Santa Barbara County, CA – Michael Brughelli has been named the Santa Maria Sales Manager for the Thornhill Companies, which includes Bien Nacido Vineyards, one of the nation’s most iconic vineyards. Located in the Santa Maria Valley AVA, Bien Nacido Vineyards provides highly-coveted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and cool-climate Syrah to producers throughout California. Brughelli will also oversee fruit sales at Solomon Hills Vineyards, located in the Santa Maria Valley appellation, and recognized widely for its stellar Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The client base, ranging from artisanal producers who source fruit from small, meticulously farmed vineyard blocks, to those who produce larger production wines for the broad-market, oftentimes forms close relationships with those from whom they purchase fruit.
In his new role, Brughelli, a former client of the Central Coast Wine Services, will also be charged with selling winery services at the CCWS, including custom-crush services, space leases, bottling services, and case good storage. There, he will work alongside Antony Bozzano. The CCWS is a popular custom-crush winery that houses some of the most esteemed brands on the Central Coast. It is also owned by the Miller Family and is one of the Thornhill Companies. At its sister company, the Paso Robles Wine Services, Brughelli will be charged the same tasks, but will be working alongside Chris Cocchiaro.
Formerly the Director of Operations for Ken Volk Vineyards, Brughelli himself was a client, purchasing fruit from Bien Nacido Vineyards, Solomon Hills Vineyards, and as French Camp Vineyards. In accepting his new post, “I hope to facilitate sales for some of the most well run, well farmed vineyards in the world. I know that my experience as a winemaker and as a client provides a uniquely new connection to clients of the Thornhill Companies and I’m exited to bring that aspect to this position.”
Prior to his career in the wine business, which includes stints in the Napa Valley and New Zealand, Brughelli spent four years as a Fire Fighter and EMT with the San Luis Obispo County Fire Department. He also worked with the Red Cross and the Port San Luis Lifeguard Department. “The Central Coast is my home and my love. I have always appreciated it here as we are blessed with being able to enjoy the outdoors throughout most of the year. It's also a truly incredible and underrated region for my life's passion which is growing and making wine. I am thrilled to embark on this new endeavor with the Thornhill Companies, and am excited to bring my perspective and experience to ultra premium winegrowing. Truly great wines are made in the vineyard and no-one on the Central Coast has epitomized that more than Bien Nacido Vineyards and Solomon Hills Vineyards.”
Brughelli’s appointment comes on the heels of other, recent and ground-breaking evolutions at Bien Nacido Vineyards. After nearly three decades as solely growers, the Miller Family has launched their own estate-based, ultra-premium wine brands, Bien Nacido Vineyards and Solomon Hills Vineyards, respectively, and named Trey Fletcher, formerly of Littorai, as their Winemaker. Additionally, Vineyard Manager, Chris Hammell, and his vineyard crew, continue to create, within the Bien Nacido Vineyards estate, a versatile Biodynamics vineyards operation, while farming the balance of the estate sustainably.
Brughelli’s post was previously held by James Ontiveros, a 9th generation Santa Maria farmer and winegrower, who for years executed his position with acumen and a friendly, customer-service based approach. “Having Michael step into James’ role is very meaningful for us,” says Nicholas Miller, family spokesperson for the Thornhill Companies. “James established a wonderful legacy of customer-service-based fruit sales, and if anyone can pick up that mantle and carry it even further, it’s Michael. He is widely respected and liked within the wine community and we could not have asked for a better sales representative for these two special vineyards.” Ontiveros will remain an outside consultant for the Miller family while pursuing other projects.