Mike and Carey Skinner
When Mike learned about James Skinner’s history and his suddenly rich Gold Rush heritage, he was so excited he couldn’t sleep. “I’m the first son of the first son of the first son of the first son of the first son of the first son,” he said. Carey was just as caught up in the embrace of both family history and adventure, and her husband’s enthusiasm became her enthusiasm, too.
Both were successful businesspeople who were happy in their careers, Carey with years in Southern California real estate and Mike running his own insurance company in Los Angeles. Both were very active in their community including coaching kids and mentoring, and both had long histories exploring food and wine. But this was different. “This,” Carey says, “was passion. It’s the way we both want to live our lives.”
Only months after learning about the Skinner legacy, they bought land around the old Skinners township, unreservedly embraced their newfound heritage, and began creating Skinner Vineyards & Winery. Today, as Carey says, “everyone does everything that’s needed.” Mike focuses on winery operations, Carey on sales and marketing, but it depends on the day.
And embracing their family history was also a way for Mike and Carey to embrace their family now. All their children have their own careers, but all also stay connected to the winery and its events.
“I love having all the different ages of our kids involved in the business,” Carey says. “It’s gives us a great energy. And it doesn’t hurt that I can use them as a test market.”
Kevin and Kathy Skinner
It was their curiosity and sense of adventure that led to the family’s discovery of the Skinner wine legacy, and those are sensibilities that run deep in the entire family and through the philosophy of Skinner Vineyards & Winery. Kevin works as a fire captain and Kathy as a teacher, and Kevin helps oversee all the safety, water and fire prevention issues surrounding the winery. They regularly attend of all the major winery festivities.
Kevin and Kathy live in Arnold with their three children and admit that nature always calls to them. They try to be outdoors hiking, camping and more whenever they have free time.
Ryan and Shannon Skinner
Ryan has two longtime loves, Shannon and wine, and now Shannon, too, has wine on her lifetime list. Ryan fell for wine before the Skinner family dove into the wine world. The grape that had him so smitten? Grenache, now one of the flagship wines for the modern Skinner Winery.
Ryan played quarterback at BYU and earned a degree in Business Management, and used both experiences to help manage the winery when it opened. He is still Carey’s go to sounding board on management and business considerations. Ryan now runs his father’s insurance business in Southern California where Shannon has a thriving physical therapy practice. Both spend lots of time around the winery and at many of the events and parties, and they have a new love, their young daughter, Brynne, who they expect will also fall for wine in good time.
Brendan is by acclimation the best cook in the family, which is both convenient for all family gatherings and useful when Carey, Mike and their crew are thinking about new and creative food and wine events and approaches. He’s also a sounding board for Carey because Brendan and his friends offer a younger adult’s outlook on wine and the winery.
Brendan isn’t all just food creativity. He brings a logic and business side to help winery operations – he’s a CPA and helped set up the accounting and finance systems for the winery. He, too, loves coming to winery festivities, but he’s not there to check on the accounting. He comes for the food, wine and family.
Chris Pittenger, Winemaker
Chris Pittenger didn’t set out to be a national class winemaker. The major leagues he dreamed about, like so many American kids, was baseball. A shoulder injury at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo and a viticulture class gave him a new love: wine.
Like so many great winemakers, he learned his trade around the world, working in Napa, Australia, New Zealand, then for renowned Sonoma wineries Marcassin and Williams Selyem, and was a rising star when Mike and Carey connected with Chris in 2007, even before the winery was built.
Chris immediately fell for their vision and for the region. “I saw these amazing vineyards at 2,500, 3,000 feet on these granite, volcanic soils, and I was just like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on up here?’” Pittenger says.
Pittenger’s Skinner Vineyards wines have won national acclaim, some of the best chefs in the country have worked with him, and, among other honors, he was named one of five Winemakers to Watch by the SF Chronicle.
“The potential here is unlimited,” Chris says, “and Mike and Carey are so committed to making great wine. I can’t think of a better place to be.”
Mark Fowler, Assistant Winemaker
Many winemakers say they were born for the wine business, but Mark was born in the business, and in this region. His family owned Greenstone Winery in the foothill town of Ione, and he grew up around barrels and cellars and in the hillsides and vineyards of the rolling lower Sierra. He says he fell for them all as a boy.
Mark worked for some of the best wineries in the foothills, including Terra Rouge, Terra d’Oro/Montevina, and Cielo Estate, before joining our team in 2014. We put Mark’s lifetime experience and genuine feel for foothill vineyards to good use. He’s in our vineyards daily working with Mike and our vineyard team.
Of course, Mark works with Chris in the cellar, too, and they also combine their knowledge to build relationships with grape growers in our region by evaluating their vineyards, farming and approaches so we can source the ideal winegrapes to combine with our own estate fruit.
“This is such a special region for wine,” Mark says. “It’s so fun to be involved in winemaking with people working at such a high level.”
Stephanie Simunovich, Sales Manager
Stephanie’s first responsibility is to make every visitor to Skinner Vineyards & Winery feel comfortable and special. She oversees the tasting room, the wine club and sales, but says her job description is simple: provide great service and treat everyone like family.
She also fits the personality type of Skinner Winery, which is: people with long histories around the joys of sharing wine and food. As a child, she heard the stories about her grandparents first meeting in Sonoma County wine country, and those stories were told around big family meals where wine mattered – for the adults – as much as the food. Stephanie also brings impressive wine business experience to Skinner. She worked as a manager at Rutherford Grove Winery and at Grgich Hills Estate in Napa before Carey and Mike lured her to the beauty of the foothills.