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Cheers to This Spirited Family Affair

At Donelan Family Wines, it’s as much about togetherness as it is about the grapes

Northern California winemaker Joe Donelan started in the wine business 20 years ago and, in 2008, founded Donelan Family Wines. Sons Tripp and Cushing were brought into the company to head up market, branding, sales and business development for the family-owned Santa Rosa, California-based winery. The family produces syrah, pinot noir and chardonnay, and sources grapes from their own 10-acre Obsidian Estate as well as from exclusive vineyard partnerships in the Sonoma Valley. After the 2017 devastating Tubbs Fire hit the Knights Valley, the family decided to replant syrah and add grenache, mourvèdre, viognier and cabernet sauvignon grapes to the mix.

Joe Judge, Joe Nielsen, Joe and Cushing Donelan at the Judge Vineyard in Sonoma.

“The vineyard and climate make perfect conditions for all these grapes, and the new plantings will allow us to have more estate-driven wines,” explains Cushing Donelan. “That’s the driving force of our decision to lay down roots in Sonoma: The microclimates, topography and grape selection are all ideal for showcasing a broad portfolio of wines.”

Perli Vineyard in Mendocino, California.

The label’s terroir-driven wines are fresh, exciting and food-friendly. The syrahs in particular have garnered four 100-point scores from wine critics Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnuck. “We work with syrah for the most part, but also make killer chardonnay and pinot noir,” says Cushing. “Our wines are born in Calif­ornia and educated in Europe, meaning they are
full of flavor and concentration but they possess nuance and elegance.”

When they’re not in Northern California, the Donelans spend summers together on Nantucket at a beachfront home in Miacomet. The family looks forward to annual industry events like the Nantucket Wine & Food festival (sadly postponed this year), where they’ve been able to spread awareness about their wine offerings among local restaurateurs and sommeliers. “My parents first started coming in the late 1970s and bought property in the 1980s,” says Cushing, who worked for 10 seasons at local notable restaurants like Straight Wharf, The Pearl, Boarding House and Lola 41. A lot of memories have been made on the island. “I met my wife while at the Pearl, got engaged at Galley Beach and got married at the Nantucket Yacht Club,” he explains.

A bottle of the new BROSÉ rosé wine.

Recently, Cushing has branched out on his own with a venture in partnership with Scott Manson, COO of SB Projects, and Doug Banker of BroBible. BROSÉ is a start-up rosé label made from carignane and pinot noir grapes. The affordable rosé is available online now, with distribution to follow (bro-se.com). “We wanted to have something fun and delicious that doesn’t
take itself so seriously,” says Cushing. We can certainly raise a glass to that.