Grower Spotlight: Myron Holdenried

Historic Roots Grow a Winegrape Resurgence

Myron Holdenried’s roots in Lake County stretch as far and deep as those of the California black oak that populate his home ranch.

Myron Holdenried, photo by Nathan DeHartGreat sweeps of history were shaping America when Myron’s ancestors came to Lake County from Kentucky in the 1850s. Some five generations later, Myron remains in Lake County, tilling the soil in the county where his family settled near Kelseyville.

After graduating from the University of California at Davis, Myron, at the urging of others, decided to try his hand at winegrapes. Lake County had a prior history of winegrape growing beginning in the 1870s. Vines had been grown in the volcanic soil that resulted in award-winning wines by the 1900s. Prohibition and Phylloxera eliminated the Lake County winegrape industry until a few pioneers – Myron among them – revived it.

At the time, the Holdenried farm raised cattle and grew pears. “The cattle business wasn’t terrific,” he says. So in 1966, Myron planted 30 acres of grapes, Zinfandel at first. He and other farmers of the time had an influencer and a market: John Parducci, the legendary winemaker whose family founded Parducci Wine Cellars.

“John Parducci in Ukiah was very interested in Lake County grape growing, and so he was probably the main person that influenced us,” Myron says. “And there were other growers in Mendocino and Napa that were helpful.”

“There was quite a bit of concern about Phylloxera at the time,” he remembers. Nonetheless, he pressed on, learning the new business on the job. Two years after planting Zinfandel, Myron turned to Cabernet Sauvignon. Then came others: Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. His early grape business was good.

The learning continued. “The University of California Extension service was a great source of information to get the correct varieties and rootstocks adapted to the proper soils,” Holdenried said. “There’s been a big change so now Cabernet is primarily grown in the hillsides and Sauvignon Blanc is planted in the valley.”

Vineyard Business Leads to New Winery

“I didn’t feel that Lake County grapes were getting enough recognition,” Myron says. So, as he had done in response to the sluggish cattle business, Myron acted.  He and his wife, Marilyn, teamed with friends in 1991 to launch a winery, Wildhurst Vineyards.

Wildhurst Vineyards Draws Attention to Lake County

In competitions across the state, Wildhurst wines consistently received high scores, drawing well-deserved attention to the county. “We would enter about 10-12 competitions a year and our wines all placed well. Some earned Best of Variety awards and others earned Best of Show. We were able to compete with the other appellations.”

The Holdenrieds and their partners sold Wildhurst Winery in 2017 to Wineco, Inc., owned by Michael Hat.  Michael Hat is a local grower who continues to produce wine at the original location on Benson Lane in Kelseyville.

The family heritage, rooted in agriculture, continues to grow. Myron’s son and daughter-in-law, Brent and Debbi, own a grape harvesting company, Holdenried Harvesting, which they’ve operated for more than 15 years.

Now Myron’s grandson, Carson Holdenried, is entering the business and Myron believes the future is bright for his family and the region. But he advises future generations to be cautious and flexible.“Grapes are an easy business to get into and it’s an industry that has a bit of romance to it, but you cannot be faint of heart. You have to be modern. You have to be ready for change.”

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