Taft Street Winery gets its name from the place the business started- an old house on Taft Street in Oakland, California. Rather than parking cars in their garage, Mike & John Tierney and Mike Martini had a garage full of barrels, stainless steel tanks, a basket press, hand corker, and big dreams for their garage-born business.
Formerly known as Taft Street Garage, the Tierney brothers and Martini referred to themselves as “garagistes.” The term “garagistes” originated in Bordeaux in the 1980s and referred to a group of innovative winemakers who produced exceptional wines in their garages rather than in grand chateaux.
The Taft Street team was producing garage-made wine by the late 1970s. Friends, family, and locals began to develop a thirst for the wine and the garage on Taft Street had gained quite the reputation. The business and excitement continued to grow and soon there were plans forming around making Taft Street Garage a commercial enterprise.
By 1980, “Garage” had been dropped from the business name to better match the goals of the business. Taft Street Winery was imagined to be a boutique winery that produced small batches of handcrafted wines. John and Mike Martini began to look for a winery site in Sonoma County, where the Tierney brothers had spent their summers as kids, that could accommodate their operation. In 1982, they found a warehouse space in Forestville and moved right before that year’s harvest. Total production from the 1982 harvest, with grapes sourced from Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Napa Counties was about 1,700 cases.
During the 1990’s Taft Street Winery quickly grew to 20,000 cases per year as the operation expanded production to keep up with national demand. Taft Street Winery opened a tasting room and began to feel strong support from the local community.
After time spent on the national stage winning countless awards, Mike & John and Mike realized the beauty in working with local growers and being really great at staying “small.” This pivot back to their roots allowed Taft Street to create wines that boast the quality of grapes found in specific sites in Sonoma County as well as highlight their own winemaking skills with the help of Winemaker Melissa Kuhn, who fell in the love with the wine industry after working as a lab intern. Taft Street had returned to its garagisites roots.
Today, Mike Tierney carries the title of President of Taft Street Winery. Mike Martini oversees the custom crush and production facility as well as government compliance, reporting, and public policy. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jake Martini left a career in corporate America to join the family business. Jake oversees all operations, marketing, and financial management for Taft Street.
When asked why Taft Street Winery continues to be a member of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, Jake Martini said, “We really enjoy the sense of community and the support around agriculture that we feel through being a Farm Bureau member.” His father, Mike Martini added, “Sonoma County heritage is agriculture. We are happy to be a part of the support and celebration of our county’s heritage.”