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Who's Who in Sonoma: Michael Muscardini

A Blend of Art and Business

Born and bred in San Francisco, Michael Muscardini of Muscardini Cellars spends his time balancing his passion for art with a business acuity that has served him well.

He studied art at Oakland's California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of Arts), married and moved to Berkeley, where he raised two children.

In 1978 Muscardini founded a general contracting company called Creative Spaces. While the business flourished, Muscardini longed for more land than he had in Berkeley. He found an 8-½ acre property in Sonoma, planted a small vineyard and built a home that he moved into in 2001. Now a full-time Sonoman, Muscardini is a winery owner as well as a winemaker. His dual passions are reflected in his service on the boards of two of the Valley's most distinguished nonprofits, the and the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance.

Meanwhile, Muscardini started his own eponymous winery, which specializes in Rosata di Sangiovese, Sangiovese, Barbera, Zin, Tesoro, Fortuna, Syrah and Grappa. Recently, he designed a new wine bottle, box packaging, and posters. As he says, “Wine and art is a real nice combination. 

Q: You moved to Sonoma, planted some vineyards just for fun, and now you’re a full-fledged winemaker and winery owner.

A: The original concept was to be a home winemaker.

Q: You have wine in your blood, so to speak.

A: My grandfather, Emilio Alchero, came to San Francisco from Italy and made wine Back then, wine cost 8 or 9 cents a gallon.

Q: Wow. So you came by the winemaking honestly.

A: I took wine courses at UC Davis. I just wanted to have fun with it. Ultimately it was a hobby that ran amok.

Q: And now you have a 3,800-case production winery and share a tasting room in Kenwood with Ty Caton. What’s happening with that?

A: Club Appreciation Day on June 4. Food, wine and music for club members of either Muscardini or Ty Caton.

Q: Tell me about being on the board of the Vintners and Growers Alliance.

A: I was the president of the board in 2009 and 2010.  It was a tough time for Vintners and Growers. There were a lot of staff changes and that always requires a lot of concentration. The association is in a healthy position right now.

Q: What about your involvement with the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art?

A: I can’t recall how long I have been on the board, maybe five years. Kate Eilersten came in two years ago to head it up. She came from the California College of Arts, the same place I studied. She brought in an incredible amount of sophistication and some of the best exhibitions the museum has ever had.

Q: What is your role on the museum’s board?

A: I’ve been in charge of development committees. Our most successful year we raised $320,000. As opposed to the Vintners and Growers, which is all run by membership fees, the museum relies primarily on contributions, And Kate has asked me to help with some special projects that coincide with her vision for the museum.

Q: I understand you did the coffee cart?

A: Yes, we call it The Museum Café, but right now we don't have much more than coffee and croissants.

Q: It really draws people’s attention to the museum.

A: It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. There wasn’t a problem getting permits with the city, but the county health department was very difficult. In fact, it probably would have been easier for me to get pregnant. But it’s up and running now and open every day except Tuesday.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I’m looking at doing a private placement later this year. It’s an opportunity for people to invest in Muscardini Cellars. I’m looking forward to that.

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