Squeezing all nine siblings in their Volkswagen Van to cruise the town was adventure enough for these kids, still their blueprints as a Wiens always made room for more creativity. A family full of artists, inventors, musicians, visionaries & more— It came from their father. “He didn’t like to work for anybody,” recall several Wiens family members when remembering their dad, Gary. Becoming an architectural delineator gave him that freedom of creativity & determination; Showing people the full prospect before it became reality. Ask any Wiens where they get their ambition from, they’ll say their dad. They all had that same zeal & they all grew closer because of it. In fact, they often say that their decision to start the winery was a way to rally together & bond after his sudden passing in 1995. That inherited tenacity was the driving force behind so many of their important life decisions, but especially the one each of them made to build Wiens Family Cellars into what it is today.
A special thing happens when they remember the last 20 years together; Their sentences begin with “we” rather than “I.” Their memories remain together rather than apart & their love for each other remains constant through their journey in winemaking, but truthfully, it’s just the beginning.
In retrospect, Doug Wiens’ humble aspirations were the true beginnings to what we now call Wiens Family Cellars. Residing in the state of Colorado during his teenage years where the growing season rarely lasted for more than three months, Doug’s rooted interest in agriculture wasn’t able to blossom until his college years moving back to California. Following his graduation from Cal State San Luis Obispo with a Masters in Agriculture, Doug set out for a career in the food & beverage industry over the next several years in the Northern California region. Starting as a Production Manager for a major food manufacturer, then bouncing to Quality Control Manager in other similar companies & finally becoming a Business Systems Analyst at Gallo, Doug’s experience in the food & beverage industry was now extent—to say the least. It was here that he actually became inspired to begin growing his own vineyard. So, having abundant knowledge in agriculture as a whole, he began his journey into viticulture.
Learning that their brother had bought some land up north, the remaining Wiens siblings volunteered their time to help plant, maintain & harvest the original vines for a few summers in the mid 90’s—Truly making it a family venture from the very beginning. Due to their increasing popularity at the time, the first varietals they planted were Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel & Chardonnay. Initially, the small 14-acre plot of land that he bought in Herald was intended for grape growth & resale. However, after some time selling to local wineries, the profits were just not there. He had years of experience in the food industry, extensive knowledge in agriculture & knew the basic chemistry behind wine… So, why not take it a step further? Purely on an experimental trial, Doug began making wine from the grapes he grew in his own vineyard. His garage was now the chemistry lab & his family became the test subjects. To their surprise & frankly, Doug’s as well, the wine was well balanced & very enjoyable…
Talk about marching to the beat of your own drum. Following his high school graduation, Jeff Wiens followed his aspirations in music. In fact, he was a professional drummer for ten years! Years in & out of schooling, working different odd jobs & touring with bands was just the prologue for this dreamer. Like all good eras though, they must eventually come to an end. So, after hanging up his drumsticks for a degree in Electronics, Jeff began his engineering journey. Working as an Engineering Technician while in school offered Jeff many opportunities to grow in his field while still gaining his education. After graduation, he worked his way up to Engineering Manager. Then, over the next several years & various companies later, he became a Senior Industrial Engineer. Always having a gumptious drive, it was during this stage in his career that he decided to start his own business.
He discussed these aspirations in technology around the same time that his brother, Doug was entering his journey into wine. Realizing these similar paths in mind, Doug suggested they go in on a winery together. With Jeff’s experience in management & business, he added just what the future winery needed to get up & running. Shortly after, talks with their oldest brother, George, started making this dream a reality. His background in architecture seemed to be another missing piece to the puzzle. It was on a ritual skiing trip up to Lake Tahoe in 2001 that these three began to get excited about the possibility of this venture. By the end of the trip, they decided to start their own winery…
Wiens Family Cellars was established on April 6, 2001; A winery based on family bonds & similar purpose. To convey that idea, they needed a visual symbol of their goal. After toying around with a few of his own ideas, Doug enlisted help from his son, Joe, on their way back from a football game. They doodled around, then finally stopped for food & sketched it out on the back of a McDonald’s napkin. The Wiens seal displaying the words Quality, Family, Integrity, is the same one from that original sketch… Well, maybe spruced up a little bit. Next, they needed a place.
They found a Co-Op up in Lockeford that used to be an old alcohol distillation plant. Back in the 1950s, this property had actually been a winery, then in the 1970s it became a production site for gasohol. Needless to say, it had all the equipment to produce wine. Each room was a tank (previously used to make bulk wine), & each tank had holes cut in their sides to create doorways. They rented three tanks: One for tasting & two for storage. This gave them a whopping 16 x 48 ft space to introduce their name to the market up in Lodi. For five years, they did. Of course, they also had their secret weapon: Mary.
For quite some time, their mother Mary was the only Tasting Room employee. She didn’t particularly enjoy wine, but she loved being around family, so she joined in on the fun. In her free-time, she sat reading her romance novels & interacted with the customers. “Everyone loved her,” remembers her grandson, Joe Wiens. Later on, the Dulce Maria blend would be curated as an ode to her sweet taste & manner. However, even with Mary’s excellent customer service, the small tasting room wasn’t enough to compete with the big-name wine brands in the Lodi area.
Although the market up in Lodi proved to be abundant, a small boutique winery was not necessarily the most lucrative design at the time. Regardless, their business was growing & needed more space. So, they set out to look for a new property. First, they planned on staying up in Northern California near the foothills. Then, upon George & Jeff’s research, they discovered Temecula; A hidden gem, the wine country of Southern California. At the time, very few wineries populated the area as they do now. The climate was ideal for grape growing & the market for direct-to-consumer wineries was more than promising– It was hard to pass up. A substantial move, but one they were willing to take. After having their eye on some real estate, they finally bought some property in 2003 & started their journey down South in 2005…
Becoming a licensed General Contractor with an A & B license granted Dave Wiens the ability to build nearly anything in the state of California. For many years, he did. In fact, he worked for major national homebuilders for close to 25 years. During that time, constantly travelling around the country for work gave him an incredible resume. Still, he had that will to pioneer just like his father before him & his siblings after that. So, about one year after the three brothers began the winery, Dave decided to put some of his own money into the new business.
While still working his contracting job, he began building bars for the original Tasting Room in Lockeford out of his garage, then hauling them up North in his Tahoe truck. Then, he started using all of his vacation time & weekends to help with the business. He even took his vacation during Thanksgiving to help bottle! He describes his first few years as more hands on, even working the Tasting Room on weekends. For years, he commuted back & forth between jobs & sacrificed his leisure time for the future of the business, but it was well worth it. Finally, in 2009, he came to work full-time at the winery in Sales & Marketing…
Being a registered CPA with roughly twelve years in public accounting gave Sandy (Wiens) Williams her fair share of practice in the business world. Mostly working with small businesses getting their books & taxes set up, she became another perfect addition to the family business. At first, they simply needed help, & she lent it. So much so, that for the first six years of their operations, she was receiving accounting work off-site in Kentucky while she worked her two other jobs as well. At least once a year, their family would try to make it out during their fall break, which usually ended up being during harvest. Consequently, their time would be spent cleaning barrels, moving barrels, harvesting vineyards & helping with crush. After becoming part owner along with her brothers & sister, she continued helping with the business for quite a while. She helped interview & train the first Bookkeeper, set up accounting policies & general ledger accounts, even helped auditing when they decided to move their business. However, once the company took off, working 30-hour weekends on top of her job in Kentucky became too much for anyone to handle. So, she stepped down from the accounting portion & still held her ownership while cheering them on from the South…
In 2005, they secured their spot in Temecula, beginning a new era for Wiens Family Cellars. This blank canvas was uniquely their own— Ready to be sculpted to their vision. To ensure their desired plan came to fruition, while still preventing lost time, they set up a modular building in the parking lot. On December 23, 2005, they opened it for business. This temporary Tasting Room became their new home base for about a year while they built the permanent establishment right outside its front door. These “Trailer Days” as they call them, were the foundation upon which they built so many relationships with Club Members they still have today. A time they hold so dear in their hearts, with people they attribute their ongoing success to. Still, the future was so much brighter.
Dave & George ran the lead on building the new winery. Their background in architecture & construction allowed them to fabricate their ideas in a way that no outside hire could. However, all were involved in the decision making. Each brick & concrete slab was planned uniquely for this family pursuit. Dave thought up the idea for the Cellar Room that now houses our Select Tastings, down to the final sketches. Special features went in to every detail. Additionally, the Barrel Room was placed in the back to focus your attention on the winemaking & the warm colors used were intended to invite you in, like home. Ultimately, the layout, design & presentation all had one thing in common: Intention.
In true Wiens family fashion, they all came down to prepare for the Grand Opening once construction was finished. From big jobs to small, they began building office furniture by hand, decorating the tasting room, setting up POS systems & tying up all other loose ends to prepare for opening day. Finally on October 14, 2006, they cut the ribbon & opened their doors. Following the excitement, their time in Temecula continually proved that they were exactly where they needed to be…
With his parents working in the restaurant business, Joe Wiens grew up knowing two things: Food & Wine. He says having killer gardens was the norm & helping out with menu options eventually became his job. Later on in life, he actually became a wine buyer for his mom’s restaurant in Sacramento. He also spent a great amount of time learning about winemaking from his father, Doug Wiens. Naturally, he grew up during the assembly of Wiens Family Cellars. So, his involvement in the other activities of planting, growing, harvesting & maintaining, the original vineyards up North was immense. In fact, he even created the labels for all of the 2002 vintages! However, wanting to spread his wings at 18, he moved away from the family business.
In 2005, he joined the venture again to work in the vineyard & production, then eventually became Tasting Room Manager. After a few years, he again left the business to do his own thing. Due to his upbringing in viticulture, his dream was to open up his own wine shop in Davis, where he lived in his 20’s. However, as life changes, so do passions. Joe’s intentions with wine changed when he came back down in 2010 to get more involved in the winemaking process…
Previously a high school band instructor, limited exposure to wine & no intention of becoming a winemaker prior to being hired; In 2007, Brian Marquez was immediately hired to be an Event Bartender. He proved to be a hard worker, but his future with us was so much more than we imagined. Sequentially, working events was followed by gaining extra hours working in the vineyard, then eventually helping out with production, & finally getting hired on full-time in that department. Brian quickly became involved in the world of wine. Back when the business was mostly family, he had the opportunity of working closely with Danny, Andrew & Luke Wiens. His honorary family membership swiftly developed. However, his work ethic proved to be even more impressive. After becoming Production Lead, Production Manager a year later, then Cellar Master the following year, he finally earned the position of Assistant Winemaker on his 10-year Anniversary of working here…
It’s here where our stories all connect. From the beginning, each sibling has been involved in one form or another, but over the years, there have been a few changes to the business. When Joe returned in 2010, his dad had already begun to start his next adventure in the wine world. So, he started training Joe to officially take the reins. By 2012, Joe became Head Winemaker— Like father, like son. Doug’s involvement since then has changed. He’s still involved in winemaking, holds stake in the company & weighs in on important decisions, but also now owns two other winery restaurants that need his attention as well. Jeff has stayed General Manager & Dave became our Director of Business Development, taking over the Sales & Marketing side of things. Once the business moved down to Temecula, Sandy followed a few years later & joined the business once again. We call her our “fireman;” putting out all of the daily fires around here. The two oldest siblings, Beth & George still hold part ownership & pop in often, although their children are the ones more involved on a daily basis now. Currently, George’s son, Gabe is our Outside Sales Representative, Beth’s son, John is our Vineyard Manager & his wife, Alma heads up our Accounting & HR. Still, after 20 years, we have said goodbye to many family members wanting to begin their own journeys & welcomed many non-family employees as well… Too many to count!
When asked what they see for the future of Wiens, the response was unanimously the same: “Who knows.” The truth is, Wiens Family Cellars began on an unknown & it will most likely continue the same way— always evolving. The recent pandemic proved to them they could adapt to changing times & shift their perspective on the market; It made them stronger. So, they’re hopeful for what the future may bring. The next generation of Wiens’ have always been in & out— making them unsure of the legacy they’ll leave as well. However, their individual successes have proved to be inspiration enough for a promising future. In the end, that big question mark is not a formidable existence— it’s freedom; Freedom to stay the same or to change in any direction they choose. Although, one thing is for certain: They’ll do it together, with Quality, Family & Integrity.
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop
Wiens Family Cellars was founded on the family’s love for getting together to enjoy their Mom, Mary’s, homemade meals and pies, Doug’s great wine, and having fun with each other. “We spent every family event and holiday together before starting the winery, including our yearly vacations to Lake Oroville”, says Jeff Wiens, General Manager and the middle brother of nine brothers and sisters that make up the Wiens family. “We have an entrepreneurial and independent spirit and wanted to create a family legacy after we lost our father and was left with a huge void afterwards. Starting the winery was a way to keep the family together, take control of our destiny, and create a place that not only is an extension of our family, but a place we can share with everyone and create more priceless memories.”
The Wiens family’s grit and drive were inherited from their Dad who was also an entrepreneur and had a pioneer spirit. In 1972, he wanted a change for the family and bought 12 acres of bare land high in the mountains of Colorado. The family packed up their bags and moved from sunny California to Colorado and began living in a large tent while they built their new home themselves. Living at 9,200 feet and building a home from scratch had its challenges, including a collapsed tent after the first snow, a very cold outdoor bathroom and shower, and lots of hard physical work. Although tough, this created an even tighter family bond and unwavering resilience that would lead the family into building a successful winery many years later.
Some twenty-eight years later, Doug had begun making wine for a hobby in his garage from grapes he had grown on fourteen acres he purchased near Lodi, CA and was getting pretty good at it. Doug’s intention when buying the property was to sell the grapes wholesale and keep a little for his wine making hobby so the family could have homemade wine to drink at their family gatherings. But after rolling the idea of starting their own winery over in their minds, Doug announced he had found a place in Lockeford, CA and the family agreed it was time to open their own winery. Jeff went to work on getting the business set up and Doug went to work on growing grapes and getting ready to open the first tasting room in an old cement vat that had become a makeshift wine tasting area.
Pretty soon, the family vacations turned into taking time off to travel up to Lodi to plant vineyards, harvest grapes, and assist Doug with the winemaking. Mary was the sole sales associate in the tasting room, and even though she didn’t drink wine, did an amazing job selling it. Unfortunately, because of the remote location of the tasting room, selling the inventory begun to become a challenge and they knew they needed more traffic. At the end of 2002 they began their search for a new location in Southern California. On one of the visits, Jeff met Audrey Cilurzo, a pioneer of Temecula wine country, and she told him about her success at her Temecula winery, Cilurzo Winery. Right away the family came down to check out Temecula and taste the wines. With the weather, soil, location relevant to the ocean, and being an up and coming wine region they knew Temecula had the potential for them to make good wine. In April of 2003, they pulled the trigger and bought the current property the main winery sits on today. Towards the end of 2005, wine was being sold out of a temporary building- fondly named the “trailer days” by our first wine club members. After lots of hard work, the winery had its grand opening on October 14th, 2006 and it has been an amazing journey ever since!
From the humble beginnings, the winery has always been a full family affair and at some time in the winery’s history every family member has been a part of making it successful. From George’s architect design, Dave’s construction background, Doug’s winemaking, Jeff’s business sense, and Sandy’s accounting skills, it has been a true family venture. The family is still heavily involved, and there is always a family member working at the winery every day, including Doug’s son, Joe, who has taken over the winemaking. The winery continues to grow and includes multiple vineyards in Sage, La Cresta, and Temecula. 110 acres a year are farmed, and the grapes harvested create high quality wine from vine to glass. Wiens family is proud of what they have created- a place they know people enjoy and celebrate some of their greatest moments in life.