It all started with an earthquake. In 1906 after the great San Francisco earthquake, a huge demand for workers to rebuild the city brought Joseph Ponti, Steve’s great uncle, from Italy to San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, Ponti became the superintendent and initial winemaker at the iconic Beaulieu Vineyards in Rutherford, where he stayed for 43 years. He made the first internationally recognized Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. In 1939 it won a gold medal at the Golden Gate International Exposition for his 1936 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Since that time, Cabernet Sauvignon has become synonymous with Rutherford and Napa Valley. Ponti’s nephew, Steve’s grandfather, Louis Tonella, joined his uncle at Beaulieu when he was just 17 and worked there for several years. Eventually, Louis inherited the Ponti vineyard located in the Rutherford viticulture region.
Grape growing and wine production have always been a part of our family history, a heritage and spirit we proudly carry forward through S. R. Tonella Cellars. Our purpose is simply to make history by crafting the best premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals that represent the best of Rutherford and Napa Valley. S. R. Tonella Cellars aspiration is that our wine is shared to create some small but memorable piece of history with everyone who crosses paths with us.
From an early age he worked in the vineyards with his father and grandfather. Enjoying the hot sun and helping in the vineyard by suckering vines (removing unwanted shoots) tying, training, and irrigating formed his early encounters in vineyards. He says he is amazed to have survived as the mode of transportation was the infamous 3-wheeler motorcycles that were accident prone and tipped easily.
Fast forward to the turn of the century when Steve began making wine and produced small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon. College took him to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he earned a degree in Business Administration. After college, Steve entered the high-tech industry and quickly moved into sales leadership positions that took him around the world. Fluent in both Italian and Spanish, he’s lived and worked in Rome, Italy, and Barcelona, Spain, besides stints in England and Japan. During all his travels, the dream of cultivating Rutherford wine never left. After working across three continents, the time had come to resurrect the dream of producing Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon into a reality: The 2010 was the ‘first’ of many vintages to come.
Located in the heart of Rutherford in Napa Valley is the estate vineyard and backbone of S. R. Tonella Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. To our knowledge, it is one of only a handful of commercial vineyards farmed entirely by hand in Napa Valley. It is located on prestigious Rutherford benchland renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon. Vines grown in this soil are deeply rooted in the ground, producing rich and complex grapes. The vineyard is cultivated in a vertical cordon style; the vines are supported on their own with no trellis system, resulting in a strong, healthy vineyard. This is not the easiest, most modern or highest-yielding system, but is one of heritage, resulting in the most sustainable, highest-quality Cabernet Sauvignon.