Bret Munselle of Munselle Vineyards, LLC is a Sonoma County native as well as a 5th generation grape grower here in Sonoma County. His family started farming in Alexander Valley in 1876. Today, they farm approximately 700 acres. Bret was born and raised in Alexander Valley. He attended college at UC Davis and studied agricultural economics with a vinicultural classes that were offered at the time.
“My time at Farm Credit was the absolute best decision I could have made considering where I have ended up.”
Following college, Bret knew he wanted to return to Sonoma County and work in the wine industry, but he wasn’t sure what part of the industry he would most like to pursue. At the time, his father’s company, Munselle Vineyards, wasn’t in the position to hire him, so Bret had to find experience elsewhere. He took a job with American AgCredit and ended up working there for almost 4 years. In Bret’s words, “My time at Farm Credit was the absolute best decision I could have made considering where I have ended up.” One evening, about 20 years ago, Bret’s Dad called him out of the blue and invited him over for dinner. As they were eating, his Dad revealed the reason for the meeting, “Your Mother and I were wondering if you would like to come work on the ranch?” It only took Bret about half a second to with a big “YES”! Just three weeks later, Bret had left American AgCredit, and was on a harvester picking grapes by the end of the day. To this day, Bret says it is the best decision he’s ever made.
“I feel satisfaction each day in the work we do, and with the knowledge that I am honoring my family's heritage in the Alexander Valley.”
When Bret started working for the family business, they were farming roughly 150 acres of their own grapes. Today, they farm 300 acres, both leased and owned, and manage an additional 400 acres for clients as business partners. All of the vineyards and clients they oversee are certified sustainable. Sustainable practices have become a pivotal piece of how they run their business. Bret and his wife Kristen, along with his Father Bill and his Mother Reta, are all equal partners in the business. The main varieties Munselle Vineyard manages includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and several small blocks of the other ‘Bordeaux blenders’. They also produce a small amount of wine under the Munselle Vineyards label, which they started in 2006 after Bret and Kristen got married. Today, they are making Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and occasionally Petit Verdot under that label. For Bret, growing up in an agricultural environment paired with the wine industry, farming has become an integral part of who he is as an individual. In his own words, “I feel satisfaction each day in the work we do, and with the knowledge that I am honoring my family’s heritage and upholding their long standing commitment to growing high quality fruit in the Alexander Valley.” Bret and Kristen Munselle have four daughters who are also growing up close to the land and the farming business in Alexander Valley.
We asked Bret a few fun interview questions and we love his answers!
What does it mean to "Love your Land?"
Our land is our life. It is what gets us out of bed in the morning and puts us to sleep at night. When I think about loving our land, I think of my grandparents, my parents, my wife, and my children. I think about what variety and clone we are planting on the hill above our shop, the hill that my great grandfather planted, the hill that my grandfather planted twice, the hill that my father planted, and now the hill that I am planting. The excitement of seeing what it will produce and the response we will receive from the wineries that we eventually sell the fruit to. Our land is who we are, it is where we were born, where we live, and where we hope to be buried. In my mind there is no bigger environmentalist than the person that cares for the land that their family has shared with them and then can leave to their children. And finally how absolutely lucky can we be to be farming and living on this extraordinarily beautiful land here in Alexander Valley.
If you weren't in farming, what would you do?
Landscape design and construction – I just enjoy growing plants and building a visually pleasing area
What is your favorite wine varietal?
Cabernet Sauvignon – both to drink and to farm!