Established by Anderson Valley wine pioneer Milla Handley, Handley Cellars celebrates its fortieth year of producing small-lot artisan wines from a rural, cool-climate pocket of Northern California.
A small, family-owned winery in California’s Mendocino County, Handley Cellars was established by winemaker Milla Handley in 1982. The winery is located at the northwest end of the Anderson Valley, nestled on 59 acres of the original Guntly Ranch. Here, the family proudly farms their Certified Organic Estate vineyards which are surrounded by a ranch house, barn, and water tower that were all originally constructed in the early 20th century.
Pioneer winemaker Milla Handley, who passed in 2020, was a champion of the Anderson Valley grape growing region for nearly four decades. Born in the San Francisco Bay area, Milla grew up with a desire to live in the countryside and while in college at UC Davis, narrowed her interests to enology. She earned her degree in Fermentation Science in 1975 and immediately went to work for winemakers Richard Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean and Jed Steele at Edmeades.
In 1978, Milla headed to Anderson Valley, which at the time, was largely uncharted viticultural territory. She was captivated by the valley’s endless possibilities and the independent spirit of the local winemaking community, so much so that she was inspired to start her own winery brand - Handley Cellars - just a few short years later. It was always Milla’s goal to craft elegant, terroir-driven wines that captured the essence of this extraordinary place, and she certainly built a remarkable legacy in her lifetime.
Milla’s spirit is very much alive and part of the day-to-day work at Handley Cellars, which is now run by Lulu Handley, one of Milla’s daughters. Lulu and her sister Megan grew up on the Handley Estate, and cultivated a deep love of agriculture and ecology early on. Lulu and her husband Scott took the reins after Milla’s retirement in 2016 and they are incredibly passionate about continuing the Handley legacy.
The winery currently produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer from the family’s certified organic estate vineyards, plus a handful of other varietals sourced from small local farmers in diverse parts of Anderson Valley and Mendocino County. Winemaking duties at Handley Cellars are currently overseen by Randy Schock, who carries on Milla’s tradition of crafting elegant, fruit-driven wines that complement a wide variety of cuisines.
The wines for Handley Cellars can be sampled at the winery’s beautiful tasting room, which is located just north of Philo, California. Visitors can enjoy tastings in the garden courtyard and a tour of the grounds, which includes a unique display of folk art collected by Lulu’s grandfather, Ray Handley, from around the world.
We invite our Gold and Pinot Noir Wine Club members to enjoy these specially-selected wines from a pioneer winery of the Anderson Valley. Cheers!
Map of the area
Randy Schock - Winemaker
The current winemaker for Handley Cellars is Randy Schock, who started with the winery back in 2004 as Cellar Master. Randy’s winemaking career began as assistant winemaker at Fieldstone Winery in Alexander Valley, but before long, the opportunities and rural beauty of Anderson Valley led him to a harvest job with Navarro Vineyards. He then worked as winemaker at Philo Ridge Winery during its start-up years.
In 2004, Randy became the Cellar Master at Handley Cellars, and over the years, worked his way up to be Co-Winemaker, and finally, Winemaker. Randy thrives on crafting balanced wines that showcase the local terroir of Anderson Valley. He has lived locally since 1998 with his wife Gina and their three sons, Paul, Owen and Finn.
About the Vineyard
The fruit for Handley Cellars is drawn mostly from the Anderson Valley, offering an interesting and varied collection of expressive wines. The estate vineyard lies within the Anderson Valley, which is located in the rolling hills of the coastal region of Mendocino County, about two hours north of San Francisco. Only fifteen miles long, this beautiful valley is home to a unique group of wineries producing a broad range of excellent wines. The cool foggy nights and bright sunny days allow a great climate for the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer that dominate the Handley varietals planted there.
Handley also sources from Redwood Valley and Mendocino Ridge (within Anderson Valley) for their Syrah, Zinfandel, and Late Harvest Riesling. The climate in the Anderson Valley appellation is tempered by cool marine air. Towards the coast, the summers are cool and moist with frequent fog, while the interior Anderson Valley features a warm to hot summer climate similar to nearby interior regions. Such a broad span of climate allows multiple grape varietals to thrive in the wine growing region.
Randy Schock & Milla Handley - Winemakers
Milla Handley shares winemaking responsibilities with Randy Schock, who began as cellar master for Handley Cellars 2004 and was promoted to co-winemaker in November 2012. Randy has lived in Anderson Valley since 1998 with his wife Gina and their three sons. His winemaking career began as assistant winemaker at Fieldstone in Alexander Valley before moving to a harvest job at Navarro Vineyards and finally serving as winemaker for Philo Ridge Winery. Randy’s winemaking philosophy is compatible with Milla’s, allowing grapes to express themselves naturally with as little manipulation as possible
Milla Handley - Owner & Winemaker
Milla Handley has never been a city-girl. Although she grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, ever since she can remember she has wanted to live in the country. Perhaps it was because she loved animals so much and that’s why as a young girl, she thought a career in animal science would be fun and rewarding. That is until she had to dissect a frog. She simultaneously decided to turn loose the frog as well as the idea of a career in that field!
Her focus instead turned toward art, which has long been a part of her life due to her father. The owner of two folk art shops in San Francisco, he raised Milla both to understand and appreciate art, and when she went to college, it was to become an art major at U.C. Davis. However, she was soon disillusioned by the caliber of art professors at Davis and decided to change direction. Going back to her roots, another idea was brewing — both literally and figuratively. Her mother’s great-great grandfather was Henry Weinhard of beer brewing fame. But she had also acquired an interest in wine over the years, and had always enjoyed it at the family dinner table.
These connective interests led Milla toward both enology and brewing courses at U.C. Davis, but it didn’t take her long to narrow it down to enology.
‘The differences were like night and day,” Milla remembers. Not only was brewing was done nearly exclusively in a city surrounding, but she felt there was little or no art in the brewing process. After all, one of the keys to a successful brew house is producing the same consistent brew each and every batch — boring, she thought. Winemaking, on the other hand, was primarily a country thing. And each winemaker was encouraged to find his own art, so to speak. Also, each batch of wine is different and new — much more exciting, she thought!
Out of U.C. Davis in 1975, Milla landed a job as a quality control lab technician at Chateau St. Jean in southern Sonoma County. Three years later, her husband Rex, then also in the wine business, took a job at Navarro Vineyards in Mendocino. There, Milla found a job working at now-defunct Edmeades Winery. She gained valuable experience at Edmeades, working with Jed Steele (of Kendall-Jackson fame), as an assistant winemaker. After a few years, Milla decided to strike out on her own.
Deeply taken with California’s Anderson Valley, Milla saw a future there and wanted to make wines that captured the essence of the land. Now, more than 25 years later, Handley Cellars’ wines do just that.
Milla also found a way to tie in her love of nature and art into Handley Cellars’ wine labels. Since her parents had been collectors of tribal art, Milla had always been drawn to artifacts, textiles, and jewelry that were inspired by the beauty of the natural world. The ancient tribal textiles of the African Kuba tribes had been one of her favorites over the years, and are now the inspiration for the beautifully woven designs pictured on the wines’ labels.
Joined in 2004 by co-winemaker Kristen Barnhisel, an active winemaker who was actually the first American and the first woman to work harvest for Ruffino/Nozzole winery in Tuscany, Italy, Milla works closely with her to incorporate a number of techniques and specialized programs to meet the particulars of each vintage, varietal, and vineyard source.
Milla carefully balances the roles of proprietor and winemaker at Handley Cellars. She is involved in every aspect of the winery operation, from vineyards and wines to her unique tasting room.
Looking back at the last 27 years, Milla claims there is little she would change. ‘We’re happy with the progression of the winery,” she says. ‘I think we’ve been successful at making our wines both memorable and affordable,” she adds. Considering the slew of medals that Handley Cellars has earned over the years and the fact that their wines are always quick sell-outs, we’d say Milla is right on track.