Meet The Gentleman Farmers Joey Wolosz and Jeff Durham

When I sat down for lunch with Joey Wolosz and Jeff Durham of Gentleman Farmer Wines in Napa Valley, I was immediately enamored. The passion and pleasure these two get from making their own wine and sharing it with others is apparent. Hospitality is in their blood and they are true Gentleman Farmers. It was a pleasure to share their story in the Napa Valley Register and now I am sharing it here.

Meet The Gentleman Farmers Joey and Jeff

A “gentleman farmer” is defined as “a man who farms mainly for pleasure rather than for profit.” And when you meet Joey Wolosz and Jeff Durham, you immediately understand the pleasure they get with Gentleman Farmer Wines. Hospitality is in their blood, and they have found pleasure through their passion.

Joey Wolosz was raised in San Luis Obispo. He grew up around hotels as his family owned two hotels. He studied hospitality at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona and later worked in restaurants and tasting rooms. Jeff Durham was raised in Napa. His family had vineyards in Oak Knoll. He went to the hospitality school at Cal Poly Pomona and received a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. Jeff went on to work at hotels, later owning a hotel in Humboldt. Both Joey and Jeff were at Cal Poly Pomona at the same time, studying the same thing, but at that point had not met.

Joey and Jeff eventually met in Santa Francisco in 1999 while both were working in real estate. They became partners and bought a vacation home together in Yountville and never left. And as often happens when living in the heart of wine country, they started making wine in their garage. By 2005, with the help of a partner, they decided they wanted to make wine commercially. But Joey and Jeff did not have a windfall of money from their other careers as the catalyst to start a brand. Instead, it was the hospitality in their cores that was their inspiration.

In 2009, they were bringing in more fruit than they anticipated and had to find money to pay for it. Joey had to sell both his and Jeff’s watches to make the money they needed to buy all this fruit and pay their bills. They were clearly committed to this project. It was not a vanity project.

Meet The Gentleman Farmers Joey and Jeff

2017 was a big year for Joey and Jeff. Joey turned 50 (Jeff has already turned 50 at the end of 2016). They got married. Jeff sold The Redwood Fortuna Riverwalk Hotel that he owned in Humboldt County, and they decided to buy out their original partner. 2017 was the year Gentleman Farmer Wines was officially born. Since then, Joey received his winemaker certificate from UC Davis in 2017 and took over as winemaker, with Jérome Chery as consulting winemaker.

Gentleman Farmer Wines include a rosé made from Pinot Noir, a touch of Meunier and a splash of Merlot, a Chardonnay, and a Merlot-dominant red wine. They also make Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, and a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. As gentleman farmers, Joey and Jeff see wine as a fine companion at the table. The wines should pair with your meal. And most importantly, will you want a second glass? I did.

In 2020, Gentleman Farmer Wines became Napa Valley’s Only Certified LGBTQ Winery. This LGBTBE® Certification is exclusively through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the largest advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBTQ people. As the only openly gay-owned family winery in Napa Valley, husbands Joey and Jeff are proud to be exemplary role models in their community. And in honor of Pride month, Joey and Jeff donated 10% of proceeds from their June sales, online and in person to the It Gets Better Project, whose mission is to uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe.

With hospitality at their core, everything Joey and Jeff do is about building connections. They write articles each month to share with their wine club members and produce a magazine twice a year. In addition, they are opening a space in Napa which will enable them to build more connections. They purchased a 1926 California Craftsman Bungalow and when it opens, there will be a kitchen in the center with a chef’s table. This is where Joey, who went to cooking school for nine months, will showcase his talent in the kitchen by creating dishes for guests to enjoy with Gentleman Farmer Wines. The new Bungalow will enable Joey and Jeff to build a community around Gentleman Farmer Wines.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.