A Family Affair at Dillian Winery
Last month, I had the opportunity to interview Thomas Dillian of Dillian Wines, a family-owned vineyard and winery in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County. Thomas’ story is an interesting one, like his wines.
Thomas is the fifth generation to grow up on the ranch! The original Dillian Ranch property was purchased in 1917 by his great-great-grandparents when the family grew what they ate and what their livestock ate. They had three acres of vineyards, which eventually died out. Thomas’ father, Tom, along with his two brothers, replanted that original vineyard in Zinfandel grapes in 1972. Today, you can taste those grapes in Dillian’s Tre Fratelli Zinfandel!
At a young age Tom learned the business of grape growing and winemaking while working for his stepfather, Mike D’Agostini, at the historic D’Agostini Winery. Using the knowledge he gained in his youth, Tom managed several vineyards for local grape growers while continuing to farm his own ranch. At that time there was no Dillian Winery, so Tom sold his grapes to Rombauer, Jeff Runquist, and Turley, who still buy Tom’s grapes today.
In the mid-1990s, things in Amador County began to change. A boutique wine scene started to evolve. Tom wanted to create a mom and pop winery, but he wasn’t really a winemaker. Thomas was in college and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so he came home to work a harvest season with his dad. As luck would have it, he never went back! He quickly dove into winemaking and sales to complement his father’s grape-growing background.
With the extensive network of his father’s friends and associates in the wine industry, Thomas had many excellent mentors. Everyone had different ideas and techniques, and Thomas tried everything eventually adopting what felt right to him.
Winemaking came naturally to Thomas. As he put it, he and his father were sourcing and growing excellent grapes, which is pivotal to making quality wine. He found his wine style pretty quickly, which gives Dillian Wines their unique profile.
Over the years, the Dillian’s have learned how to manage all aspects of winery business, from the growing side to the sales and marketing side, to the experiential side. Dillian’s wine club and Reserve club grew out of trying new things to see what people wanted. The focus has always been creating top-quality wine and top-quality experiences for its customers.
And based on my afternoon there during Behind the Cellar Door 2020, I can confirm that Dillian has succeeded at both!
Note: With tasting rooms required to close during the COVID-19 crisis, Dillian is offering a variety of sales and promos, along with offering curbside service for wine club and purchase pickups. Their goal is to keep the wine flowing for our wine club members and customers! Please check out dillianwines.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 209-245-3444 for current promotions.