20 leaders of North Coast independently owned wineries
A common feature of many independently owned wineries on the California North Coast is family involvement. And what's noticeable in North Bay Business Journal's look this year at 20 leaders of such businesses is the rise of the next generation to top executive posts.
What also stands out is the rise of women in this new crop of leadership at local family-run vintners. That includes Suzanne Groth, Violet Grgich, Ariana Peju White and Whitehall Lane's Katie Leonardini.
This report focuses on vintners that made the Business Journal's list of independent wineries, published March 5. The leaders are listed alphabetically by winery.
Proprietor, Barra of Mendocino
7051 N. State St., Redwood Valley 95470
Charlie Barra, 92, is a pioneer in Mendocino County organic winemaking. In 1955 he purchased Redwood Valley Vineyards, with 175 acres of vines at the headwaters of the Russian River.
The wine company started in 1997 amid a downturn in the winegrape business. It produces about 20,000 cases annually.
Stepson Shawn Harmon left a 10-year career in civil engineering in 2002 to handle finances of the wine business. Now he also oversees operations of the 300-acre vineyard business, the winery and custom winemaking by Redwood Valley Cellars.
Chairman, Chappellet Winery
1581 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena 94574
Cyril Chappellet, oldest son of winery founders Donn and Molly, was elected chairman of the winery's family-run board of directors in 2012. He was the only person other than his father, who died in 2016, to hold that position since the winery started in 1967.
He studied farm management at California Polytechnic University and earned a business degree from Pepperdine University.
He began a career outside the wine business, at his parents' suggestion, in corporate planning and acquisitions. In 1988, after nearly a decade of honing his business skills, Cyril Chappellet returned to the winery in the Pritchard Hill area near St. Helena.
Kim Stare Wallace
President, Dry Creek Vineyard
3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg 95448
Kim Stare Wallace became president of the 100,000-case-a-year winery in 2012. Her husband, Don, had been president since 2006 on the retirement of her father, David Stare, founder of the first new winery in Dry Creek Valley since Prohibition. The ranch includes 200 estate acres of vines.
In January, the Sonoma County winery made a big investment in creating its own salesforce, hiring five representatives to serve regions across the country.
“In a world of increasing consolidation, I am proud that Dry Creek Vineyard has remained one of the last truly private, family-owned, iconic wineries consistently producing 90-plus-point wines,” Stare Wallace said.
Dry Creek Vineyard was selected as the official wine of the Louis Vuitton America's 2016 Cup World Series. With a sailboat on its label, the winery has a 40-year history of backing sailing events.
Last year, the winery received a patent for printing sustainable-sourcing information on its corks. In 2018, the winery received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for a sixth straight year.
President, Dutton Estate Winery
8757 Green Valley Road, Sebastopol 95472
Joe and Tracy Dutton purchased a 20-acre chardonnay vineyard and tasting room in the Green Valley region of Sonoma County's Russian River Valley in 1995. It is near the Kozlowski Farms business Tracy Dutton's family started in 1949 and the Dutton Ranch winegrape and apple business Joe Dutton co-owns.
Raised on Kozlowski Farms, Tracy Dutton learned that business from various levels, even managing the retail shop for pies, jams and fresh fruit at age 16. She then started traveling regionally and nationally for sales.
In the early 1990s, she studied marketing at Chico State University and earned a degree in economics from Sonoma State University. She returned to work at Kozlowski full time in accounting. Then she literally married the boy next door, and that wine business began.
The winery is permitted to produce 20,000 cases a year and makes 4,000 for Dutton Estate.
President, Grgich Hills Estate
1829 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford 94573
As his namesake winery turns 40, Vintner Hall of Famer Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, 95, retired as president, naming his daughter, Violet Grgich, to replace him. Born in 1965, she has been overseeing operations for years.
At University of California, Davis, she majored in music but also took enology, biology and chemistry classes. A harpsichordist, she earned a master's degree in music from Indiana University, then returned to the winery to work full-time, rising eventually to vice president of sales and operations.