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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Canihan Family Cellars - Sonoma Valley

One of the latest boutique wineries to take Sonoma Valley by storm.

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 of course 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. Canihan has found great success with his Pinots as well – they make up the large majority of Canihan Family wines and have become what the winery is best known for. Working with consulting winemaker Alajandro Beloz, Canihan masters the “hands-off” minimalist winemaking approach, and in turn, his 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 Pinot Noir


    90 - Connoisseurs' Guide
    id: 582
    Pinot Noir
  2. Canihan
    2007 Pinot Noir


    93 - Connoisseurs' Guide
    id: 605

Bill Canihan works closely with consulting winemaker Alajandro Beloz to craft his small allotments of premium Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Franc from his small family vineyards in Sonoma Valley. His methods showcase the extraordinary fruit from his cool-climate site and the response his wines continue to receive is nothing short of impressive. Canihan studied business while at UOP and in his free time enjoyed ski racing (he actually almost made the Olympic Team and for three seasons raced on the Pro Circuit). After college, Canihan joined two San Francisco-based wine tasting groups, the Vintners Club, and Friends of the Grape (FOG) where he focused on the details of his favorite producers, such as Rochioli and Williams Selyem, and used them as guides in his own production.

Today, Canihan is thrilled to share his wines with others and currently offers his wines in two tasting room facilities — one being a winery collective with a group of boutique wineries in San Francisco and the other being a small barn on his vineyard property in Sonoma Valley. ‘Bring your boots!” Canihan laughs. ‘It may be a little muddy out there, but it definitely gives people the real experience.”

About The Region

Canihan Family vineyards are located in Sonoma Valley near the Los Carneros appellation where the grapes receive the cool evening breezes and frequent fog from the San Francisco Bay — perfect grape growing conditions for cool climate varietals like Pinot Noir. The Canihans are committed to farming sustainably and biodynamically and the vineyard is certified organic by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farms).

Although purchased in 1975, the vineyards weren’t planted until 1998, which gave the soil over 20 years of rest, allowing nature to thoroughly cleanse the soil before seeding. This biodynamic farming theory recognizes the balance and natural healing process in the soil and is an important factor to this particular farming method.

Canihan’s vineyard manager is Phil Coturri, who is also currently managing the vineyards of Hanzell, Merus, Moon Mountain and Arrowood wineries. Coturri has an excellent reputation for his organic and biodynamic practices, which are best judged by their results.

Rosemary Pork Chops


½ cup Soy Sauce
¼ cup Water
3 Tbs. Brown Sugar
1 Tbs. Dried Rosemary, crushed
4 (6 ounce) boneless Pork Loin Chops


In a large resealable bag, combine the soy sauce, water, brown sugar and rosemary. Add the pork chops. Seal the bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for about 3 hours to fully marinate. Drain and discard the marinade. Place the pork chops in a greased 11 inch by 7 inch by 2 inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 35 minutes or until the juices run clear. Serve with parmesan roasted potatoes and vegetables, and enjoy with a glass of Pinot Noir!

Bacon-Wrapped Fig & Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin


½ cup crumbled Blue Cheese
4 Fresh Figs, small dice
1 Pork Tenderloin
3-6 slices of Bacon (varies depending on size of Tenderloin)
Salt & freshly cracked Black Pepper


After preparing the grill to medium heat, combine the diced figs and crumbled blue cheese in a small bowl. Toss to evenly distribute. Butterfly the pork tenderloin by slicing lengthwise almost all the way through, then open the meat up like a book. Season all surfaces of the pork liberally with the salt and pepper. Evenly distribute the fig/blue cheese mixture down the middle of the seasoned pork, leaving about a half inch of space on the edges. Roll the pork back up into the shape of the tenderloin, encasing the stuffing with the meat. Using toothpicks, securely fasten the pork back together at the edges. Wrap the stuffed tenderloin evenly with the slices of bacon, securing them to the toothpicks. Place the tenderloin on the grill, directly over the heat. Grill about 20-25 minutes or until internal temperature reads 140 degrees, turning the meat occasionally to crisp the bacon evenly on all sides (and to decrease the chance of flare ups). Once the pork is at the desired level of done-ness, remove from the grill. Let the pork rest, covered loosely in foil, for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Drizzled with a pomegranate vinaigrette gives a sweet tang to the finished pork