Monday, August 13, 2012

8/13-Michael Horn visits with John Komes & Carol Kozlowski

John Komes - President and Proprietor, Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards
While John Komes will say that hard work and a stellar team are the keys to the longtime success of Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards, first-hand interaction with John hints that the secret ingredient to Flora Springs' success is John's charisma. He's a laugh-out-loud kind of guy, who when he smiles, his eyes dance. He teases, he jokes, he holds court in any group situation, and makes everyone in his midst feel like a member of the Flora Springs family. Underneath his convivial exterior lives a hardworking tenacity and an enduring passion for wine.
Growing up in San Francisco in the mid 1950s, John was the son of the President of construction giant Bechtel Corporation. John graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Business Administration and followed in his father's footsteps as a businessman, building a thriving construction business of his own based in the East Bay of San Francisco. John's entrepreneurial drive can be traced to his father Jerry Komes, legendary for being self-taught in everything from swimming to engineering by reading.
John's interest in wine began as a hobby in the early 70's when his wife Carrie sent him to a wine appreciation class near their home in Pleasant Hill, CA as a gift. From there it became an obsession, and he attended more and more classes. It wasn't long before he was making his own wine at home as a hobby.
In 1977, his father Jerry Komes retired to the Napa Valley, purchasing a home that included an abandoned winery and vineyards. With his growing interest in wine, the potential of the property piqued John's interest and the thought of making premium wine in the beautiful Napa Valley led him to found Flora Springs in 1978 with his parents, his sister Julie Garvey and his brother-in-law Pat Garvey.
John eventually moved his construction business to the Napa Valley, using his enterprising ingenuity to specialize in building and renovating wineries. When the demands of Flora Springs grew to be too much, John gave up doing any construction that didn't involve the winery. Instead, he painstakingly renovated each winery building on the property, eventually turning the two abandoned cellars into separate winery facilities and supervising the construction of 1,000 linear feet of wine caves.
As President, John oversees all aspects of the winery's production, sales and marketing. John credits his family's drive, determination and unquenchable thirst for knowledge as one of the main contributors to the success of the winery for the last 30 years.
John sees a bright future for Flora Springs as he gears up to let his son Nat Komes, Flora Springs' General Manager, and nephew Sean Garvey, Flora Springs' Communications and Production Director, take the lead. "This is more than a business, it's an art. Both Nat and Sean are the type of creative thinkers we need for the future of Flora Springs as one of the premier family-owned wineries of Napa Valley," he smiles.

Carol Kozlowski - Kozlowski Farms
Our family has always believed: If you have a passion for something; go for it. That’s what Carmen and Tony Kozlowski did when they bought their first Sonoma County apple farm in 1949, and again two years later, when they bought the adjacent property that would become Kozlowski Farms.

They decided to plant their picturesque Russian River Valley farm to juicy Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Red Rome apples. Knowing it would take seven years for the young trees to bear fruit, Carmen and Tony had the revolutionary idea of planting raspberries between the trees. They were also successful in cultivating blackberries, blueberries and cherries.

With so many beautiful berries for inspiration, Carmen was soon pursuing another of her passions: Baking and canning. At first, she made her jams and pastries just for family and Kozlowski farmhands. Then she started selling them at the entrance to the farm, and word of Carmen’s irresistible wine country cooking spread.

One of Carmen’s most popular creations was her no-sugar-added raspberry spread—a genuine novelty in the early 1970s, and like everything else that she made, all natural. Her secret was sweetening the spread with a combination of apple juice and dried apples that came from the family’s orchard. Quality ingredients and traditional farm fresh cooking defined Carmen’s specialties, which is why today, her recipes are still the backbone of the family business.

The Second Generation

Carmen and Tony’s three children: Carol, Perry and Cindy, shared their parents’ love of Sonoma County farming, along with their roll-up-your-sleeves, old-fashioned work ethic.

It was a good thing too, because this is how Kozlowski Farms launched its specialty food and retail business: In 1969, with the first crop of raspberries ripening on the vine, Tony got up one morning, gave his daughter Cindy a refrigerator and told her she’d be running the retail side of the business. She was 13 years old. He told Carol, then 19, to run the raspberry picking crew, and then turned to his 16-year-old son and said: “Perry you’re driving the truck.”

Trial by fire never tasted so good.

Going For Organic

Living and working together on the family farm, the second generation naturally began to think about the importance of agricultural preservation. In the early 1980s, Kozlowski Farms transitioned to organic agriculture and became one of the first California Certified Organic Farmers (C.C.O.F) in Sonoma County.

A Sonoma County Classic Continues

After the death of their father in 1982, Carol, Perry and Cindy were determined to see the family business flourish. They were off to a great start. Kozlowski homemade specialties were a hit, and the kitchen was always cooking. One busy day, Perry came into the kitchen to help out, and he never left. An accomplished home chef and grilling guru, Perry took over the no-sugar-added fruit spread and fruit butter making and began lending his culinary expertise to the creation of barbecue and grilling sauces.

Meanwhile, Carol, who had also inherited her mother’s love of cooking, began bottling her homemade salad dressings as a complement to the family’s wildly successful Red Raspberry Vinegar. They soon introduced flavorful fat-free dressings and a line of specialty canola oil-based dressings to the market.

In 1999, Kozlowski Farms—located in the famed Russian River Valley—planted its first Pinot Noir grapes. And once again, the family joined together to make an outstanding agricultural product. Mammy Carmen’s eldest granddaughter, Tracy, and her husband Joe Dutton began crafting the family’s boutique-production Pinot Noir at their Dutton Estate Winery near Sebastopol.

At various times, each of Mammy Carmen’s grandchildren have worked part time on the farm, and two of them—Kyle Hayworth and Janae Kozlowski—currently work at the family business full time. Today, Kozlowski Farms is proud to be a third generation-strong family business in the heart of Sonoma County.

A Sense of Place

Located five miles north of Sebastopol near the town of Forestville, the Kozlowski Farm itself is steeped in California history. We’re part of the old El Molino Rancho, a large ranch belonging to the last Mexican Governor of California, General Mariano Vallejo, before he granted it to his brother-in-law, Captain John Bautista Rogers Cooper, in 1834. 

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