14125 Highway 128
Boonville, CA 95415
Winery phone: (707) 895-3036
Welcome to Philo Ridge Vineyards. Situated 5.33 miles up a dirt road sits Philo Ridge
Vineyards. This is where Fred R. Buonanno and Heather A. McKelvey decided to plant
their roots, so to speak, and begin their venture into the wine business. We had looked at
properties for over 4 years and had actually been in escrow twice before we found our slice
of paradise. Looking at property on almost every weekend, Internet searches, help from
our friend and Realtor Mike Dacey all to no avail. One Sunday evening we returned home
and by chance Fred looked in the Sunday classified section of the SF Chronicle. There
under the heading of Farms and Ranches was a five line ad for a FSBO, For sale by owner.
It described a 50+ acre property with a vineyard and room to plant more. We called that
evening and made arrangements to meet the next Saturday. We met Urs and Dolores the
owners of the property about half way up the road. He said, “you're going to drive that car
up the road”? So I replied very simply “if this car doesn’t make it up the road we aren’t
buying." The car made it up the road, no problems, and after looking around the property
for about an hour, we made an offer on the most beautiful piece of property we had seen in
our four years of searching. We took possession of the property in August of 1999.
There were already 3 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot planted just below the
house. This is the vineyard that adorns our label. This vineyard was planted in 1976 by the
original owner of the property Vernon Rose of Christine Woods Winery, the property was
their original winery as well. There was an additional 7 acres of plantable terraced land just
yards from the original vineyard.
Well we suddenly found ourselves in the wine business. It was quite thrilling and equally
terrifying. Neither Heather nor I had ever actually farmed. We had read a great deal and we
were well schooled in the wine aspect of the business but we were lacking in that get your
hands in the dirt, practical experience. One of the first things that we did was convince
Norman Kobler to be our vineyard manager. Norman has many many years of hands on
knowledge about almost everything to do with putting something in the ground, watching it
grow, and making wine. He tends to win far too many medals at the Mendocino Apple Fair
every year, but he has yet to win the largest pumpkin contest. As Norman's wife Colleen
outs it, "Always the bridesmaid." Norman planned and supervised the installation of our
Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vineyards in 2000 and has worked hard to continue our
We decided to become a bonded winery in 2001 and we released our first vintage, all 167
cases of 2001 Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in January of 2004. We were very pleased
when our 2001 Syrah won a Silver medal in the San Francisco Chronicle competition. Our
first submission of a commercial wine and we got a Silver, needless to say we were thrilled.
Since that time we have entered a number of competitions with our wines and have done
very well, including 90 points and Editor's Choice for the 2006 Pinot Noir in the July 2010
Wine Enthusiast. We also received Editor's Choice for the Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris
in the same edition.Our production is now up to 2200 cases and we continue to ratchet up
our production. But we still make each wine by hand in small batches of between 90 to 450
cases each. Our goal is to make great wines that have complexity and exemplify the best
their varietals have to offer your palate.
Pinot Noir is our primary wine but we have added Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Viognier
to the mix for white wines and Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vino di Mendocino and
Coro in the reds. We expect to get no more than 2 tons per acre. Given the heavy red clay
the Pinot is planted on our expectations will likely be met and we are only interested in
producing quality grapes for our wine.
Stay tuned, as our journey continues.
Fred and Heather