The Wilson Creek Story...
What would go through your mind if you were told that in five years from now, you would be running your own winery and living in Wine Country? Here lies the story of one South Pasadena couple and their adult kids who made a dramatic change.
Gerry and Rosie Wilson were enjoying a conventional retired life in 1995 with plans of moving to Solvang to be closer to their daughter Libby and her husband Craig. Their eldest son Bill called one day and offered them a seemingly preposterous proposal. He asked if they wanted to purchase a winery. Had their eldest gone crazy? Bill reminded them of their experience making dandelion and rhubarb wine in Minnesota. Rosie’s response was, “I don’t think that qualifies us.” Despite their initial reluctance, Bill persisted with the idea and eventually convinced them. Gerry and Rosie were about to alter their life significantly to partner up with their son and make a tremendous leap of faith.
Bill’s proposal focused one a small affordable winery for sale in the valley. It appeared ideal for them. The Wilson family visited the site and they quickly developed an emotional bond to the land and dreamed of seeing vast rows of lush grape vines on their new property. All reluctance was gone and a determination to succeed grew. The family sold their homes, quit their jobs and moved to Temecula Valley intent on pursuing a business in which they had no previous experience. Their friends thought them crazy. After Rosie and Gerry relocated their lives to the valley disappointment struck. The owner of the small winery decided not to sell. Having risked everything, the Wilson family frantically looked for another winery or existing vineyard for sale. They found their destiny with an existing vineyard seven miles from the freeway. Sold! The Wilson family purchased it and later “planted” a building.
The family moved into “Operation Bootstraps” mode. The task before them was daunting. Gerry said, “All of us rolled up our sleeves and did whatever it took to make it happen. Our saying was, “if you are a Wilson, you only have to work half days and you decide which 12 hours you want?” They invested their hard work and financial well-being into their new winery. Resources were slim for a time and the family relied upon peanut butter sandwiches. Once in a while they splurged and added jelly to those sandwiches.
With no real background in vineyard management or winemaking experience, the family relied on local experts in Temecula Valley to guide them. They had no building to start with and their first wine sale came in the form of a $20 bill left in a cooler in exchange for a bottle at the Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival. The family pressed ahead without reservation despite the limitations of opening a new wine business. A winemaker and vineyard consultant were hired while Gerry and Bill enrolled in winemaking classes at UC Davis. They worked tirelessly to fulfill their new dream. Bill drove the tractor, oversaw wine production and maintenance of the vineyard. It was quite a different lifestyle than the financial sector, suit and tie that both Bill and Gerry were used to. Through their hard work, perseverance, and determination coupled with strong family commitment, the Wilsons opened for business in 2000.
Since that time, Wilson Creek Winery has developed into a vibrant and dynamic center of quality wines, customer service, and entertainment. Bringing innovation and warmth to the valley, the Wilson family have cemented their legacy of presenting a warm family environment, having fun, and throwing great parties.
Wilson Creek Winery has come a long way....
The Wilson experience and commitment demonstrates itself in the success of their numerous events, weddings, concerts, accommodations and charity functions that parallel a broad selection of award-winning wines. Home of the famous Almond Sparkling Wine (formerly known as Almond Champagne), the winery has garnered numerous prestigious wine awards, and their production has increased to approximately 50,000 cases per year. Gerry is especially proud that Wilson Creek is the unofficial winery of many Navy ships, including eight aircraft carriers.
Wilson Creek has been an innovator in the local business community having garnered several awards including four-time Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, the Best of San Diego and Best of Inland Empire. Wilson Creek also sparked the attention of Hollywood and has been featured on the Today Show with Kathie Lee, Radical Sabbatical which aired on the Fine Living Network, the syndicated show Blind Date, Millionaire Matchmaker, Animal Planet, and the MTV show Dismissed just to name a few.
The enduring success of Wilson Creek still is founded upon the love and commitment of the Wilson family members. The entire family is involved. Guests can feel the energy and personal touch when visiting the winery. Family members are always in attendance and ready to give a warm, personal welcome to all.
Bill recognizes the contributions made by the Temecula Valley to the early success of Wilson Creek and now he seeks to give back by supporting various events and causes. Bill serves on several Temecula Valley boards sharing his experience such as the 20/20 vision, Temecula Valley Visitors Bureau, Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and the Temecula Valley Water Board.
That initial leap of faith and an unwavering dream built Wilson Creek Winery to its current state. It is a destination in the valley where friendly service, great tasting wines, and entertainment are commonplace now. Gerry’s response when reflecting back many years ago to that leap of faith is, “Sure, I do miss South Pasadena. We lived there for 30 wonderful years. Yet, I love wine country. The main thing is that this is a family-run business. I love the fact that all my children and grandchildren are here. My commute is about 200 through a vineyard with a cup of coffee in my hand. We look forward to a daily routine of meeting our many guests, sharing a glass of wine with them, and welcoming them into our extended family. We are very blessed!”
See our article "Uncorking a Family Business" in the October 28, 2004 issue of Business Week Online.
The products made and sold by Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards to any branch of the United States government or United States Armed Forces are sold exclusively to those entities and not available under any circumstance for sale to the public. The United States government and the United States Armed Forces are in no way related to Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards, nor has it endorsed Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards or the products is sells.