Honorary Chairs for Sonoma Wine Country Weekend are selected for their community leadership and commitment to their craft, be it grape-growing, winemaking, or culinary endeavors.
Tom Klein and Family, Proprietor, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Rodney Strong Vineyards’ Tom Klein is a fourth generation California farmer. He and his family purchased the winery in 1989, making this year the family’s silver anniversary of Rodney Strong Vineyards ownership. The family has been farming in California for nearly a hundred years.
They first moved to California in 1905, when Tom’s great grandparents moved from New York to San Francisco. Their three boys, Sol, George and Jack, who were raised in an orphanage due to the struggles following the earthquake of 1906, would later establish Klein Brothers, a small business where they would buy and sell beans at the Stockton seaport and the start of the family’s agricultural legacy that remains intact today. The success of Klein Brothers meant eventually acquiring land on which they would grow potatoes, almonds, tomatoes, asparagus and more, but interestingly enough, never beans.
Sol’s son, Bud and his wife Jane, raised three boys in Stockton, including Tom. The extended family, which now includes numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and grandchildren, all love their ownership of one of Sonoma County’s premier wineries. They come to the region and celebrate just that every year in August at a family gathering at Rodney Strong.
Their man running the show, Tom Klein, graduated from Stanford University in 1973 with a degree in political science and spent the first part of his career as a management consultant at the San Francisco office of the prestigious global management firm McKinsey & Company. One project during this time was evaluating a small winery in the Russian River Valley called Rodney Strong Vineyards’ where he was introduced to founder Rod Strong and winemaker Rick Sayre. Already developing an interest in wine, this encounter planted a seed that would grow into a lifelong passion.
In 1984, Tom returned to Klein Brothers International, his family’s agricultural products trading company. He travelled extensively in his position, and had the opportunity to research the wine industry in many parts of the world, all the while developing his palate and his passion for wine. Since 1989, Tom and the family have pursued excellence at Rodney Strong Vineyards, landed their wines on the world stage and made the winery a leader in sustainable wine-growing and winemaking. In his own words Tom says, “We are committed to quality in every aspect: in the top-flight wines we strive to produce, in the Sonoma County life, and in the talented people we employ. We are always seeking new ways to fulfill this commitment.”
Jose and Gloria Ferrer, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
José Ferrer, in his late-eighties, is the President of Honor of the Freixenet Group and the Founder of Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in Sonoma’s Carneros. The crest of the Ferrer family embellishes the gold ring he wears on his left hand. It’s the first hint of the importance of family to José– its legacy and the continuity of a company created, developed and maintained as a family business.
The graceful elegance of Gloria Ferrer is a perfect complement to her husband José and the world of Cava she embraced when marrying into the Ferrer family in 1956. A fellow wine enthusiast, Gloria’s intuition and style have greatly influenced José throughout his endeavors in the international world of wine. Together, they have shared a lifelong enthusiasm for travel and exploration that has led them to wine regions and adventures around the world.
Among their travels, a particular visit to Sonoma, California, some 35 years ago inspired the California winery that holds Gloria’s name. The beauty of the rolling Carneros hillsides and sun-drenched vineyards enchanted the Ferrers with their resemblance to their beloved Catalonia where they raised their four children Dolores, Pedro, Mercedes and José Maria.
Founding Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in 1982 allowed José to fulfill his father’s dream of expanding the family’s centuries-old tradition of exceptional sparkling winemaking to the New World and his own dream of making exceptional méthode champenoise sparkling wines in Sonoma, California. With his fervent support, the winemaking team spearheaded the first Pinot Noir clonal research trial at Gloria Ferrer in partnership with U.C. Davis in 1987. It was the most definitive Pinot Noir clonal study done outside France. A second trial began in 1992 on sparkling wine clones imported from Champagne, France. The studies were unprecedented and changed the way sparkling wines were made in the region.
Pushing boundaries in the name of quality is a hallmark of José Ferrer. One of his best known creations is Freixenet’s Cordon Negro, the sparkling wine in the black bottle, which has become one of the highest selling bottles of méthode champenoise wine and most iconic packages. Today, José’s wisdom guides his two sons and other members of the family in their leadership roles in taking their company into the next millennium. The fifth generation of Ferrers are now involved in the Gloria Ferrer winery and Freixenet Group is among the top ten wine companies in the world, with 17 wineries in four continents. It is also the world’s largest producer of méthode champenoise sparkling wines.
José Ferrer’s many achievements have made him a distinguished personality beyond the wine world earning him recognition and many awards, including the King of Spain’s coveted Medal of Honor in Business. Together with Gloria, he is a great promoters of the arts and culture, providing financial support through foundations dedicated to music and literature.