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Canihan Family Cellars - Sonoma Valley


Sweepstakes, Best In Show Red Wine - Sonoma Valley Wine Competition

Located in southern Sonoma Valley near Los Carneros is Canihan Family Cellars, owned and operated by Bill Canihan who is proudly (and enthusiastically) carrying out his family dream, one award-winning wine at a time. Canihan’s inspiration for the small winery is steeped in family history and pays homage to his grandfather who dreamed of one day owning his own winery. The dream dates back to 1920 when a young man named August Siegrist came to America in search of a better life. Siegrist was Canihan’s grandfather, and had grown up supporting his family in Switzerland by working the nearby vineyards. While farming the hillside plantings of Pinot Noir and other cool climate varietals, Siegrist developed a respect for nature and sustainable farming, along with a cultivated love of wine. Siegrist came to America in 1920 and eventually made his way into California wine country. Unfortunately, his timing couldn’t have been worse as the country was thrown with the onset of Prohibition and he was forced to set aside his love for wine and refocus his dreams. Siegrist never gave up on his passion for wine though, and through the years, passed his interest and enthusiasm onto his family.

It wasn’t until many years later (in 1975) that his dream began to be fulfilled. William Canihan, Sr. (Siegrist’s son-in-law) purchased 20 acres of Basque farmland in Sonoma County with the intent of one day planting wine grapes. The land had been farmed organically for over 60 years and seemed an ideal setting for growing premium quality wine grapes. William’s son, Bill Canihan, was only twelve at the time, but would grow to be the instrumental piece in jump-starting Canihan Family Cellars some 20 years down the road. Bill Canihan was no stranger to wine growing up, and often enjoyed a glass at the dinner table with family (half wine, half water until he was old enough). While attending college at University of the Pacific (UOP), he shared his hobby with friend and roommate Jack Galante, who was planning to enter the winery business after graduation. Galante’s family had land in Carmel Valley that would make a suitable vineyard, and it got Canihan thinking too…what about his family’s land in Sonoma? It was just the motivation Canihan needed.

It was 1998 and the Canihans sought out noted viticulturist Phil Coturri to direct the planting of the vineyard and winemaker Alexandra Romanini to assist them in producing the first wines from the vineyard. They wanted to maintain the organic practices to keep August Siegrist’s vision alive, and chose to go with Pinot Noir as their primary varietal.

“I knew Pinot would grow best there because of the location,” Canihan explained, “and we did a little Syrah too because I thought it would be the ‘next big thing’ – I still do. We also planted Cabernet Franc. I was always a fan of Martha’s Vineyard Cabs, but I knew I couldn’t grow Cab there and had to go with the Cab Franc instead.” After producing just a couple barrels in 2002 and 2003, Canihan Family Cellars made their first commercial release in 2004 with 170 cases of Estate Syrah. The wine created quite the buzz, being awarded “Best of Show Red Wine” from over 4,300 wines at the prestigious 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – the highest possible honor! “I was really surprised,” Canihan admitted, “but it opened up a lot of doors and it really validated what we were doing.” “At the time, I was so excited to start selling wine that I’d been giving away cases of the 04 Syrah to all of our friends and family. We were almost sold out by the time the award came out and I had to go back to some friends and ask for it back!” Canihan said with a laugh. Since that stellar first vintage, Canihan has released some reserve bottlings of Pinot Noir and Syrah under the winery’s Exuberance label – a limited allocation portfolio reserved for only the finest vintages, vintages believed to be the best of the decade. Canihan works with consulting winemaker Alajandro Beloz to master a “hands-off” minimalist winemaking approach, and in turn, these wines are true expressions of his family vineyard.

The Canihan family also utilizes certified organic and biodynamic farming practices as a way of paying homage to Bill’s grandfather August Siegrist. They’re keeping his dream very much alive in every way they can. Today, Canihan Family Cellars produces just 1,200 cases annually and Canihan hopes within a year or two that number will reach 2,000-2,300 and “that will be our spot.”

“We’re really excited that each vintage seems to be better than the last,” Canihan enthused. That’s a good trend for this newcomer winery, one that can be validated with the consistent high scores and prominent reviews. What an awesome success story and tribute to this family dream.


  1. Canihan
    2007 Syrah
    Canihan
    Exuberance
    Sonoma County

    $44.00

    $49.00
    Best of Show - 91 Points
    id: 672
    Special
    Platinum

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