It is often assumed that winery owners were born with dirt under their fingernails and raised among the vines by families who have been making wine for generations. While Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is certainly home to those with winemaking in their blood, a quick tour through the region also yields an entirely different crop of wine leadership – entrepreneurs who saw the promise of the region and left wildly different careers to build a life in wine.
One of the most iconic wineries in the region, Wilson Creek Winery, is home not only to great wines, but also to a diverse cross-section of skill sets. CEO Bill Wilson was a Series 7 financial planner specializing in tax-deferred annuities before answering the call of the vine, while Wilson Creek’s winemaker, Gus Vizgirda, was previously a self-described “cartoonist, weatherman, officiant, teacher and vineyard yoga guru.”
While owner & winemaker Robert Renzoni of Robert Renzoni Vineyards was actually born and raised in the wine business, he broke off early on to pursue music, touring with his alt-rock band “Absent” for 9 years before returning to his roots. The music never left him though, and today many of Renzoni’s wines are named for musical references, like the Pinot Grigio-Viognier blend, “Cantata” and the Super Tuscan-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, “Sonata.”
Palumbo Family Vineyards and Winery owner and winemaker Nick Palumbo played in New York City post-grunge band “The Morning Glories” and was also a chef in both New York and San Diego, cooking for the likes of George W. Bush and Wesley Snipes, among others. His wife and winery co-owner, Cindy, was an insurance agent for 15 years prior to jumping into wine.
Wiens Family Cellars owner and general manager, Jeff Wiens, had to go through two previous careers before landing in wine, including a 10-year stint as professional drummer, as well as a Senior Industrial Engineer in the aerospace industry.
But Temecula Valley isn’t only made up of former rock stars. Careers in business before wine were also common. Briar Rose Winery owner Les Linkogle had a successful career in mortgage banking, while his wife, Dorian was an executive vice president at the Aetna Corporation for 25 years before the two followed their lifelong dream to produce wine.
Frangipani Estate Winery owner and winemaker, Don Frangipani was growing mushrooms for his wife, JoAnn’s family’s mushroom farm in Escondido, as well as for their own mushroom-growing business on Mt. Palomar, and cooking for one of her family’s restaurants, before launching his career in wine.