Donelan Family Wines
Sonoma County region
Crafting boutique wines from exquisite vines
A number of wineries utilize the ‘family’ tag, but few are truly winery operations that utilize all members of a given family. Such is the fact with Donelan Family Winery, a mid-size Sonoma County undertaking that has had more than its fair share of success during its existence.
Started in 2005 by Joe Donelan, the winery is a great tribute to his family. Sons Tripp and Cushing handle all the sales and marketing, and wife Christine helps with administration and customer relations. It was, and has always been, Joe Donelan’s intention to produce the finest wines possible and spare no expenses in doing so. The first Donelan Family wines saw the light of day in 2008, when the winery rolled out some 3,000 cases of high quality, vineyard-designated wine.
Wine guru Robert Parker gave the first Donelan Family wine he tasted a 97-100 Point Score and other authorities have also given a significant amount of praise to the winery’s portfolio. This certainly speaks to the quality level Joe Donelan had intended.
Joe Donelan began his journey of wine discovery in the 1980’s when he was inspired by a Nantucket restaurant sommelier. He then set out to learn everything he could about wine. He read everything he could get his hands on and seriously involved himself in the world of the grape. This undertaking involved numerous trips to California wine regions, in addition to trips to France, Germany, Italy and Spain to learn about Europe’s vinous history.
By the late 1990’s, Joe Donelan, who at the time was a prosperous paper broker, decided it was time to get into the wine business professionally. Experts told him that certain micro-climates in Sonoma County could work extremely well for his favorite varietal – Syrah – and the hunt began to find the best possible grapes available. Joe had a vision of creating superior-quality, terroir-driven wines and began establishing relationships with unique Sonoma County vineyards. Until he purchased his own vineyards (Obsidian Vineyards), he sourced fruit from a number of top growers in the area.
This year Donelan Family Winery will produce around 7,000 cases, a rather remarkable accomplishment for the relatively youthful winery. The plan is to always be a small production winery while continuing to search for unique, cool climate, terroir-driven grapes to put into their Rhône and Burgundian inspired wines. Located in an industrial park on Santa Rosa’s western side, the winery’s ultra-modern setting seems well suited to support the family’s extended run of great success.
A Personal Note from Donelan Family Wines
Dear Platinum Series Members,
Many thanks for your interest in our boutique family owned and operated winery. It has been a busy year at Donelan Wines and I’ve been sharing the joys and challenges of building a small winery with my sons, Tripp, who’s been working with the winery for eight years, and Cushing, who’s been working with the winery for two years now. We feel that all wine should taste great every time you open a bottle!
Donelan Family Wines might be new to the majority of you as we’re only in our sixth vintage and sell about eighty percent of our wine direct to consumers like you. We pride ourselves on sourcing from small, unique and cool climate sites in Sonoma County. The fruit from these sites enables us to produce a wine that has structure, balance, great energy and is food friendly.
I like to share wines from the 2012 vintage, which I believe is a very special vintage and will go down as a classic for the region. In this series, we are offering our 2012 Cuvée Christine Syrah and our 2012 Nancie Chardonnay (Platinum Plus! Series). You’ll find that the majority of our wines are named after family members; Christine is my wife and Nancie is my mother! These wines are approachable and enjoyable right now, but feel free to lay them down for future pleasure.
These wines are all limited-production, so please be generous to yourselves!
All my best,
Joe Donelan, Founder & Owner
Tripp Donelan, Director of Sales
Cushing Donelan, Director of Marketing
Joe Nielsen - Winemaker
Joe Nielsen got his start in winemaking not in the California fields or a university greenhouse, but in the backyard of his parents’ Michigan home. While studying premed at Michigan State, a friend suggested he consider a future in winemaking. After pouring over English-translated books on French viticulture, the 18-year-old cleared an acre of his parents’ property and set to work planting his own vineyard. After earning a horticulture degree and working with a Michigan winery for a year, Joe set out to pursue his winemaking dreams in California. As a self-proclaimed “cellar rat,” Joe spent the next few years learning every aspect of winemaking before joining Donelan Family Winery in 2009 to hone his craft with terroir-driven wines.