The top tech titans have gravitated towards Sonoma and Napa Counties driven by a passion for wine.
ONE MIND & STAGLIN FAMILY VINEYARD
Since Garen Staglin entered the tech sector in 1971, he’s held the titles of investor, owner and CEO at a long list of companies ranging from software to emerging payment technologies. He’s currently chairman of and an investor in NVoicePay, a cloud-based ePayment solution, as well as Vice-Chairman and Director of Profit Velocity Solutions, a San Francisco-based technology company that helps manufacturers increase their profits. His foray into wine came in 1985 when he purchased a historical 64-acre estate in Rutherford where vines were first planted in 1864. Staglin Family Vineyard produces limited quantities of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and sangiovese that are sold almost exclusively to a mailing list of 8,000 people around the world. Staglin is also the co-founder and co-chairman of One Mind as well as the co-founder, president and trustee of IMHRO/One Mind Institute. Over the past 20 years, IMHRO, an international mental health research organization, and the annual Staglin’s Music Festival for Brain Health have raised more than $210 million for cutting-edge neuroscience research.Garen’s wife Shari is CEO of Staglin Family Vineyard, daughter Shannon is president and son Brandon is the director of communications. Together, they’ve donated and raised more than $850 million for charity. Garen and Shari are also co-founders and director emeritus of Bring Change 2 Mind, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma of mental illness. The Staglins served as Auction Napa Valley’s honorary chair in 2013 and are longtime vintner donors.
Kenzo Tsujimoto, founder, chairman and CEO of Capcom, one of the world’s leading video game publishers, was just like the many other people from around the world who developed an interest in Napa Valley wine after the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris—when a Stag’s Leap cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay from Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga bested lofty French wines in a blind taste test to put Napa Valley wines on the map. What sets him apart though is that he turned his interest into a business. After searching for property in the Valley for a few years, he purchased 3,800 acres of undeveloped land on the slopes of Mt. George in the eastern mountains above Napa in 1990 and 15 years later released Kenzo Estate’s first vintage. In homage to his heritage, all of his wines have Japanese-inspired names like Ai, Murasaki and Asatsuyu, which was recently rated by eight million users on Vivino as the number two Californian sauvignon blanc; all five red Bordeaux varieties are also represented in his vineyards. Tsujimoto didn’t wait nearly as long to get his tech business off the ground. In 1983 he founded the Osaka, Japan-headquartered company that would become Capcom. Within a few years the enterprise had achieved international success through development of original games like “Street Fighter” and “Mega Man.” In 1985, Capcom opened its first overseas subsidiary, which was originally located in Sunnyvale but has since relocated to San Mateo. Tsujimoto, who was bestowed the Award of Honor from the Japan Society of Northern California in 2013, has supported Auction Napa Valley both as a vintner donor and Auction bidder. This year he and his wife Natsuko will also host one of the Auction’s intimate welcome parties.
Serial entrepreneur Trevor Traina, founder and CEO of IfOnly.com, is the exception in this group in that he was practically born into the wine industry. His family members have been landholders in Napa Valley since the early 1970s. Their notable Oakville home, Tokalon, is one of the original and most-storied wine estates in Napa. While in France’s Bordeaux region, “garagiste” refers to a group of winemakers producing “vins de garage” or “garage wine” that goes against the the traditional Bordeaux style, Traina has made true “garagiste” wine in the garage of the family home for quite some time. However, his real business comes from Hermosa Vineyards in Stags Leap district, owned by him and his film producer brother Todd. The siblings grow merlot and cabernet on their nearly 20-acre plot and then sell the grapes to Stags’ Leap Winery. In a trendsetting twist, the Trainas, like a handful of Napa and Sonoma county vintners hoping to become truffle trailblazers, have replaced two-plus acres of cabernet vines with oak and filbert trees. “In a half dozen years I will be feasting on black Perigords,” Traina enthuses. Not surprisingly, Traina, who sold his first company to Microsoft for $100 million at the age of 28, connects wine directly to technology though his fifth Internet start-up, IfOnly. The premium experiential marketplace delivers extraordinary experiences with a charity tie-in such as one-off wine outings at Dana Estates, Napa Valley’s newest emerging cult winery, and Ovid Wines, where the buyer and five friends can partake in a vertical tasting and Louis Maldonado-prepared lunch with winemaker Austin Peterson. When it comes to Auction Napa Valley, Traina and wife Alexis, the heiress to the Swanson wine and food fortune and the creative director at Swanson Vineyards, attend and her winery has offered auction lots numerous times.
As the co-founder and CEO of TrustPipe, a digital security company started by a group of Silicon Valley veterans with the mission of making the Internet safe, Ridgely Evers is a true innovator. In addition to his work with TrustPipe, he’s also the managing partner of Tapit Advisors, a group of technology executives who work with both early-stage and Global 2000 companies to provide a wide range of advice, strategic guidance and investments. He began writing code in 1967; in 1988 he joined Intuit where he conceived, designed, and led the team that created QuickBooks and played a central role in creating the world’s first online banking system; he has also served as CEO of five technology startups. In 1982, at the start of his successful tech career, he had the foresight to buy land near Healdsburg in the heart of Sonoma County’s now legendary Dry Creek Valley. In 1990, he imported the first olive trees the U.S. had seen in the 20th century and with them, founded DaVero Farms & Winery. Today Evers’ and wife Colleen McGlynn’s certified Biodynamic farm produces 14 Italian-varietal wines, extra virgin olive oils and other artisan food products. Although he’s had a long career in high-tech, it’s always been parallel with the farm. He says, “It’s a joy to blend farming and tech this way— and very grounding.”
Barry Schuler turned Medior Inc., into Meteor Vineyards. The man credited with being one of the pioneers of the modern Internet is currently a managing director of DFJ Growth, the growth stage practice of Draper Fisher Jurvetson venture capital. He co-founded the Growth Fund in 2006 and is an active investor in companies which include Twitter, Tumblr, SolarCity, SpaceX and Tesla Motor Company. As an entrepreneur for more than 30 years, Schuler has propelled innovations in digital media, e-commerce, design and video games. The vineyard, which he and wife Tracy co-own, derives its name from Medior Inc., the multimedia development company the Schulers co-founded; Medior built many key interactive technologies in the early days of the Internet and designed America Online Inc. when AOL was a small proprietary internet service provider. In 2000, five years after AOL acquired Medior, the forward thinker was named its chairman and CEO. By the time Schuler reached the top of AOL, he and Tracy had already purchased the property on a knoll in Napa Valley’s Coombsville region that would later become Meteor Vineyard. They’ve gone from merely selling their grapes [100 percent cabernet sauvignon] and bottling 40 cases for friends and family to a highly-acclaimed wine which has been called the grand cru of the Coombsville appellation. Meteor is in the midst of celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its inaugural releases—the 2005 Meteor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 Meteor Vineyard Special Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The Schulers also co-founded Napa’s Blue Oak School, an independent K-8 independent elementary school. Meteor Vineyard participates in Auction Napa Valley as a vintner donor.