Tom Burgess was first exposed to wine culture in the 1950s, near his home town in Ohio, at the wineries that sprung up along Lake Erie. Then a decade later, as a pilot in the Air Force, Tom became enamored with for the European model of food and wine. While stopping off at Travis Air Force base in the 1960s, he spent his free time exploring the surrounding Napa Valley. Tom fell in love with the still-rural wine country. After he resigned from the Air Force and began working as a corporate pilot, he had the opportunity to visit many different wine regions in Europe and across the globe. No matter where he went, Tom always came back to Napa as the place he wanted to pursue his newfound passion. In 1972 he quit his job, left the east coast, and moved to California. He purchased a 100-year old winery and vineyard on the western side of Howell Mountain, in the heart of the Napa Valley. Over the years, Burgess Cellars has grown to an annual production of 18,000 cases of estate-grown, Napa Valley wine.
Tom is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He may be the general manager and president of Burgess Cellars, but on any given day, you might find him operating a forklift, driving a truck around the property, or acting as the winery’s all-around handyman and carpenter. Tom continues to enjoy learning about world wine regions and studying French and Italian culture.
2nd Generation Vintner
Steve Burgess did not always work in the family business. After earning his degree from Cal Poly in Agricultural Systems Management with a minor in Agricultural Business and a Wine-Marketing Certificate, Steve went through many transformations—from high school physics teacher to wine broker to restaurant work, but he was eventually persuaded by his father to return to Burgess Cellars in 2005. He is passionate about doing things the “correct way,” and seeks out “the best” of things. Steve’s enthusiasm is ideal for running a premium winery where quality and character are paramount.
Steve’s diverse roles include sales and marketing duties, assisting the wine-maker with sensory evaluations and stylistic decisions, repairs of equipment in the cellar and vineyard, management, operations, and various things no one else wants to do. Like his father, he enjoys doing carpentry work, welding, automotive repair and helping with the harvest. In December 2006, Steve was elected to the Wine Service Co-op Board of Directors and still serves today.
In January of 2013, a few important structural changes at Burgess allowed the 2nd Generation to really get into their roles. Steven was named President, and his brother James now owns the Burgess vineyard off Ink Grade Road. In effect, Steve buys grapes from Jim, Jim manages the hillside vineyards, and it is truly a 2nd gen family business.
Balancing work and family life is sometimes not possible, but Steve does do quite a bit with his wife and two children. Kira and Brandon Burgess love to take tractor rides with Steve, and Steve tries to get his wife Marne on a business trip here and there. In Steve’s rare spare time, he meaningfully fills it with biking, spin class, outdoors activities, tinkering, landscaping at home, and cleaning up after the kids.