Canihan Family Cellars
Sonoma County region
A minimalist approach in the vineyards assures the wines are true expressions of the family vineyard
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 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 to be an ideal setting for growing premium quality wine grapes. William’s son, Bill Canihan, was only twelve years old 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. 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.”
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.”
Canihan has found great success with his Pinots as well – they make up the large majority of Canihan Family Wines and have become the other varietal the winery is best known for. Working with consulting winemaker Alexandra Romanini, Canihan masters the “hands-off” minimalist 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 between 2,000 and 2,500 cases annually, a level that is quite comfortable and allows Canihan the ability to maintain his strict quality standards.
“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.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Our 2012 Exuberance Syrah ranks among the finest wines we have produced. Only 300 cases were bottled, and only the finest grapes, consisting of less than two tons per acre, made this fabulous wine.
Our cool-climate, estate vineyard is meticulously farmed by hand, certified organic by CCOF, and located on the border of the Los Carneros and Sonoma Valley appellations. This is not your typical Syrah. Exuberance exudes elegance, with a refined, smooth finish.
Our inaugural Syrah, the 2004 Canihan Family won Double Gold, along with the highest award possible: “Best Red Wine of Show” in the 2007 San Francisco International Wine Competition. 47 judges agreed that our Syrah was the finest amongst 4,3000 wines entered in the largest bling-tasting competition in the country. I am even more excited about the 2012 vintage as this Syrah benefited from perfect weather along with few grapes per cluster, resulting in perfect ripening.
Founder & Proprietor
About the Vineyard
Canihan Family Vineyards are located in Sonoma Valley near the Los Carneros appellation where the grapes receive cool evening breezes and frequent fog from the San Francisco Bay – perfect grape growing conditions for cool climate varietals like Pinot Noir. Bill Canihan is committed to farming sustainably and biodynamically and his 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, a lifelong farmer and one of Sonoma’s leading organic viticulturists. With 30 years of experience behind him, Coturri has an excellent reputation for his organic and biodynamic practices and currently manages over 550 acres of grapes for 32 clients.
Bill Canihan - Winemaker
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.”