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S.R. Tonella Cellars Story

S. R. Tonella Cellars is the culmination of over 100 continuous years in the wine business in Rutherford, Napa Valley.  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.  Ponti’s nephew, Steve’s grandfather, Louis Tonella, joined his uncle at Beaulieu when he was just 17 and worked there for several years.  Louis inherited from Ponti vineyards located in the Rutherford viticulture region and passed them on to his son Raymond Tonella, Steve’s father.  Over the years, Raymond purchased additional vineyard acreage, as well as managing other Rutherford vineyards.  Grape growing and wine production have been a part of Steve’s life and family history.

Bringing us to the present, we endeavor to continue this heritage and spirit with S. R. Tonella Cellars.  Our purpose is simply to make history by crafting the best premium Cabernet Sauvignon that represents the best of Rutherford and Napa Valley.  A lot of historical events have been written down after-the-fact on the pages of books; but in truth, living history is made every day with family, friends, co-workers and casual coincidental encounters both near and far. It’s those relationships, the real events in our own histories, which have a meaningful impact on our lives.  S. R. Tonella Cellar’s aspiration is that our wine is shared to create some small but memorable piece of history with everyone who crosses paths with us.  



Steve Tonella was born in Napa Valley and grew up living in Sonoma and Rutherford.  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 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.  It is the source.

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The Morisoli-Borges Vineyard is located on the west side of Highway 29, immediately south of the town of Rutherford and within the heart of the historic Rutherford Bench – as stated, truly one of the world’s premier cabernet growing regions.  Well-drained gravelly soils, meticulous sustainable farming practices and careful collaboration with SRT Cellars all contribute to grapes that reflect both the Rutherford heritage and site-specific vineyard qualities.  Mike Morisoli is a 4th-generation grower in Rutherford who runs a family-farmed estate cultivating premier Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Petit Verdot. The resulting wines are some of the most sought after in Napa Valley.  Mike’s vineyard can be viewed in the foreground of our home page.