Wine and Food Festival, San Diego Bay, Winemaker Craig Becker, Somerston Wine Co.Craig

General Manager/Co-Founder/Director of Winemaking
Somerston Wine Co.

Craig Becker, a Southern California native, is a founding member of Somerston Wine Company. A strong love of the outdoors attracted Becker to winemaking. This attraction, combined with innate talent, led him to the helm of Somerston – an expansive project focused on great wines and an appreciation of the natural world.

Becker oversees all of Somerston’s winemaking and vineyard operations. He has a tremendous thirst for knowledge about each element of winery and vineyard operations and is constantly developing new ideas for improvement. Becker’s management style also encourages innovation and entrepreneurship by allowing employees to take owner- ship of, and improve, their positions, the vineyards, and the winery. He maintains strong relationships with vineyard workers, many of whom live on-site, having worked the property for decades before Becker knew it existed.

Becker is a self-starter who believes in hard work as a precursor to success. He worked full-time for most of his scho- lastic life, beginning in high school as a dishwasher at the Nordstrom Café. One year later, he was assistant manager of the café. Since then, Becker’s ability to quickly learn all aspects of a job and capably lead has been a theme in his life.

After spending much of his childhood in Long Beach, California, he moved north to attend Santa Rosa Junior College out of the desire to be surrounded by nature and, as he says, for the unlimited mountain biking opportunities. Within a few years, he transferred to the University of California at Davis to study plant physiology and soil science. It was in a class at UC Davis—Plant Physiology 112—that he met Courtney Siverson, who would later become his wife. She had been offered a harvest position at Robert Mondavi Winery. She declined, but Becker took the harvest job instead and continued to work at Mondavi while nishing his degree.

Upon graduation in 1997, Becker accepted a position at Spring Mountain Vineyard to work under the direction of winemaker Craig MacClean. Despite other more lucrative opportunities, Becker joined Spring Mountain for $12 an hour because he felt he’d have more hands-on opportunities in both the winery and the vineyard. He was right in more ways than he anticipated - once harvest nished, MacClean left to start his own brand. Less than 9 months out of college, Becker was promoted to winemaker and his career—as well as his reputation for working with mountain vineyards and being a winemaker deeply involved in both farming and the cellar —took off.

In 1999, Becker started his vineyard consulting business. A short time later, Craig and the Peacock family launched “Peacock”, a single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from a 6-acre vineyard high above the town of Saint Helena in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley. The success of Peacock launched a series of premium vineyard consulting projects for Becker. In 2003, Becker left Spring Mountain to work on developing the Dierberg and Star Lane vineyards in California’s central coast. Becker also began to develop a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in Oakville for the Kelleher Family and Balcom Family Vineyard.

By 2004, Becker’s wine and vineyard consulting business, Becker Wines and Vineyard Management, had matured to a full-time business with 10 clients. He also created his own wines, inspired in part by a 2005 trip to France during which Becker fell in love with Rhone wines. He decided to create a Gigondas-style blend called “Bad Habit” under the Michael Austin label that he had created with a long-time friend. To perfect this wine, he contacted Somerston about a Grenache he knew they were growing on the Priest Ranch property. On his rst visit, in his own words, “I was blown away.”

Later in 2005, Somerston founder Allan Chapman contacted Becker about making his wines. Becker connected immediately with Chapman’s down-to-earth personality, and was impressed by the holistic, land-focused approached that Chapman wanted re ected in every element of the Somerston brand.

In 2008, Becker’s Michael Austin and High yer brands were merged with Somerston’s Priest Ranch brand. Plans soon developed for an additional brand under the name “Somerston” and then Becker began building, block by block, a vision for a wine brand and wine country experience like no other.

In Becker’s free time, which is extremely limited these days (as is to be expected from someone at the helm of an ambitious and multi-faceted project like Somerston, not to mention a father of three), Becker enjoys spending time with his family, gardening with his girls, woodworking (he hand-built many of the features in his St. Helena home) and ying planes. He admits, however, that he’ll be grounded until he sees Somerston successfully off the ground, which, with Becker at the controls, is a sure to be a high-flying success.