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Meet Michael and Debby Giovinazzo of Sunland Vintage Winery in Thousand Oaks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael and Debby Giovinazzo.

Michael and Debby, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Our story starts with my Grandfather, who went from Bootlegger during Prohibition to honest-to-goodness Winery in Los Angeles named Sunland Vintage, located a few miles from where San Antonio Winery is today. Although he closed the business in 1948 before I was born, my parents still had a bottle with the label on it in their Condo; so for XMAS 2009 I took a picture of the label, photoshopped it, and printed it off and put those labels on a couple of cases of wine for my parents.

They got such a thrill out of seeing that old label on wine, and suddenly the lightbulb went on inside my head. I was looking for something to do to that would set up a supplement to my retirement from my I.T. Consulting business in future years, and this seemed to be as good as anything else. Before you know it, we started Sunland Vintage Winery and offered two wines in 2010, Barbera and Nebbiolo. In 2011, we grew to have five wines and then moved our winemaking operations to Lodi, where we source most of our grapes.

Being the quirky I.T. non-conformist that I am, I decided I wanted to make mostly Italian varietals, and my non-Italian varietals are not what one normally finds in stores or on wine menus in restaurants. The labels are replicas of my Grandfather’s original labels, so they have that old, vintage look and feel. Debby and I got married in 2012, and she is truly my partner and inspiration for continuing to grow this business and be so involved in the community as we are.

We opened our Tasting Room here in Thousand Oaks in June 2013, are both retired now from our “day jobs,” have become an integral part of our adopted T.O. community, and now offer thirty different varietals under three different labels.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I always like to say that my worst day in the Wine business is better than my best day in the I.T. business. Of course, that is an exaggeration, but it exemplifies how much we love this business. Because we source our grapes, we know that we will not bring in bad grapes. Because of the quality control we have in our winemaking operation, we know we will not be producing bad wine.

Our biggest concern and one shared by all smaller wineries is whether or not people will actually like our wines, as this is mostly subjective. The fact that we have survived nine years and are actually seeing positive cash flow tells us we are on the right course. Every business has its own unique challenges, and challenges that are not so unique.

We are all looking for the right formula to bring customers to our Tasting Room, and the challenge is to know when something does not work or stops working that was once successful. We try to learn from observing other’s mistakes and our own mistakes. The challenge, I think, is to learn more quickly from the mistakes we do make and to be patient with ourselves in trying new ideas.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We now produce thirty different varietals under three different labels; Giovinazzo label for our Italian varietals, SVI label for our non-Italian varietals, and Bambini Bolle label for our sparkling wines.

We are the most awarded winery in the Conejo Valley, and we produce significantly more Italian varietals than any other Winery in Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and probably Southern California. When people visit our Tasting Room most of them have never heard of many of these wines, and have found new favorites after tasting them.

Sometimes I will get pleasantly surprised when someone comes in and recognizes some of these wines that are not well known here on the West Coast. We name our blends for family members; The Goddess is named for Debby because she is, after all, a Goddess herself. We have a wine called Delicate Princess that is named after our Daughters-in-Law because, like them, it is anything but a delicate princess.

Tre Ragazzi is named so because I have three boys, and Barbera Bianca is named for my daughter, Bianca. And SixtySix is named for Debby’s two sons who wore the number 66 in high school football. Bambini Bolle (Children’s Bubbles) is named for the Grandchildren and one of them, Rose’ di Sette, is named so because we have seven grandchildren.

What we are most proud of, though, is our community involvement. Not only are we members of the local Chamber, but we host dozens of charitable events in our Tasting Room each year. We believe heavily in giving back, and we have found that the Thousand Oaks community is truly T.O. Strong, and we are proud to be part of that strength.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was involved heavily in sports and rooted heavily in the family. Of course, being Italian, one cannot help but be rooted heavily in the family. As my Dad was a Health and P.E. teacher and Coach, sports were a big part of our lives. My dream was to play in the NBA.; my Dad’s dream for me was to become a Dentist.

Getting cut from the college team, and after getting a “D” in college Chemistry, those dreams went away quickly, and I fell into the Information Technology business, where I thrived.

Although I love to cook, I never drank much of anything my entire life, so I never imagined I would be in the Wine business and enjoying not only the wines that we produce but many of the wines produced in Northern California that we have had the opportunity to taste.

Pricing:

  • White wines, Rose’, and Sparkling wines range from $26 to $29
  • Red wines range from $34 to $38
  • Napa Valley Cab $58
  • 6 oz glasses of wine: Reds $12, Whites, Rose’, and Sparkling $10 (tax included)
  • “Happy Glasses” every Thursday: 6 oz pour for $7.50. Why have Happy Hour when you can have an entire Happy Glass?

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1321 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd Ste 108
  • Website: SunlandVintageWinery.com
  • Phone: 805-379-2250
  • Email: Sales@SunlandVintageWInery.com
  • Instagram: sunlandvintage
  • Facebook: SunlandVintageWineryTastingRoom
  • Twitter: @SunlandVintage
  • Yelp: Sunland Vintage Winery Tasting Room

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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