Located at 1395 Leveroni Road, the vineyard is planted on approximately 1 acre, and tended by amateur oenophiles, some who’ve been at it for decades. Doug Ghiselin is an original member and runs the Leveroni group.
It was in 1997 that the city vineyard was officially adopted by the Valley of the Moon Dilettante Enological Society (VOMDES), which rebranded eventually as Sonoma Home Winemakers. City leaders had approached club president Tex Juen, a well-known old-timer, and asked whether he would take responsibility for the vineyard’s management. Juen got Joey Leveroni to donate 400 chardonnay vines, and the Kundes to give 400 merlot. The Sangiacomo family donated irrigation materials, and the city brought in a water tanker every Saturday. “Tex had a tremendous number of hoses,” Ghiselin said. “We’d be down there from 9 to noon, hand watering the vines. Then along came a change in city administration, and they wanted us to pay for the water. We said forget it. So there’s no irrigation down there anymore. It’s all dry farmed.”
In 2002, when Tex Juen died, the club asked the Sonoma City Council to officially name the vineyard for him. Tex Juen Park and Vineyard, leased through 2026 with two five-year extensions possible, is now a special part of Sonoma’s history. “The city appreciates the stewardship of the Sonoma Home Winemakers to maintain and preserve this special vineyard park. The winemakers provide a demonstration vineyard, and produce wine off site which is donated to local nonprofits for fundraising purposes,” city manager Cathy Capriola said. A fair quantity is consumed by its makers, as well.
We’re looking for new folks to help. Ghiselin’s group, which refers to itself as the “Leveroni Group,” takes care of 21 rows of the vineyard, “Sal’s Group,” led by Sal Troia, manages the remaining five. “The two groups are almost like friendly, rival gangs with strong loyalties to their respective leaders, Doug and Sal,” “We think our wine is better than theirs,” admitted Ghiselin. “And they think their wine is better than ours.”
There is pruning in January, followed by trellis repair. When the buds break in the spring, sulfur dust is sprayed to prevent mildew. Then comes harvest’s pick, crush, fermentation and racking. Just before summer, Ghiselin and his team bottle the unfiltered wine, about three barrels most years, or 72 cases. “I have a crawl space under the house,” Ghiselin said. “It’s got a 6-foot ceiling. We’ll sample the wine, do a little tasting. We always have a little lunch, too.” There are about 9 members in the “Leveroni Group,” A year’s harvest of three barrels into 72 cases — or 864 bottles — divided by everyone in the group.
The social aspect of the group is important to us while tending the vineyard and making the wine,” We genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Spend a lunch hour with them and you’ll be treated to repartee worthy of Hollywood script. They argue and complain and kid each other mercilessly, but always in a good-natured way.”
Wine making is exciting, it's challenging both mentally and physically, and the end result can be obviously quite gratifying,” “The attraction of the Leveroni Vineyard model is that you can have all of that without having to own your own vineyard. You are welcomed into a group of fun mentors who really know the craft, you have access to all the equipment and storage necessary, and you contribute to a public resource that beautifies the city and furthers its national reputation as a winemaking community.”