Welcome to Philo Ridge Vineyards! We are situated 5.33 miles up a dirt road from the floor of the Anderson Valley. This is where Fred R. Buonanno and Heather A. McKelvey decided to plant our roots, so to speak, and begin our venture into the wine business.
We had looked at properties for over four years, until one Sunday evening, we looked in the Sunday classified section of the San Francisco Chronicle. There, under the heading of Farms and Ranches, was a five line ad for a For Sale By Owner. It described a 50+ acre property with a vineyard and room to plant more. We called that evening and made arrangements to meet the next Saturday. After looking around the property for about an hour, we made an offer on the most beautiful piece of property we had seen in our four years of searching. We took possession of the property in August of 1999.
There were already three acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot planted just below the house. The vineyard was planted in 1976 by the original owner of the property, Vernon Rose of Christine Woods Winery. The property was their original winery as well. There were an additional seven acres of plantable terraced land just yards from the original vineyard.
We suddenly found ourselves in the wine business. It was quite thrilling and equally terrifying. Neither of us had ever actually farmed. We had read a great deal and we were well schooled in the wine aspect of the business, but we were lacking in that get-your-hands-in-the-dirt, practical experience. One of the first things we did was ask Norman Kobler to be our vineyard manager. Norman has many years of hands-on knowledge about almost everything to do with putting something in the ground, watching it grow, and making wine. Norman planned and supervised the installation of our Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vineyards in 2000 and has worked hard to continue our education.
We decided to become a bonded winery in 2001 and we released our first vintage in January of 2004: 167 cases of 2001 Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. We were very pleased when our first submission – our 2001 Syrah – won a Silver medal in the San Francisco Chronicle competition. Since that time, we have entered a number of competitions with our wines and have done very well, including 90 points and Editor's Choice for the 2006 Pinot Noir in the July 2010 Wine Enthusiast. We also received Editor's Choice for the Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris in the same edition. Our production is now up to 2200 cases and we continue to ratchet up our production. But we still make each wine by hand in small batches of between 90 to 450 cases each. Our goal is to make great wines that have complexity and exemplify the best their varietals have to offer your palate.
Pinot Noir is our primary wine, but we have added Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Viognier to the mix for white wines and Zinfandel, Vino di Mendocino, and Coro Mendocino in the reds.
Stay tuned, as our journey continues.
- Fred and Heather