While we lack pretension, we are very serious about our craft.
As a business and as people we avoid dogma, we are open to new perspectives and opinions, and we always look for the opportunity in the obstacle. We exude positive energy and we are always appreciative. While we lack pretension, we are very serious about our craft. Our wines are world class, our people are world class, and our hospitality is world class.
Karen Francis DeGolia, Owner
Karen Francis DeGolia was a part of Limerick Lane in the early 90s when the vineyards were brought back to life and first harvested for the newly created Limerick Lane Cellars. Engaged to the founder, farmer, and winemaker Tom Collins, Karen spent many hours on the ranch and was a partner to him as the winery building and bottle-shaped pool were completed in 1993. Sadly Tom, the heartbeat of Limerick Lane, passed away unexpectedly, and Karen moved away and pursued her business career.
With an economics degree from Dartmouth, a Harvard MBA, and a sense of adventure, she moved to Detroit, where she made a name for herself as one of the youngest female leaders in the automotive industry. A marketer at heart, she became the General Manager of the Oldsmobile division of GM and then a VP at Ford Motor Company. After many years in Michigan, she returned to the Bay Area.
Karen came back to Limerick Lane in 2002 and lived at the winery, worked harvest, poured in the tasting room, and worked markets with distributors thinking that the time might be right to return to the magical place that held so many memories. But in 2004, another great career opportunity, as CEO of an advertising agency, jumped up and pulled her to San Francisco. This time though, she held on to the captivating old vines on the Lane by buying the famed Ricci vineyard just next door to the original Limerick Lane property. For years, Karen spent time in her vineyard and Healdsburg as a grower in the wine industry and as a Board member for Copia, The American Center for Food, Wine, and the Arts. On one particularly special trip to her vineyard in 2021, Karen and her husband, Rick, stopped up the street to see the hilltop views from the esteemed Cypress Ridge Vineyards on Limerick Lane. The gravitational pull was strong, and they bought the 12-acre parcel of zinfandel and petite sirah, which gave them even more reason to spend time in Healdsburg.
Fast forward a year later, and a fateful lunch with a girlfriend up the street on Limerick Lane would soon change several paths. Jake Bilbro, her neighbor and the previous winery owner had moved to Idaho before the pandemic and decided to stay there with his family. Finding a new owner for Limerick Lane became a priority. Karen learned about this, and the rest is history. Almost 30 years after she had first walked amongst the vines, swam in the pool, and held her breath on late-night punch downs, Karen was back as the owner of Limerick Lane Cellars. With the addition of her vineyard properties, Limerick Lane is now a 53-acre estate solidifying its position as one of the most iconic vineyard locations in the Russian River Valley. Karen is thrilled to help grow the business and share the elegant Limerick Lane wines uniquely crafted here on the Lane. Karen, her husband Rick, and their family all share a love and appreciation of the earth, gardening, growing fruits and vegetables, and cooking together.
Destiny, fate, kismet…an incredible journey has finally come full circle with more chapters to be written!
Karen Francis DeGolia can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Pittenger, Winemaker
Chris’ passion for winemaking was born during his college years at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo where a viticulture course set him on his path. His first job out of college was at the prestigious Wally’s wine shop in L.A, where he was exposed to the best wines of the World and gravitated towards Burgundy, the Rhone, and Piedmont. From there he moved to Jackson Hole to refine his palate (and snowboarding skills) in The Tetons while working as a sommelier in the wine-centric Restaurant Terroir.
Chris always wanted to make wine and jumped at an opportunity to intern at Robert Biale in Napa, working with old vine Zinfandel vineyards. This was followed by vintages at Torbreck (Australia), Williams-Selyem (Healdsburg), and finally, four harvests at West Sonoma Coast winery Marcassin (under Helen Turley).
Chris then spent 11 years as winemaker at Rhone focused Skinner Vineyards in El Dorado, where he championed Mourvédre and Grenache in the regions’ granitic soils and high elevation vineyards.
When Chris returned to Healdsburg to work at Limerick Lane, he felt an immediate connection to this historic vineyard. His goal for this iconic site is to showcase its beauty, grace, structure, and precision through the Limerick Lane wines. To this end he draws from an old world palate developed over two decades, combined with a gentle touch learned while working under some of the world’s most respected winemakers.
Chris Pittenger can be contacted at email@example.com.
Bill Smart, General Manager
Born in Reston, Virginia, Bill spent the first few years of his childhood on the East Coast before moving west with his family. Landing in Reno, NV, and then Scottsdale, AZ, his interest in food and wine was sparked by family travels throughout Europe during his high school and college years. After attending Northern Arizona University, where he earned a degree in Marketing and Finance, Bill moved to California the day after graduation. He had a passion for wine country and the wine industry.
Early in his career, Bill worked for several large advertising agencies in San Francisco, specializing in the wine industry. Armed with business savvy and a desire to work for a winery, Bill took a job at Pine Ridge in Napa Valley for a brief stint in their tasting room. Not long after joining Pine Ridge, Bill was hired at St. Supery Vineyards and Winery in Rutherford, CA. In his role as Marketing Assistant, Bill learned the ropes from some of the brightest minds in the wine industry. In January 2005, Bill joined Dry Creek Vineyard, Director of Marketing and Communications. His enthusiasm for the wine business and solid public relations and marketing background made Bill one of the most sought-after representatives of this Sonoma County winery.
In 2015, Bill accepted the Vice President and General Manager role at Lambert Bridge Winery. Lambert Bridge is considered a hidden gem in Sonoma County. Exceptional wines and unforgettable experiences are what define the winery’s comfortable estate tucked into three acres on West Dry Creek Road.
On March 1st, 2023, Bill joined Limerick Lane winery as General Manager.
When not working, Bill can be found on the golf course in the summer or on the ski slopes during the winter. In August of 2012, Bill and his wife Danielle welcomed their first child, Genevieve Catherine Smart. Then in June 2015, they welcomed their second child, Evelyn Elizabeth Smart. Finally, in March 2018, they welcomed a son, William Vernor Smart VII. Bill and Danielle enjoy cooking meals and drinking a good glass of Zinfandel. A resident of Healdsburg, CA, Bill is right at home in wine country and enjoys all aspects of his life.
Bill Smart can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jake Bilbro, Partner
Jake Bilbro is a fourth-generation Sonoma County winemaker and grape grower. Native to Sonoma County and Healdsburg in particular, Jake grew up checking vineyards throughout the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys with his dad while drinking cream soda and playing hide and seek with his brothers in his dad’s winery: Marietta Cellars. Jake’s passion for the wine lifestyle began at a very young age when his chores were cleaning barrels, dragging hoses, and in most ways, being his dad’s shadow. Living amongst the vines and wines of Sonoma County ignited a relationship and bond with vineyards, wine, dirt, food, and the seasonally minded community of people who make their livelihood here that is inherently part of the Bilbro DNA.
Fate, luck, and happenstance brought him to Limerick Lane (the road) and eventually to buying the century-old Limerick Lane Cellars, which he had owned for over ten years. While under Jake’s stewardship, Limerick Lane has received significant acclaim and recognition. Jake continues to be a minority partner with Karen at Limerick Lane, committed to sharing the wines, the dirt, the stories, and the magic that was a part of his life for so many years.
Jake Bilbro can be contacted at email@example.com.
Jake Neustadt, Consulting Viticulturist
Jake Neustadt earned his B.S. in Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis in 2014 with a desire to farm grapes. In 2015, he worked on a field crew growing Pinot noir in Central Otago (New Zealand) before joining Ridge Vineyards to work with California’s historic vineyards. He is now a California State Certified Pest Control Adviser and the in-house viticulturist for Bedrock Wine Co, a fellow member of the Historic Vineyard Society. Taking inspiration from the remarkable sustainability of the ancient vines, Jake farms Limerick Lane with minimal irrigation (often dry-farming) and establishes many new blocks using the same, Gobelet-style pruning system. Along with these lessons, Jake also incorporates modern agroecological practices such permanent cover crops and polyculture to ensure that the vineyard can foster a healthy biosphere both above and below the ground.
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