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Baileyana Winery - Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo


Top 100 Wine of the Year—San Francisco Chronicle

John H. Niven is the tenth generation of the seafaring clan that originated in Scotland. Interestingly, all generations of males have been named John even though John H.’s grandfather was generally known as Jack. The family moved west in the early 1920’s from the Midwest, and has been a mainstay in Northern California for well over eighty years.

Even as a toddler, 30-year old John H. Niven has wonderful memories of his grandparents home surrounded by vineyards in California’s superlative Edna Valley.

After growing up in California’s Bay area, Niven completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California, earning a business degree with a focus on entrepreneurship. He tried his hand at real estate but soon felt the calling of the grape. Niven spent a year taking courses at both UC Davis and Santa Rosa JC in order to broaden his knowledge about the wine business. With his family’s full endorsement, he completed his wine industry studies and accepted a job with an Australian wine company as a marketing manager based in Monterey.

By 1998, Niven was ready for full involvement with the Niven Family’s wine company, and specifically the Baileyana Winery. Niven’s cousin Michael Blaney, 38, was already an integral part of the growing business. Blaney was a Las Vegas native who was formerly a high-ranking pit boss for several casinos, and who had graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Blaney loved the wine industry and specialized in the operational side of the business.

Along with Niven, the two were instrumental in coaxing Christian Roguenant into joining their team and designing the world-class winery that bears Baileyana’s name.

“I thought the three of us complemented each other quite remarkably,” Niven added.

“We built the winery from the ground up and the three of us agreed on practically everything. Around Baileyana, there is very little ego involved. We are a real team and I’m very proud of that fact.”

Niven also refers to a “young energy” within the winery that allows Baileyana to pursue its destiny at its own pace. Niven acknowledges the turning point in his career was the 1999 coming out party for Baileyana’s first release that was made from start to finish at the winery.

“It was the first time that everyone involved felt that Baileyana was ready to meet the outside world,” he continued. “The wines were really world-class down to the modernistic label that my Uncle Jim designed.” We used about eighty percent of the grapes from our Estate vineyards and the finished wines were actually delightful. We intend to continue this winning formula for some time in the future.”

Niven relies on his hard earned business expertise to continue growing the winery from its present 15,000 cases to a 40–50 thousand case level some time in the future. He is in no particular hurry, for Niven considers Baileyana Winery to exist within the best of both worlds.

“I realize that most people consider us a really high tech winery,” he explained. “And, they are probably right. What most people don’t realize is that Baileyana possesses a most traditional approach to winemaking. We do not cut corners and take care to insure that the basics are well covered. Christian, Michael and I agree most conclusively on that and we are unlikely to change our minds.”

John is particularly proud of his Firepeak Vineyard, a low yielding parcel of land that produces particularly intense fruit. His family’s thirty years of research and grape growing expertise is centered on Firepeak, which is expected to be the Niven Family jewel of estate vineyards. Its soil content includes clay loam and marine sediment that is joined by volcanic elements from Islay Mountain, at whose base Firepeak Vineyard sits.

While Niven smiles confidently when mentioning Firepeak, he is more concerned with the impending birth of his first child. Niven’s wife Lucy will soon deliver the couple’s first child and have already been told the baby is a boy.

The name has already been chosen, and to no one’s surprise, his first name will be John.

For obvious reasons, the parents intend to call the baby Jack after his great-grandfather.



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