Owned by friends Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry, the winery’s Pinots are so celebrated that you might presume them to be the result of a lifelong pursuit of winemaking. But both Papapietro and Perry spent more than 30 years in another industry before retiring to pursue winemaking. Here, we chat with Papapietro about how it all started and what it was like to retire into a whole new career.
You had a career at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency before starting the winery. What were you doing there?
I started there in 1965 and retired in 2003. I was in circulation for 37 years—I drove a truck, I was head of a teamster union for some period of time. And the last six or seven years I was one of three guys that installed modular mounts—you know how you buy newspapers out of the dispensers on the street? Well, I built and installed and repaired those.
- Recipes from a Winemaker's Restaurant Takeover
- Sonoma County Wineries to Visit
- What to Eat, Drink and Do in Sonoma County
How did you go from working at the newspaper agency to owning your own winery?
I started making wine in my garage as an escape from my work in 1980. It was a hobby. But then in 1998, my business partner, Bruce Perry, who joined me in 1985 making wine in the garage, he talked me into doing it commercially. We were having a good time. We were getting some really great fruit. We had a group of guys we put together to help out. It was a lot of fun doing it as a home winemaker, but by 1998 it was pretty obvious that we had a good product and people were pushing us to market it. So we decided to go into business. So I still had my job at the newspaper and I made wine. I took all my vacation and all my sick leave each harvest to work—that way I didn’t have to quit my job. I did that from 1998 until 2003. By 2003, I had enough of working at the paper, so I resigned and devoted my full-time work to the winery.