Quantcast

North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 27, 2011, 7:22 am

Spotlight on Leaders at Independent Wine Companies

By

Print Friendly Print Friendly    

Share this item

    Following are profiles of the top day-to-day leaders from the Business Journal’s lists of the largest independently owned wineries under 100,000 cases, published in March, and the largest wine companies, published in May.

    Listed alphabetically by company name.

    Click here to view photo gallery.

    Hank Wetzel

    Alexander Valley Vineyards

    8644 Highway 128, Healdsburg 95448, 707-433-7209, avvwine.com

    Harry “Hank” Wetzel, proprietor and winemaker, and his wife, Maggie, purchased the property in 1962 from the family of Cyrus Alexander, after whom the valley is named. Their oldest son, Hank IV, launched the winery in 1975. Production last year was 160,000 cases.

    Mike Benziger

    Benziger Family Winery

    1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen 95442, 888-490-2739, benziger.com

    General manager and Tribute winemaker Mike Benziger and his wife, Mary, co-founded the winery in 1980, and since that time the family business has been a leader in environmentally friendly winegrowing and advocate for Biodynamic farming.

    Benziger had an impressive four wines, all with retail prices between $19 and $28, winning “platinum” awards, and one a silver award, at the San Diego International Wine Competition in April. Out of 1,666 entries, only 66 won at that level. One $16 wine won silver. The competition named Benziger the Winery of the Year.

    Jean-Charles Boisset

    Boisset Family Wines

    849 Zinfandel Lane, St. Helena 94574; 707-963-6172, boissetfamilyestates.com

    Jean-Charles Boisset is president of a Boisset Family Wines, started in 1980 as the U.S. arm of a large French family wine and spirits operation. The parent company is now Burgundy’s largest wine company; France’s third-largest, making more than 5 million cases annually; and among the biggest in the U.S. producing more than 600,000 cases a year. In late 2009, he married Gina Gallo of Gallo Family Vineyards.

    Mike Jaeger

    C. Mondavi & Sons

    2800 Main St., St. Helena 94574, 707-967-2200, charleskrug.com

    Proprietors Peter Mondavi and sons hired 25-year “mature brand” expert Mike Jaeger as chief operating officer of C. Mondavi & Sons in May. The Krug brand started in 1861 and was acquired by Cesare and Rosa Mondavi in 1943. At 1.6 million cases of mass-market CK Mondavi and higher-end Charles Krug produced last year, the company is among the North Coast’s largest producers.

    Roy Cecchetti

    Cecchetti Wine Co.

    P.O. Box 637, Vineburg 95487, 707-996-7221, cecchettiwineco.com

    Co-founder and chief executive officer Roy Cecchetti and his wife, Rachael, started the company in 2007. He was part of the Cecchetti Sebastiani Cellars with brother-in-law Don Sebastiani until 2001.

    Sales of 250,000-plus cases and more than $13 million are projected for this year. Brand sales last year were 137,000 cases of $6- to $8-a-bottle Redtree, up 26 percent from 2010, and 63,000 cases of $9- to $11-a-bottle Line 39. Sales of the latter Lake County-focused label nearly doubled those of a year before.

    John Clews

    Clos Du Val

    5330 Silverado Trail, Napa 94558, 707-261-5200, closduval.com

    Winemaker and Chief Operating Officer John Clews in April 1999 came to the 60,000- to 70,000-case-a-year winery, one of five Goelet family wine businesses in the U.S., Australia and France. John Goelet and Bernard Portet started Clos Du Val in 1972, and it was part of the famed 1976 Paris tasting. Wine & Spirits magazine named the company 2010 Winery of the Year.

    Bruce Cohn

    B.R. Cohn Winery

    15000 Sonoma Hwy., Glen Ellen 95442; 707-938-4064; brcohn.com

    Coming from a Russian River Valley goat dairy family, The Doobie Brothers band manager Bruce Cohn started Olive Hill Estate Vineyard in Sonoma Valley 1974 and the winery in 1984. Production was 50,000 cases in 2010.

    In 1990, he started an olive oil business and launched a line of gourmet packaged foods in recent years.

    Jay Shoemaker

    The Coppola Companies

    820 Airpark Road, Napa 94558, 707-968-1120

    Jay Shoemaker is chief executive officer of The Coppola Companies, the umbrella operation for Francis Ford Coppola’s hospitality, entertainment and wine businesses.

    Mr. Coppola acquired the Inglenook vineyards in Rutherford in 1975, the chateau two decades later and the Inglenook name from The Wine Group in April of this year. In 2006 he acquired the Souverain chateau in Geyserville later renaming it Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Annual production is estimated to be about 1 million cases for brands FC Reserve, Director’s Cut, Diamond Collection, Rosso & Bianco, Sofia, Votre Sante, Archimedes, Su Yuen and Rubicon.

    Jay Schuppert

    Cuvaison Estate Wines

    4550 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga 94515, 707-942-6266, cuvaison.com

    Jay Schuppert has been president since 2001, previously director of marketing and sales. The Schmidheiny family acquired Cuvaison in 1979.  Production is estimated at about 60,000 cases a year.

    Don “Donny” Sebastiani Jr.

    Don Sebastiani & Sons

    135 W. Napa St., Sonoma 95476, 707-933-1704, donandsons.com

    Donny Sebastiani, a 1999 business economics graduate, moved up to the top role of Don Sebastiani & Sons in 2009 from executive director. 2011 Vintners Hall of Fame winner Don Sebastiani and his sons Donny and August started “Don & Sons” in 2001 as a negociant producer of mass-market stalwarts Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove plus edgy brands. Annual production is estimated at 1.7 million cases.

    The Other Guys spin-off sales organization shipped 169,000 cases in 2010, a 66 percent increase from 2009. Projected 2011 sales are 250,000 cases.

    Don Wallace

    Dry Creek Vineyard

    3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg 95448, drycreekvineyard.com

    Fourth-generation farmer Don Wallace became president in 2006, when father-in-law David Stare, founder of the first new winery in Dry Creek Valley since Prohibition, retired. Mr. Wallace joined Dry Creek Vineyard in 1990 to manage the ranch, which now covers 200 estate acres. The winery shipped 92,000 cases last year.

    Don Carano

    Ferrari-Carano Winery

    8761 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg 95448; 707-433-6700; ferrari-carano.com

    Corporate and gaming attorney Don Carano, and his wife, Rhonda, started Ferrari-Carano in Dry Creek Valley in 1981 and released the first vintage in 1985. The family owns 1,400 acres of vines in Sonoma and Napa counties. Production last year was 210,000 cases for the Ferrari-Carano, PreVail, Tresor and Siena brands.

    The Caranos also own the Vintners Inn and John Ash & Co. restaurant in Russian River Valley. Mr. Carano built Eldorado Hotel and Casino in Reno in 1973 and jointly created Silver Legacy hotel and casino there in 1992.

    Bill Foley II

    Foley Family Wines

    10300 Chalk Hill Rd., Healdsburg 95448; 707-657-4837; foleyfamilywines.com

    Bill Foley II, chairman of Florida-based Fidelity National Financial and Fidelity National Information Services, has been expanding his wine industry holdings on the West Coast and New Zealand rapidly since 2007, with production totaling almost 1 million cases a year.

    The wine portfolio now includes several North Coast including Sebastiani Vineyards, Central Coast and Washington brands. Earlier this year, Mr. Foley made a minority investment in Crushpad, now at the Sebastiani.

    Louis M. Foppiano

    Foppiano Wine Co.

    12707 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg 95448, 707-433-7272, foppiano.com

    Louis M. Foppiano is chairman of the pioneering pinot noir and petite sirah Russian River Valley winery. He is great-grandson of Giovanni Foppiano, who started in 1896. The winery is supplied by 115 acres of vines and produces roughly 50,000 cases a year.

    The Foppiano family is preparing for ongoing leadership. Todd Arterburn joined in mid-2009 as chief operating officer and now is president.

    Jonathan Frey

    Frey Vineyards

    14000 Tomki Road, Redwood Valley 95470, 707-485-5177, freywine.com

    Jonathan Frey, general manager, was the founding winemaker of the 31-year-old organic and Biodynamic wine specialist in Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley. The winery produces 80,000 cases of wine from 128 acres of vines.

    Jonathan, Matthew and Paul Frey, the eldest of 12 children, opened the winery in 1980. Jonathan Frey trained younger brother Paul in winemaking, so he could assume the role of general manager.

    Mr. Frey also is vice president for energy of Willits-based Renewable Energy Development Institute.

    Gina Gallo

    Gallo Family Vineyards

    3387 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg 95448, 707-431-5500, gallosonoma.com

    Gina Gallo is granddaughter of Julio Gallo, co-founder of the world’s second-largest wine company, Modesto-based E&J Gallo. She and her winegrower brother, Matt, oversee North Coast production, estimated to be around 3 million cases, made from 3,000 acres of vines. She joined the family business in 1991 in sales and learned winemaking. The two became instrumental in the family’s venture into fine wine.

    Tom Burnet

    Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards

    23555 Highway 121, Sonoma 95476, 707-996-7256, gloriaferrer.com

    In November 2009, the Ferrer family appointed Tom Burnet president of Freixenet America, which oversees Freixenet USA, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards and Victoire Imports. The Ferrer family started the winery in 1982 and built the facility in 1986. Last year, Gloria Ferrer produced about 101,000 cases of sparkling wine from 385 acres.

    Dennis Groth

    Groth Vineyards

    750 Oakville Cross Road, Oakville 94562, 707-944-0290, grothwines.com

    Accountant and former high-tech executive Dennis and Judy Groth started Groth Vineyards in 1982. Mr. Groth, president, has been involved in sustainable business standards for the industry. The operation has 137 acres of vines and last year shipped 69,500 cases of wine.

    Gary Bulger

    The Hess Collection

    4411 Redwood Road, Napa 94558; 707-255-1144; hesscollection.com

    Switzerland-based Hess Group named Gary Bulger president in July 2009. He has been at the winery for 15 years, starting as central region sales manager.

    The winery has more than 750 acres of vines in Napa Valley and Monterey County and produced an estimated 650,000 cases in 2010. The winery operates out of the former Christian Brothers Mont La Salle winery and a newer winery and barrel-aging facility in American Canyon. The company is employing environmentally friendly systems, such as wastewater treatment, grazing instead of mowing and solar power.

    Agustin F. Huneeus

    Huneeus Vintners, LLC

    1601 Silverado Trail South, St. Helena 94574; 707-967-1601

    Agustin Francisco Huneeus, son of Chilean wine icons Agustin and Valeria Huneeus, operates Huneeus Vintners along with President Jim Harris and founding partner Jim Sweeney.

    The father operated Franciscan Estates from the mid-1980s until Constellation Brands acquired the fine wine portfolio, which included Quintessa in Napa Valley and Veramonte in Chile, in 1999. The son was promoted to president of the group in 2000 and stayed until 2003, when he left to start Huneeus Vintners.

    Kathryn Lindstrom

    J Vineyards & Winery

    11447 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg 95448, 707-431-5400, jwine.com

    Chief Executive Officer Judy Jordan launched J in 1987 with help of her father, oilman and vintner Thomas Jordan Jr. She appointed Kathryn Lindstrom general manager and chief financial officer in mid-2006. Previously, Ms. Lindstrom held senior finance and administrative posts at Peter Michel, Arrowood, Robert Mondavi Corp. and Opus One.

    Rick Tigner

    Jackson Family Wines

    425 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa 95403; 707-544-4000; kj.com

    Rick Tigner has been president of the 5 million-case-a-year global wine company since May 2010. He has been in the wine industry for a quarter century, including two decades in management of Jackson wine divisions and companies plus stints at Miller Brewing, Gallo and Louis M. Martini. Jackson vineyard holdings in California total 14,000 acres.

    John Jordan

    Jordan Vineyard & Winery

    1474 Alexander Valley Rd., Healdsburg 95448, 707-431-5250   jordanwinery.com

    Jordan Oil & Gas Co. owner Thomas Jordan Jr. opened the winery in 1976 and shipped more than 98,650 cases in 2010. His son, John, a partner in Santa Rosa law firm Smith Dollar, has been the top executive of the chateau-like winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley since fall 2005.

    Bill Phelps

    Joseph Phelps Vineyards

    200 Taplin Road, St. Helena 94574; 707-963-2745; jpvwines.com

    Bill Phelps, an investment banking attorney for 20 years, moved to Napa Valley in 1998 to help his father, Joseph Phelps, with the acquisition of land on the Sonoma Coast for Freestone Vineyards, which opened in fall 2007. The elder Phelps launched the winery in 1972, and the younger became president in 2008.

    Gary Heck

    F. Korbel & Bros.

    13250 River Rd., Guerneville 95446, 707-824-7000, heckestates.com

    The Heck family in 1954 acquired Korbel Champagne Cellars, established in Russian River Valley in 1882. Gary Heck became president in 1982 and chairman in 1984.

    Heck Estates portfolio includes still and sparkling wines and brandy. Korbel is the largest U.S. sparkling wine brand by volume. Shipments are about 2.5 million cases a year, mostly of Korbel.

    Randy and Megan Mason

    Mason Cellars

    714 First St., Napa 94559; 707-255-0658; masoncellars.com

    The Masons, known for their sauvignon blanc, started the brand in 1993. That was the same year Randy Mason started Napa Wine Co. in Oakville and ran it for nine years. 2010 sales were 60,000 cases.

    Kevin Shannon

    Mountain View Vintners

    1660 Second St., #B, San Rafael 94901; 414-898-6778; mountainviewwines.com

    Kevin Shannon started Mountain View Vintners in 1978 as one of California’s first negociants, or wineries without their own vineyards. The company shipped 81,400 cases in 2010 and has created hundreds of labels for restaurants, hotels, retailers and wine clubs since its founding.

    John Tracy

    Owl Ridge Wines

    P.O. Box 1514, Sebastopol 95473, owlridge.com

    Retired optics physicist John Tracy acquired the Greg & Greg high-end custom winery in 2005 and Sonoma Grapemasters vine-to-bottle custom wine service in 2007. Of 50,000 cases produced a year, 15,000 are Mr. Tracy’s labels Owl Ridge and Willowbrook Cellars.

    Jim Pedroncelli

    J. Pedroncelli Winery

    1220 Canyon Road, Geyserville 95441; 707-857-3531; pedroncelli.com

    Jim Pedroncelli first started with sales and marketing duties in 1957. In 1963 he and brother John Pedroncelli Jr. purchased the winery from their father, who started the Dry Creek Valley winery in 1927. The winery shipped 59,000 cases 2010 from 105 vineyard acres.

    Gary Mills

    River Road Vineyards

    5220 Ross Rd., Sebastopol 95472, 707-887-8130, riverroadvineyards.com

    Brothers Gary and Steve Mills started the company with the purchase of Russian River Valley vines in 1976 and near Cloverdale in 1978. The winery was finished in 2003 and shipped 41,000 cases in 2010.

    Tom Klein

    Rodney Strong Wine Estates

    11455 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg 95448, 707-433-6511, rodneystrong.com

    Tom Klein assumed leadership of the family agribusiness in 1984, and in 1989 Klein Foods acquired Rodney Strong Vineyards. The company upgraded the winery energy efficiency and high-end production, shifted to Sonoma County grapes, launched popular premium–tier Sonoma Vineyards and acquired Davis Bynum. The company produced 1 million cases in 2010 from 965 acres of vines.

    Christopher Silva

    St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

    500 Pythian Rd., Santa Rosa 95409; 800-543-7713; stfranciswine.com

    Joe Martin and Lloyd Canton started St. Francis in 1979 and appointed Christopher Silva president and chief executive officer in 2003. He was chief operating officer for four years before. The winery produces an estimated 250,000 cases a year from 500 acres of vines. In March, AOL online magazine Luxist rated the winery’s wine club one of the four best in the country.

    Emma Swain

    St. Supery Vineyards & Winery

    8440 St. Helena Hwy., Rutherford 94573; 707-963-4507; stsupery.com

    Skalli Family Wines Americas, which started the winery in 1988, named Emma Swain chief executive officer in 2009. Previously, she oversaw Sebastiani Vineyards from 2001 until Foley Family Wines acquired it in 2009 and has been credited with turning around the brand. St. Supery shipped 137,000 cases in 2010 from 520 acres of vines.

    Tom Davies

    V. Sattui Winery

    1111 White Ln., St. Helena 94574, 707-963-7774, vsattui.com

    Tom Davies is president and managing partner of Dario Sattui’s wine interests since 1980. Mr. Sattui revived the 1885 brand V. Sattui Winery in the late 1970s. V. Sattui produces nearly four dozen wines, and nearby landmark Castello di Amorosa makes more than a dozen. Production is 30,000 to 40,000 cases annually from 230 vineyard acres, and it’s sold via the tasting room and Internet.

    Hugh Davies

    Schramsberg Vineyards

    1400 Schramsberg Rd., Calistoga 94515; 707-942-6668; schramsberg.com

    Hugh Davies, son of founders Jack and Jamie Davies, has been president and chief executive officer of sparkling wine house Schramsberg Vineyards since 2005. The winery produces more than 60,000 cases of sparkling wine and a few thousand cases of J. Schram and Schramsberg Reserve still wines.

    Axel Schug

    Schug Carneros Estate Winery

    602 Bonneau Rd., Sonoma 95476, 800-966-9365, schugwinery.com

    Axel Schug joined the winery full time in 1990 became managing partner in 2007 upon the retirement of his father, Walter Schug who started the winery in 1983. Annual production totals 50,000 cases from 42 vine acres.

    David Duncan

    Silver Oak Cellars

    P.O. Box 414,  Oakville 94562; 707-944-8808; silveroak.com

    President and Chief Executive Officer David Duncan oversees high-end cabernet sauvignon producer Silver Oak Cellars, started by his father, Ray, and Justin Meyer in 1972. The Duncans started Twomey Cellars in Calistoga in 1999 and acquired Monument Tree Vineyard in Sonoma County for Twomey. The winery controls 350 vine acres and shipped 90,000 cases last year.

    Russ Weis

    Silverado Vineyards

    6121 Silverado Trail, Napa 94558, 707-257-1770, silveradovineyards.com

    General Manager Russell Weis joined Silverado in 2004 senior vice president for international business development. Ron and Diane Miller, son-in-law and daughter of Walt Disney, bought Silverado in 1978. The winery was completed in 1983, and it produces more than 40,000 cases annually from six family-owned vineyards totaling 400 acres.

    Dennis Carroll

    Sonoma Wine Co., Purple Wine Co.

    P.O. Box 390, Graton 95444, 707-938-9229, purplewine.com, sonomawineco.com

    Dennis Carroll is president and chief operating officer of custom vintner Sonoma Wine Co. and president of sister organization Purple Wine Co., which produces the brands Avalon, BEX, Blue Jean, Mark West, Rock Rabbit and Four Vines, acquired late last year. Sonoma Wine has seven North Coast facilities, making more than 5 million cases annually for 30 clients, including 850,000 cases in 2010 for Purple Wine.

    Steve Tylicki

    Steele Wines

    P.O. Box 190, Kelseyville 95451, 707-279-9475, steelewines.com

    Since 2002, General manager and viticulturist Steve Tylicki has managed 68 acres of vines in Lake and Mendocino counties and the former Konocti winery for winemaker Jed Steele, who started the company in 1991. In 2010, 58,000 cases of Steele, Shooting Star, Writer’s Block and Styme were shipped.

    Mike Tierney and Mike Martini

    Taft Street Winery

    2030 Barlow Ln., Sebastopol 95472; 707-823-2049; taftstreetwinery.com

    President Mike Tierney and former Santa Rosa Mayor Mike Martini started the winery with family members in 1982 in an Oakland garage in the 1970s. The winery makes more than 40,000 cases a year.

    In the current economy, maintaining a direct-sales staff over the last nine months has been the best way for an independent winery to compete in the current economy, according to Mr. Tierney.

    “Retailers and restaurateurs alike want to know their suppliers and appreciate direct contact,” he said. “It’s hard work, but it pays off.”

    John Trefethen

    Trefethen Vineyards

    1160 Oak Knoll Ave., Napa 94558; 707-255-7700; trefethen.com

    John Trefethen’s parents purchased an abandoned winery in 1968. Today, he operates the winery with his wife, Janet, chief executive officer. The first wines appeared in the early 1970s. Annual production is more than 60,000 cases.

    Bob Torkelson

    Trinchero Family Estates

    P.O. Box 248, St. Helena 94574; 707-963-3104; tfewines.com

    Since 2004, Bob Torkelson has been president and chief executive officer of Trinchero Family Estates, one of the largest U.S. wine companies with an estimated 15 million-plus cases of Sutter Home, Trinchero Napa Valley, Montevina, Terra d’Oro, Folie à Deux, Ménage à Trois, Napa Cellars, Trinity Oaks, dealcoholized Fre and imports Angove’s, Reynolds Vineyards and Little Boomey wines of Australia. The company also produces wines for retailers and celebrities.

    Pat Roney

    Vintage Wine Estates

    205 Concourse Blvd., Santa Rosa 95403; 707-921-2600; vintagewineestates.com

    Managing partner Pat Roney, veteran of top-executive wine and retail positions, and Leslie Rudd have acquired or taken a stake in several North Coast wineries in the past few years, including Costentino in Yountville during a January bankruptcy sale and an investment in Kunde Family Estate last year.

    Richard Bruno and Chris Condos

    Vinum Cellars

    135 Camino Dorado, #6, Napa 94558; 707-254-8313; vinumcellars.com

    Winemakers and University of California, Davis, alums Richard Bruno, Don Sebastiani & Sons winemaking director from 2001 through 2009, and Chris Condos started Vinum Cellars as a side project in 1997 to make high-quality affordable wines. Some of the 26,000 cases shipped last year were traditional varietal wines retailing for $10 to $12 a bottle.

    “At times it is scary, because we live in a David and Goliath wine market,” Mr. Bruno said. “But it is in this same spirit we started and built a successful company.” Vinum competes on price with large wine companies by focusing on quality and keeping costs low, he said.

    Tom Leonardini Sr.

    Whitehall Lane Winery

    1563 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena 94574, 707-963-9454, whitehalllane.com

    Businessman Tom Leonardini Sr. purchased Whitehall Lane Winery in March 1993 from the Finkelstein family of Judd’s Hill and Napa Valley MicroCrush. Since then, Mr. Leonardi has upgraded the more than 40,000-case-a-year operation, including a new barrel-aging facility and winemaking equipment.

     

    Return to top

    Copyright © 1988–2014 North Bay Business Journal
    View the policy for linking to website content.

    Print Friendly Print Friendly    

    Submit Your Comments

    Required

    Required, will not be published

    Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments and Letters Policy. To share this item by email or social media, use the links above.

    Do not use this form to contact people, companies or organizations mentioned in this story. Contact them directly. Private messages left here will be deleted.