What’s in a name? Many wineries bear the name of their founder, like Frick, Foppiano or Trentadue. Others are named for a region or landmark, like Alexander Valley Vineyards, Dry Creek Vineyard, Russian River Vineyards or Mill Creek Vineyards & Winery. Then there are those names that make you wonder, what’s the story?

Here are the stories behind the names of ten wineries along the Wine Road that range from nostalgic to sweet to humorous.

Amphora Winery

Named for a clay vessel used by ancient Greeks and Romans to ferment, store and transport wine, Amphora Winery takes its name even further. On a visit to the winery, rather than seeing rows of stainless-steel tanks, you’ll see actual modern-day amphoras.

So how did owner and winemaker Rick Hutchinson decide to call his winery Amphora? It was his other talent of working with clay in pottery classes that lead him to the name. When deciding on one of his early pottery projects, he blended his winemaking vocation with his love of clay and created a series of amphoras. If you’d like to read more about Rick’s story and see one of his handcrafted amphoras, I’d recommend a visit to the Amphora website’s About Us page. Don’t miss the delightful photo of Rick’s dog helping out in the cellar.

Six large amphoras, or wine vessels, lined up inside a room.
Amphoras lined up at Amphora Winery.

Bricoleur Vineyards

The beautiful setting, landscape, gardens and vineyards of Bricoleur might make you think someone had a great vision or master plan when designing the winery, tasting room, culinary center and grounds. Yet, the name implies otherwise.

On their website, Bricoleur Vineyards offers this definition of their name. It’s French for “one who starts building something with no clear plan, adding bits here and there, cobbling together a whole while flying by the seat of their pants.” To reinforce their name, Bricoleur also has a couple wines under the brand name “Flying By the Seat of Our Pants!” Just the name makes you want to try these wines at least once.

A sign with the Bricoleur logo against a stone wall, and a bottle of pink wine with a label that reads "Flying By The Seat Of Our Pants."

Emeritus Vineyards

Mari Jones, President of Emeritus, told a lovely story of how her father came to name his winery Emeritus. When Brice Jones sold Sonoma-Cutrer in 1999, he had decades of invaluable experience, as did his team that departed with him. That same year, Brice was able to buy Hallberg Ranch, land that he knew could produce grand cru-quality grapes. As Brice and his team of seasoned veterans worked the land, creating one of California’s revered Pinot Noir vineyards, they jokingly called themselves the Emeritus team. Why Emeritus? They were like a bunch of old college professors with a lot of knowledge who loved doing what they did, so they couldn’t bring themselves to stop just yet.

In 2004, the first vintage was produced from Hallberg Ranch, so it was time to decide on a name for the winery. After several years of jokingly calling the team Emeritus, Brice realized he already had the perfect name, and that’s how the winery got its name. I really loved this story and how the name honors all the people who helped transform the land and build the winery brand.

Wine cork with a big E and the word Emeritus.
Sunset with pink and orange color over a vineyard in summer.
Sunset over Hallberg Ranch

Kokomo Winery

Kokomo is a name we know from the Beach Boys’ song and, perhaps less well known, as a city in Indiana. So how did owner and winemaker Erik Miller end up using it as the name of his winery? Is he a big Beach Boys fan?

The answer: Erik’s hometown is Kokomo, Indiana! When Erik started the winery in 2004, he wanted to honor where he was from, but he wanted pay homage to his new home as well. Though the winery name is Kokomo, the logo depicts a West Coast cypress tree, prevalent along our coastline. Nice touch.

Kokomo Winery with cypress tree logo over a photo of a vineyard in fall.

Pech Merle

How did a winery in Geyserville end up with the same name as caves in France?

Well according to the Pech Merle website, Bruce and Cheryl Lawton were inspired during their visit to the prehistoric caves of Pech Merle (pesh-mael) in the Lot River Valley of France. That inspiration spurred them to create their wine brand, which they named after their muse —prehistoric caves. Now they have a regular reminder of how it all started.

A sign that reads pech merle winery. hard to say. easy to drink. on the left hand side is a circle with Geyserville California, and a PM in the middle of the circle.

Premonition Cellars

When the young Anthony Schroth was spending long days working in the vineyard, he would fantasize about his future in the wine industry. One day he had a premonition about his ideal winery business. In 2009, his premonition materialized, and to honor that process he named his winery Premonition Cellars. Anthony’s love for wine and winemaking remains, and he also loves living out his premonition. It’s nice when dreams come true.

Two wine barrels on a wine rack, with the top of a black labs head in the bottom right corner.
You’re being watched!

Starlite Vineyards

According to Starlite’s owner Arman Pahlavan, the story of how the winery got its name is shared on the back label of every bottle of Starlite wine.

“Perhaps it is the magic of the STARLITE and not the famed terroir that produces this beautiful wine.

We are a boutique winery nestled on a hilltop in the vast meadows of Alexander Valley. The name Starlite reflects the breathtaking light on the vines throughout our crystal clear Sonoma County nights.”

Makes you want to drive out to Alexander Valley on a clear night and go star gazing.

Aged Adirondack chairs facing trees and a vineyard with rolling hills in the background.
The vineyard vista from chairs outside Starlite’s tasting room in Alexander Valley.
Sunce Winery & Vineyard logo with a hand-drawn sun in one corner.

Sunce Winery & Vineyard

Sunce’s winemaker and co-owner Frane Franicevic is a native of Croatia, so it’s fitting that his winery is named Sunce, which means “sun or sunshine” in Serbo-Croatian. To give another layer to the winery’s name, we found out that Frane and his wife and business partner, Janae, have a daughter named Sunce. Sunce was born just prior to Frane and Janae purchasing the winery property. They say their winery was named for both the sunny property and their sunny baby.

Trattore Farms

Trattore is the Italian word for tractor, and if you’ve been to this tasting room, you’ve seen the red Bucher tractor, which was brought over from Switzerland. Owner Tim Bucher’s parents emigrated from Switzerland to California. By calling his winery and vineyards Trattore Farms, Tim is paying tribute to his own heritage and as well as the Italian immigrants who were among the first to plant grapes in Dry Creek Valley. Trattore Farms also has olive tree groves and produces an array of delicious olive oils. Another nod to the Italians who settled in the area.

The Trattore website states, “Perhaps we can even interest you in a vineyard and orchard tour… from a tractor’s point of view.” Tempting…

Panoramic view of Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley in the late fall with Trattore Farms logo over the top of the image.

Woodenhead Vintners

We saved the best for last. Co-owner Zina Bower shared how this winery got its name.

Nikolai Stez, Woodenhead’s co-owner and Zina’s business partner, actually named the winery after a nickname given to him by a former girlfriend. Said girlfriend used to call Nick “woodenhead” because he was so stubborn and hard-headed, something Nick freely owns up to. When Nick and Zina started the winery, Nick thought Woodenhead would be a great name for it.

Since the dictionary definition of Woodenhead isn’t very complimentary, and we think Nick is an intelligent guy who make great wines, we wanted to share a few other options on how the winery could have gotten its name. The end of a barrel is also known as a woodenhead, and back when wine bungs were made of wood, they were sometimes referred to as woodenheads.

Wine barrel head with Woodenhead's logo and bottle of Woodenhead 2015 Pinot Noir next to a glass of red wine.

Stories Behind the Names

How you remember how Woodenhead got its name, is up to you, but my hope is that reading about these ten wineries piqued your curiosity and you’ll visit each of them the next time you find yourself along the Wine Road.

Are you curious about how other Wine Road wineries got their names? Leave us a comment and we’ll find out for you.

Happy Sipping!

Posted by Rebecca Germolus

Rebecca Germolus, co-owner of Maximum Value Marketing, loves Sonoma County and playing along the Wine Road. Rebecca daily immerses herself in wine country by providing cost-effective marketing and writing solutions to wineries and restaurants.