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Donelan Family Wines

Sonoma County region

Sourcing fruit from extraordinary vineyards throughout Sonoma County

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 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 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 expense 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.

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.

We hope our Pinot Noir Wine Club members enjoy this fantastic bottling. Cheers!

Map of the area

David Milner - Winemaker

Picture of David Milner - Winemaker

Born and raised in the suburban town of Fairfield in Northern California, David Milner was first exposed to wine while attending Sonoma State University. His roommate at the time worked for a local winery and would often bring home to taste. This experience allowed David to discover different varietals' qualities and he was surprised by how much there was to learn about wine, fermentation and viticulture - from then on, he was hooked and officially 'bit' by the wine bug.

David went on to dabble with homebrewing and cheesemaking, but wine would become his real passion. He produced his first batch of wine while still working on his degree in Wine Business Strategies, and upon graduating, immersed himself completely in the industry. Starting out with a small Pinot producer, David worked in the cellar of a custom crush facility where he had the opportunity to learn each winemaker's approach in the vineyard and winery. He went on to work with two of Napa Valley's most respected estate wineries - the Eisele Vineyard and Groth - and finally made his way home to Sonoma where he worked for Benovia in the heart of the Russia River Valley.

David joined Donelan Family Winery in 2017 and worked his way up from Cellar Master to Assistant Winemaker, and finally to Head Winemaker in 2019 where he works with former Head Winemaker and now Advisor, Joe Nielsen.

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> 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 Wine Club Plus!). 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 - Winemaking Advisor

Picture of Joe Nielsen - Winemaking Advisor

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.