Santa Rosa, Calif., (August 11, 2017) – Duff Bevill has been involved in the Sonoma County grape growing scene since 1973, when he moved to the county and went to work for Joe Vogensen in Dry Creek Valley in March of that year. Bevill explains this time as “the first big post-prohibition wine grape boom,” before the economy took a downturn a few years later and the price of grapes dropped. After his roughly three-year stint with Vogensen, Bevill moved on to work for Clarence Wolcott for about a year, before joining the team at Dry Creek Vineyard under Owner Dave Stare in 1978.
It was at Dry Creek Vineyard that Bevill was asked to oversee the farming operations at the estate, while simultaneously being allowed to farm other vineyards as well. His vineyard management work at Dry Creek Vineyard and his freelance farm work with other vineyards led Bevill to create his own LLC in the mid-1990s. “I started with basically nothing. I hired my first employee and bought my first tractor, and it went from there,” Bevill says when asked about his humble beginnings. Today, Bevill Vineyard Management owns their own vineyards, sells grapes to roughly 45 wineries in Sonoma County and manages the vineyards of 30 individual clients.
Bevill’s longstanding roots in the Sonoma County grape growing community naturally make him a leading member of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. Prior to the organization becoming a commission, and Bevill played a strong role in guiding the organization into becoming a commission. “It became clear to many of us on the board that we should pursue trying to create a state authorized winegrape commission. It had been attempted back in 1991, but the vote failed. So, we cycled back to it again,” Bevill says. “I gave a speech at Dollars & $ense that year about becoming a commission and it passed with like 85%—so we must have done a good job at marketing the value of a commission,” he furthers. Bevill was the inaugural Chairman of the commission and served for two years.
When Executive Director, Nick Fry, retired, it was clear to the board members that the Director of Marketing—at the time, Karissa Kruse—was the right fit for the job. She was promoted to President and Bevill says, “we really ramped it up when Karissa came on…we have some pretty remarkable leadership and marketing.” He furthers, “Any other region would be hard-pressed to say they’ve developed as much marketing as we have in the past decade.”
When reflecting on his time with Sonoma County Winegrowers, Bevill appreciates most the cooperation from his fellow Commissioners: “When it’s all said and done, you vote and 99% of the time, it’s unanimous. That’s pretty unique and I think that’s why we’re doing so well. We all see the big picture and recognize the value. And that’s the feeling I get every time I go to a meeting. We make decisions that benefit the community of grape growers in Sonoma County. Hopefully that message is shared and passed on to new members, and the next group to come on after that.”
As a longtime Sonoma County grape grower, Kevin Barr is no stranger to the origin of Sonoma County Winegrowers. Barr always knew he wanted to live a life in agriculture; his trekking back and forth between his home in Marin and his family’s sheep farm in Mendocino as a youngster set the vision for a life of agriculture in Sonoma County: “I spent my whole life going back and forth in the station wagon between Marin and Sonoma Counties. I could see that Sonoma County had a wonderful ag situation going on. So, when I went to US Davis [in 1979], I thought I really wanted to end up in Sonoma County, so I majored in Viticulture.”
After graduating from UC Davis, Barr moved immediately to Sonoma County and worked for a couple different companies. But in November 1983, “I started my own company—Redwood Empire Vineyard Management,” he states. It was not long after he created REVM that Barr became involved with the original Sonoma County Grapegrowers Association in the mid-1980s. “I was on that board for 10+ years,” he says proudly. “I was Chairman somewhere along the way in the early 90s…and then, it morphed into the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission and I’ve served on that board for eight years”—the past two of which he was Chairman.
Although Barr has termed out, he will continue with Sonoma County Winegrowers on the Executive Committee, in addition to his role as Chairman of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation. Looking back, Barr says, “I would describe my time with the commission as a fabulous experience. I participated and watched the organization grow into an extremely well-run, well-respected, go-to organization for Sonoma County agriculture.” And his pride doesn’t stop there, as he states, “I have tremendous respect for Karissa [Sonoma County Winegrowers President]—as she is the visionary—as well as for her wonderful staff.” Having taken a role in hiring much of the recent staff, Barr proclaims, “It’s been a wonderful experience helping to build the A-team.”
In addition to his appreciation for the Sonoma County Winegrowers team, Barr also has deep respect and admiration for his fellow grape growers who serve as board members. “These leaders are all outstanding; they are a very dedicated group. I am very proud of our Commissioners and Executive Committee, and honored to serve with all these wonderful, very dedicated, bright leaders in the wine industry,” Barr acknowledges.
And Barr is “most proud that we are such a cohesive group,” he says. “We have a very healthy, open discussion and at the end, we always come to an agreement…I give Karissa a tremendous amount of credit as a leader—she brings out the best in us.” Without forgetting to reiterate what’s most important about the work that Sonoma County Winegrowers does, Barr eagerly reports, “We’re doing what’s best for the whole industry. It’s very much a team spirit and I’m very proud of that team spirit.”
Sonoma County Winegrowers would like to thank Kevin Barr for his commitment and hard work with the organization over the last several decades, and we are pleased that Barr will be continuing his work with the commission as the Chairman of the Sonoma County Grapegrowers Foundation.
Richard Mounts is a committed farmer and family man, being the second generation to run the family’s 140-acre estate in Dry Creek Valley. Mounts’ father, Jack, purchased the first 60 acres of land in 1946 to raise sheep and farm prunes—this is the land upon which Mounts was raised. He only veered away from the family farm to obtain his Bachelor of Science in soil science when he went to California Polytechnic State University.
Upon returning to the farm, after receiving his degree and taking a road trip around South America, Mounts saw the writing on the wall in Sonoma County and knew he had to guide the family farm into grape production. With his father’s blessing, Mounts planted seven acres of Petite Sirah and ten acres of Zinfandel in 1967. In 1969, he began working on the family farm full-time, before eventually taking over the entire operation. Over time, the prune orchards were gradually replaced with vineyards and today, 90 acres of grapes are planted to ten varietals; half of those acres are planted to 38- to 45-year-old Zinfandel vines. Grapes are sold to both Sonoma and Napa counties, and now the third generation of Mounts has joined the family farming operation.
As a committed farmer and family man, Mounts has been involved with Sonoma County Winegrowers for quite some time. He has served as a Board Member and is currently on the Executive Committee, as well as a former Commission Board Treasurer and member of the Marketing Committee. Mounts is also very active in the Sonoma County farming community, having served as President of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau in 1997-1998.
Sonoma County Winegrowers would like to thank Richard Mounts for his commitment and hard work with the organization over the years, and we are pleased that Mounts will be continuing his work with the commission on the Executive Committee.