POSTED ON November 17, 2008 | IN Tasting Rooms, Wine Education | BY Joe Becerra

We visited three Napa Valley family-owned wineries in succession recently and found them to be vastly different from one another in several ways. We visited William Hill Estate, Salvestrin Winery, and Hopper Creek Vineyard. Our excursion prompted us to ponder the concept of the Family winery. What does the term really mean to the average consumer or visitor to wine country? Based on our visit to these wineries and thinking about other wineries that brand themselves as family-owned, we came up with four different categories for family-owned wineries.

Traditional Family-Owned Winery
This is probably what comes to mind the most when one thinks of a family-owned winery. This is a winery that has been around for some time and run by one or more generations of a family. The family owns vineyards and farms them, and the family either makes the wine or they hire and work closely with a winemaker.

William Hill Estate Barrel Room

William Hill Estate Barrel Room

Large Family Wine Companies
Over the years, the Gallo Family, Jackson Family Wines, the Trinchiro, Family and others have acquired several Napa Valley wineries, keeping the name of the original winery. These large family wine companies have attempted, so they say, to keep the wineries’ original identity and character. At our visit to William Hill, a Gallo-owned winery, our host kept referring to the winery as family-owned.

New Breed Family Winery
These come in a couple of flavors. The family is wealthy enough to buy vineyards or an existing winery. They hire a vineyard manager and winemaker and take a passive role in the winery’s operation. Then there are others who do not own any vineyards or buildings. They source their grapes and make their wine at a custom crush facility.

There is another set of wineries that call themselves family wineries. These are ones owned by more than one family or persons in a partnership of some sort. These are usually small production wineries.

We will follow this post with separate reviews of William Hill, Salvestrin, and Hopper Creek as examples of different types of family-owned wineries.


  1. josh apaza says

    The Jacksons and Gallos are the Sam Waltons of the wine world. They should all be ashamed of themselves.