Larry & Sharon Grassini
Instead of joining the rest of the family at church on Sundays, Larry Grassini's grandfather Articondo Grassini was more religious about keeping a garden. He would stay home on Sundays to make that evening’s ravioli from the green bounty of his garden, while enjoying a glass of wine (or two) …. Larry's father Leo Peter Grassini—when not making ravioli on Sundays—was equally passionate about keeping a garden to grow much of the family’s food. He shared his love for the soil with his children and grandchildren, and these earthy traditions have now been entrusted to the third and fourth generations.
After falling in love and marrying in New York, Larry and Sharon Grassini journeyed to the West Coast in their red Volkswagon van (complete with peace sign decor!) and eventually settled down in the San Fernando Valley. Over the ensuing years, Larry became one of the most respected trial lawyers in the US, being twice recognized as “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by the Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Association. He was also elected to the Inner Circle of Advocates as one of the top 100 plaintiff’s lawyers in the United States. Sharon kept her hands full raising the couple’s four daughters, but still managed to find time to become a practicing Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT.) She became a Certified Supervisor with both the state and national MFT organizations and served on the Board of Directors of the California Association of MFTs.
One day in the 1980s, on a family vacation to Santa Barbara, Larry and Sharon Grassini stumbled upon the 104-acre parcel of untamed land that we now call Grassini Family Vineyards. At the time, they didn’t have any plans to build a winery or plant a vineyard, but they knew that this piece of land was too magical to pass up. For about a decade after they purchased the property, Larry and Sharon focused on raising their bevy of children and didn’t do much with the land other than leasing it to neighbors to graze their cattle on.
In the late 90’s, the Grassinis realized that the wine industry was starting to bloom in Santa Barbara County, and began to investigate whether or not their land could be a good spot for a vineyard. They called the experts at Coastal Vineyard Care to evaluate the land, looking at everything from soil content, to rainfall amounts, to sun exposure and everything in between. They were shocked when they were told that not only was this dynamic piece of landscape a great place for growing grapes, but it was a perfect spot to try Bordeaux varietals (which had never done well in other regions in Santa Barbara!)
From day one, Larry's wife Sharon and daughters Katie, Corey, Mandy and Molly have been there in support of this exciting and enriching undertaking. At Grassini Family Vineyards and Winery, our extended family’s passion for beauty, the commitment to hard work and a memorable place all come together to make the wine in bottles bearing our family’s label something special. It is our hope that you will enjoy the poetry of the wine and its sense of place and tradition with your friends and family. Articondo would have been proud.
Katie Grassini, CEO
When Grassini Family Vineyards first opened their winery doors in March of 2010, Katie was thrilled to have the opportunity to combine her marketing, sales and legal skills as CEO of her family's business. She had grown up playing in the hills which were now covered with the family vines, and was honored to be tasked with protecting, growing, and promoting the place that is so near and dear to her, to her parents, and to her three little sisters.
“Having grown up playing hide-and-seek among the ancient oaks that dot these vineyards, nothing gives me more pleasure than introducing someone to the fantastic Bordeaux wines that are grown right here. I’m thrilled to tell my family’s story, and to share our wines with the world!”
Bradley Long, Winemaker
Born and raised in New Orleans, Bradley grew up surrounded by great food, and soon developed a passion for rich flavors. His mother taught him to cook and gave him an understanding of layering and developing flavors. In 2006, Bradley left the Big Easy for the big mountains of California to pursue several lifelong passions, including rock climbing and mountaineering. It wasn’t long before he decided to work a harvest in Napa Valley at the famed Cakebread Cellars. “That was it. One vintage in and I knew how I wanted to spend my time from that point on: making wine!”
Bradley honed his skills at Cakebread Cellars, then began focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon at Nickel & Nickel before settling down at Fantesca Estate and Winery as Cellar Master. After four years at Fantesca, Bradley decided to work a vintage in Australia before turning his attention toward the Central Coast of California. He was fascinated by one of the newer AVAs in the area – Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County – which was rapidly gaining a reputation for outstanding Bordeaux varietals.
As Winemaker at Grassini Family Vineyards, Bradley enjoys working with the estate vineyards, and ensuring that the wines provide a true expression of the fruit. “The fruit at Grassini is some of the most complex in the Santa Ynez Valley, and is farmed to the highest standards. Not many people thought Bordeaux varieties would grow well out here, but Happy Canyon has produced truly excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. I am thrilled to be a part of this thriving wine community, and to introduce the world to the wines of Happy Canyon and Grassini Family Vineyards.”
Dean McKillen, Estate Director
Dean was born and raised in Northern Ireland and moved to the U.S. to begin his wine career working at J&L Wines, a Central Coast distribution company. While living in Paso Robles, Dean worked as a sales representative and the key accounts brand development manager for 10 years, specializing in high-end wine sales, which included the Grassini Family Vineyards brand.
Having had the opportunity to learn the inner workings of hundreds of Californian and International wine brands, and with over 15 years of industry experience, Dean brings a wealth of experience to our team as our Estate Director; he is responsible for overseeing the operations at our Santa Ynez properties and continues to work with our team to ensure that the quality of the settings of our Estate are always on par with the quality of our wines and service.
Lauren Dinger, Operations Manager
Lauren's life and education have taken her all around the world. Originally from Newton, Massachusetts, Lauren attended college at Emory University in Atlanta, where she majored in Sociology and Spanish. Her degree in Spanish allowed her to travel throughout Spain and the rest of Europe, where she was able to explore and fall in love with all things wine.
After graduating Lauren returned to the snowy shores of Massachusetts and realized she needed more sunshine in her life. She traded in her snow boots for sandals and made the journey to California, settling in Santa Barbara among the vines and adobes to begin her career in the wine industry.
When not working as our Operations Manager, Lauren enjoys traveling and outdoor adventures, and she keeps the team entertained with endless corny puns and useless trivia.
Autumn van Diver, Hospitality Manager
Raised in the beautiful town of Santa Barbara, Autumn has grown up in awe of the natural beauty in her hometown. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, she knew she wanted to put her passion for branding towards helping emphasize one of Santa Barbara’s many incredible businesses and found herself with a budding passion for wine.
Since joining the Grassini team, Autumn finds herself more enamored with the industry day by day, absorbing knowledge with every conversation (and taste of wine). She is passionate about creating an exciting, educational experience for customers, and aims to leave each customer with a lasting impression and thirst for more.
When not chatting and “cheers”-ing in the tasting room, you can find Autumn embracing other aspects of Santa Barbara’s natural beauty, such as cooking fresh food from the Farmer’s Market or sitting at the beach or Rose Garden with a book in hand.
Avery Lockliear, Tasting Room Lead
Born in Central Florida and raised outside of Nashville, TN, Avery has her parents to thank for her love of wine! As a child, they always insisted on visiting local wineries while vacationing in California. Little did she know that she would have them to thank for inspiring her career path! Though she moved to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB, she quickly found her new home at GFV.
Avery is pursuing her wine education through both the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and she has obtained a Level 1 Certification in both. When she isn't in the Tasting Room pouring and chatting up a storm, she loves to spend her time attending concerts at the Santa Barbara Bowl or soaking up the sun at Carpinteria State Beach!