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Humble Beginings

The Garage Days

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Like many successful ventures, Papapietro Perry Winery was hatched in a garage. Following the lead of the rebellious garagiste movement in Bordeaux, a handful of friends in San Francisco committed to making their own Pinot Noir to drink — and to have a bunch of fun in the process. Fortunately for them, they had Ben Papapietro as their home winemaker.

It was clear from the start the wines from Ben and Yolanda Papapietro’s hillside garage in San Francisco were special. The early wines were even mentioned favorably in the Wine Spectator and other wine publications just as the craze for quality California Pinot Noir began. As word of mouth grew about the Papapietro Perry Wines, it became clear the next step was to fully embrace that this should be more than a hobby. It was a big step not taken lightly.

Ben even took a job as general manager of a winery in Sebastopol to transition to the wine world. The two were also busy securing fruit from what turned out to be exceptional vineyards in Peters Vineyard and Leras Family Vineyards. But it was Bruce finding available space in 2000 to make wine at the Windsor Oaks Winery that marked the winery’s arrival on the commercial scene.

In some ways, the early years were very different from now. But the operation was more guerilla-style by design. There was no tasting room. And during harvest, the winemakers – including Ben and Bruce – camped out in tents, RVs or vans and cooked meals under the stars during harvest. There was no need to go home, it was all about the wine. It was exciting, super challenging and a blast.

The best of our past continues. There is always good food and wine on hand, and the quality of the wine remains a singular focus. And we still stick to a minimalist approach to winemaking. The Papapietro Perry cellar is simply a more elaborate version of Ben’s garage where he started making such compelling wine more than 35 years ago. “Authentic, not pretentious,” says Ben. “Confident, but not too serious. Humble. The winery is an extension of my home and personal hospitality.”

We have been fortunate over the years that so many people appreciate the wines as much as we do. We’ve earned success and are more established. But the simple desire to craft the best Pinot Noir we can – and to keep the whole thing decidedly fun – is what makes the winery a great place to visit and the wine in the bottle so special.

Meet The Winemakers

Bruce and Renae Perry

New York girl with brains and chutzpah meets quiet San Francisco boy with brawn, a winning smile and a heart of gold.

Renae and Bruce Perry have a zest for life, a passion for wine and food and a wonderfully wicked sense of humor. These elements are all evident when you visit Papapietro Perry Winery. Critically acclaimed Pinot Noir and Zinfandel attest to their passion for wine. Serving the winery staff meals, often produced from traditional family recipes, reveals their passion for food and their sharing spirits. And the logo t-shirt collection, with its PG ratings, will quickly reveal their sense of humor.

The journey to where they are today took a few years. When Bruce Perry rolled up his sleeves one harvest at a Sonoma County winery, it wasn’t because he was looking to change careers. During past harvests, Ben Papapietro had helped a mutual friend from work who was a partner in a Sonoma County winery. In the early ’80s, Ben invited Bruce to join in on his winemaking adventure. A third-generation San Franciscan, Bruce grew up knowing wine was to share with family and friends over dinner. Even though his grandpa made the wine they drank, Bruce hadn’t thought about making it himself. But at his first harvest at a winery, Bruce got bit by the winemaking bug.

Now bitten and smitten, Bruce joined forces with Ben to make wine in Ben’s garage. By the 1990s, Bruce realized the garagista wines he and Ben were making could compete with other premium California Pinot Noirs. Armed with his passion and the support of family and friends, Bruce located a winemaking facility in Sonoma County where he and Ben could start producing wine in commercial quantities. Papapietro Perry Winery was born.

In the 1990s, when their first vintage was ready to sell, the partners turned to Bruce’s wife, Renae for her marketing expertise. Renae was working as a software-product marketing executive for a high-tech company in the San Francisco Bay Area when Papapietro Perry started to take off. It didn’t take much encouragement for her to exchange urban life for rural Sonoma County and join Bruce and Ben in their new venture. Renae now manages marketing and sales for the winery, along with other business operations.

Bruce and Renae have easily adapted to country life, sharing their property with their dog Nola. As a couple who followed their dream, they know how fortunate they are to be doing what they love while living in one of the most beautiful places in California. Besides, they get to drink their fabulous Pinot Noir whenever they want. That could be one reason why they look so happy.

Ben and Yolanda Papapietro

Executive Winemaker Ben Papapietro is a complex man with simple pleasures, high standards and soulful values.

Wine has always been a part of Ben’s life. A native San Franciscan of Italian descent, Ben grew up with wine as part of every family meal and gathering. His grandpa made his own red wine blend in the basement, where Ben listened and learned.

Ben’s heritage and love for wine always beckoned. The passion caught fire in his early twenties as he explored wines from around the world—Bordeaux and an occasional high-end California Cabernet Sauvignon. But the wines that really turned Ben’s head were Burgundies from 1956 and ’57.

During his 37-year career with the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, Ben met future partner Bruce Perry. Through their common passions—cooking and wine—they became fast friends. They joined together to make wine as a hobby in their garages. They made and experimented with many varietals, but both found Pinot Noir to be their true passion.

Seduced by those captivating aromas and elegant nuances, Ben and Bruce volunteered to work during harvest at a friend’s Sonoma County winery specializing in Pinot Noir. There they honed their craft and never looked back.

Today, the Papapietro Perry cellar is simply a more elaborate version of Ben’s garage where he started making wine more than 35 years ago. “Authentic, not pretentious,” says Ben. “Confident, but not too serious. Humble. The winery is an extension of my home and personal hospitality.”

Maybe that is why one corner of the cellar is a kitchen where family favorites are prepared for the staff, and the occasional lucky friend who drops by at lunchtime.

In Ben’s words, “cooking and wine are indistinguishable.” He simply cannot imagine one without the other.

In 2008, Yolanda, Ben’s wife, joined the winery in 2008, leaving behind her insurance career. One of her motivations was to be able to spend more time with Ben. Yolanda oversees our distributor relations and can be found throughout the country pouring Papapietro Perry wines at tastings and winemaker dinners, often with Ben joining her. She also represents the winery at many charitable events throughout California, pouring our delicious Pinot Noirs. When they’re not traveling, Ben and Yolanda enjoy spending time with their two grandsons.