Donelan, Coast to Coast
Before they were a West Coast family of grape growers and earth-tillers, the Donelans were East Coast islanders raising towheaded kids (Keltie, Tripp, Cushing and Moriah) on Nantucket Island. An island more than 30 miles out at sea was where the Donelan family warmed up in the cedar-shingled restaurants, scanned for the buzz of radio surf reports, and gathered in the wharf bars, discovering a lust for life always accompanied by one, undeniable common denominator — wine. This vintage-fueled hunger for celebration and experience that they reared in each other eventually carried them to Sonoma County, California, and it all started back in Joe’s college days.
It was a study abroad in Vienna that introduced Joe Donelan to wine, and their connection was instant. He traveled throughout Europe, traversing each new Old World country, “witnessing people have their daily meals, celebrating life with their families and friends,” as Joe fondly recalls.
This culture of cherishing things as simple as a meal or as incidental as a gathering in a room is what enthralled him. His soul recognized this idea that the easy, natural, often overlooked moments in life should be the first ones we snatch up, hoist into the air, and cheers to. And upon Joe’s return back to the States for his senior year, he already, “wanted to go back to Europe and celebrate life.”
Most kids want to skydive or climb Everest before they die, but at some point during this time, Joe remembers scribbling down a bucket list on which, “the first seven items were meeting a few people, then wine, wine, wine, food, and food.” He and the wine industry were just getting started.
Early during Joe’s career, he met a young man who, “had achieved the Wine Spectator’s first grand cru annual recognition in the state of Massachusetts” and he became Joe’s mentor. Not too much later, and with Joe still spearheading into the wine industry, Joe met a successful New York businessman who, as chance would have it, graduated from Joe’s alma mater almost 20 years before.
“He is one of the finest wine collectors in the world,” Joe marvels. “And he became my next teacher and mentor.”
It’s the late 90s now. After an impressive and fortunate track record learning from some of the wine industry’s greatest minds, Joe set his sights a little farther. In a quintessentially American turn of events, the West was calling this East Coaster to Sonoma–The lighter side of Northern California. “Such a special place,” Joe beams.
Over the course of several years, the Donelan family built their winery, sought out the perfect land for their vineyards, and made California their home.
As he thinks back to that time of his life, that massive transition to the West Coast, he states, “I think when you’re not from a place, you get to see the real beauty there. You have a different view. Not necessarily more appreciation, just more perspective.”
Since then, nothing about the Donelan’s’ passionate lifestyle has changed. They’re the same small town, Nantucket islanders with their wine and their extreme love for people, and the winery was the perfect addition to their fiery family. It embodies all the things Joe and his clan love most in life and think wine pairs best with.
“I get to meet interesting people from all parts of the world. People that have some of the same passion I have for wine and discovering great places,” he describes. “So, to me, it’s all a journey.”
Joe’s priority has always been to expand life by appreciating it just as it is right in front of him, in “all of its joys and trials.” He and his family have an insight that most people only find in retrospect, once it’s all said and done. And it’s this wisdom of theirs that makes them so akin to wine, one of the few things that allow people to slow down, look around, and connect with whatever moment they’re in. And the Donelans want this for everyone else. They want you to see the value in the now, in each other, in the fascinating things around us, so they give it to us through the most beautiful journey they’ll never stop taking — Donelan Family Wine.