk now or put down for 5 to 10 years more.

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“Wine is a living organism. It evolves and changes in time. Our goal is to treat it gently and to allow it to evolve into its own character with as little intervention by humans as possible. In this way, Mother Nature will tell her story through earth, water and climate.” – Phil Steinschriber

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